Thursday 5 June 2014

Supermarkets aren't ignoring us. They fear us.

Those who read this blog regularly might remember that I've touched on the subject of shopping by bike several times. I want to come at it from a different angle this time.

Supermarkets are set up for motorists. Their PR folk will say this isn't so, while offering discount petrol for those en route to the 'free' parking we subsidise.  Supermarkets, especially the ever more dominant suburban superstores, are for motorists. 

Now we can make the (very valid) argument that this is all wrong, they should cater to cyclists because we spend more money than motorists (the theory being we make more trips, we're exposed to their marketing more, and as we've higher average earnings we spend more). That's all well and good but its missing the point. And, more importantly, the marketing folk at these gargantuan retailers know this, they've read the same studies we have. Simple economics dictate that they ought to be putting better bike locking in - but they don't.

I don't get all my shit from supermarkets. I get most of my veg from the allotment, I get most of my meat from the farm shops or the butchers, I get the rest of my stuff from greengrocers, wholefood shops, the market, and indeed some of it from supermarkets (or 'grocers' as I suppose they once were). I suppose that Tesco could install the best bike racks in the world or Asda could start offering free puppy play areas, but I'd still not really use them for the bulk of my shopping.

Supermarkets fear us. We're not tied to making one trip through ghastly, soul destroying traffic per week, we don't need to strip the shelves of irradiated, nutrient free sliced white bread and 28 pints of milk that have to last until next Saturday. We don't have to fill a car boot with plastic wrapped chemical sludge to microwave on high for 2 minutes before leaving to rest for 1 minute prior to puking in it and putting it in the bin. We. Are. Free. 

We can shop anywhere. We're not tied in to a lifestyle that necessitates living like a Walmart slave. For most products supermarkets offer us no advantage - we aren't their slaves like the motons are.

Its not that supermarkets don't want to serve us - they would love our custom, but anything they could do to make it apparent that you can live a different way is also directly threatening to their business. It isn't that they don't understand our spending power. The truth is that supermarkets fear our freedom, our capacity to defect from their system where consumers shuffle zombielike with a trolley full of drug laden ecological timebombs through a shop so dehumanised they've even removed the checkout staff for fear we'll eat their brains. They don't want to discourage us from shopping with them - they want to discourage us from promoting a lifestyle that they see as directly challenging to the abhorrence of their existence.

In an economy where getting a car, having kids, driving said kids to Morrisons once a week so you can have a sugar-fuelled family feud enacted in the sanitary products aisle is considered normal, doing something as radical as shopping by bicycle is an act of sedition. Viewed this way, the congested roads leading to the hypermarket become the arteries through which vampiric multinationals suck value from our local economies.

Lack of good cycle parking at supermarkets isn't an oversight, nor is it lack of consideration towards valuable customers. Its an act of aggression towards us, and the better lifestyles we represent.


  1. "Lack of good cycle parking at supermarkets isn't an oversight"

    I'm pretty sure it's an oversight.

    1. Naah, oversight implies they've not really thought about it. Or they thought about it and forgot. It seems more of an active choice to exclude cycling provision, for the most part.

  2. i suspect its cycle parking complies with law and not supplied from the need to attract new customers...customers on a bicycle are not on its radar and for obvious reasons...i suspect the bicycle using shopper are the poorer in society and thus not target...Perhaps if people felt safe riding on the (supermarket funded local junctions?) to the store and then once they got there safely they didn't feel that they were going to lose their bicycle to thieves whilst inside, they would attract a richer, more savy customer..Its the old swimming the river analogy again...not many folk ride to the bigger stores...and that's because its not easy, almost discouraged by the lack of any provision. but ride local, shop's the future :-) ps buy a cargo bike..... (a liminal message)

    1. Hi Rob,

      Well, we know that cyclists are, on average, higher earners - and its crazy to assume that supermarket analysts haven't worked that out. We're just not part of their business model, they don't want to spend their money funding junctions that are cyclist friendly when we'll quite rationally use those routes to shop elsewhere.

      To be cyclist friendly they'll have to change the model to actually compete on quality for smaller volumes - something really very difficult for them.

      As for cargo, you're talking to a guy who carried a television home on a bike trailer yesterday :) If, however, you can tell me how to get a bicycle with a sidecar for carrying an adult passenter, I'm all ears :)

    2. I regularly carry very large bags of kitty litter home in my cargo trailer along with other bulky items. It helps that I have an e-bike to help with the pulling and getting back up the hill...

      But what annoys me most about shopping by bike is all the needless chicanes and barriers put in at the start and stop of cycle paths to prevent motorbikes from using them... these features also make it difficult for trikes, tandems, cargo-bikes, hand-cranked bikes, recumbents and also little me with my cargo trailer...

  3. Completely living in the Cambridge bubble what a silly silly man !

  4. The new cycle parking at the revamped Sainsbury Coldhams Lane looks good to be fair, with a roof too.

  5. I have seen one supermarket on the Norfolk coast where the metal cycle rack thingeys had been angle grinded off at ground level . Might have been metal thieves but two years on Tesco doesn't seem to think it is a priority to replace them .

  6. I've only just seen this. I'd agree with Just Julian- it appears Sainsbury's Coldham's lane have listened to criticism of the their cycle parking. The pre-existing cycle park is still there- lots of racks, but a long way from the door- but they've added quite a few uncovered and covered racks that are closer or as close to the door as the disabled parking.

    This brings them to a similar level to Tesco Newmarket Road and Asda Beehive Centre. The former has all covered cycle parking (though some of the cover is substandard), all well positioned. Asda does not have covered cycle parking, but a lot of it is very close to the door.

    So that's the three biggest super markets that are in central-ish Cambridge. All have cycle parking now that is well positioned and of a fair-to-good standard. Which shows that they can, indeed, listen and provide where demand is overwhelming.

    Still need to sort out the godawful barriers on the cycle access to Tesco Newmarket Road though, and cycling near Coldham's Lane can be unpleasant.