There’s an urban myth that appears to be quite pervasive around here. Apparently we two-wheeled folk ‘don’t buy things‘ and it is only people in cars who do.
It’s often quite subtle. It can be as simple as just neglecting to tell customers using the website that “this store provides bicycle parking” or even failing to provide any bike parking at all.
It could also be the tendency for retailers to associate the failure of their business with an increase in parking charges or pedestrianisation. Clearly the lack of website or any form of community engagement had nothing to do with it…
…but as we’ve talked about before, we do buy things and we would probably do more of it if it was presented as an option. Putting an icon on your store website saying you have bike racks is not a big ask.
What is slightly troubling is how this idea seems to be seeping into town planning as well. We’ve moaned about the lack of businesses taking advantage of the Taff Trail already. Even the huge Tesco Extra that runs along the trail has a convoluted route into it, when it could just have a gate onto the trail from the car park.
However, one thing the council appears to be working on is an alternative route to the A469, or Caerphilly Road as it is better known.
The route will run from Caerphilly Road (Site 1), Maes-y-Coed Road (Site 2), Ton-Yr- Ywen Avenue (Site 3), Heathwood Road (Site 4), St Ambrose Road, Rhydhelig Avenue (Site 5), St Agnes Road and St Georges Road onto Caerphilly Road/North Road (Site 6). However, Sites 3, 4 and 5 are currently being developed.
Now, there are a couple of issues with this route. For starters it demonstrates a total lack of vision and ambition; completely refuses to re-allocate road space; it is indirect and it forces people to attempt to cross Heathwood Road. However, our biggest bugbear is that it completely bypasses the interesting parts of Caerphilly Road.
The crossroads of Heathwood Road and Caerphilly Road are where you will find all of the shops; the pubs and the sorts of businesses you would only visit if you were moving slowly enough to notice them –or lived around there.
You have to wonder just what the council is hoping to achieve with this route. Will it encourage nervous riders onto their bikes? No, probably not. It’s still on road and it goes nowhere useful. Is it going to benefit Birchgrove’s retailers? No, it’ll bypass them completely.
Let’s face it, it’s not that far from a range of supermarkets offering free car parking and lower prices –in fact there are superstores at either end. That’s where motorists will go and indeed have been going in their droves, so you might as well try to attract people on foot and on bicycles instead.
Around the world
The strange thing is, there is evidence around the world to suggest that installing protected bike lanes is actually very, very good for business. New York City for example has embarked on a project to install protected bike lanes. Where it has, retailers have done pretty well out of it.
Built in 2007, it was controversial at the time (like everything else bike-related in the city). But a study by the Department of Transport finds that it’s paid dividends economically. Local stores between 23rd and 31st streets have seen a 49% increase in sales, compared to an average of 3% for Manhattan as a whole.
It appears that whilst we cycling folk spend less money in each visit, we visit more often and cumulatively end up spending more over a month. Similar outcomes have been documented in Portland, Oregon; Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington New Zealand; Dublin, Ireland; Los Angeles, California; Vancouver, Canada; Toronto; Canada; San Francisco, California; Seattle, Washington; and Davis, California.
An annotated, chart-filled review of 12 studies from around the world.
The other factor to consider is that you can fit around 10 bikes in the space of one car, meaning that there could be 10 people inside your shop rather than just one for a given amount of road space.
Dare we mention that car free day again?
This only adds to the frustration that Cardiff’s much championed “car free day”, the announcement of which followed a very successful car-free day in Paris, has been watered down into a farce.
For a city with ambitions to become a leading “liveable” city, reducing the “car free day” to one street (Park Place), that has little or no retail presence…on a Thursday is a very peculiar way to demonstrate that those ambitions are anything other than a cynical PR exercise.
Can you tell that we’re a little hacked off by this? Is it starting to show?!
Are you hacked off too? Why not tell your councillor?