Just five months after the launch of the 25-year Bicycle Strategy for Northern Ireland, work will start next week on the first dedicated cycle routes devised by Minister Michelle McIlveen’s DRD Cycling Unit. The initial sections of a cross-Belfast route and a major overhaul and extension of the infamous Bin Lane are expected to be completed by March 2016, costing up to £800,000.

BBIP

Section 1 will connect three Belfast Bikes stations with a traffic-free protected cycle track, while obliterating the two most famous cycling infrastructure landmarks in Belfast, Cyclesaurus the idiosyncratic dinosaur tail cycle lane and the Bin Lane.

Sections 2 and 3 will create a new bicycle route servicing an area of the city with low cycling uptake. Sections 4 and 5 are due to follow by the end of 2016.

“These routes will provide greater protection for people who choose to make journeys across the city by bike. In addition to supporting the successful Belfast Bike Share Scheme they will also help more commuters gain confidence to use the bicycle as an alternative and sustainable mode of transport. My Department’s most recent figures show that 5% of Belfast commuters are already travelling to and from work by bicycle.”

Minister McIlveen

These are officially being treated as pilot routes, giving the Cycling Unit the ability to change elements which aren’t working or need improved. However, the high quality nature of the design shows a determination to set new standards, leaning on best practice from abroad, and the first application of London Cycling Design Standards in Northern Ireland.


Section 1 – Ormeau Avenue to Chichester Street

Alfred St to be made one-way northbound with a cycleway protected by bollards extending the 0.5km from Chichester St to Ormeau Ave. This will create a 1.1km traffic-free route between NCN Route 9 and the city centre, linking four Belfast Bikes stations and sending a reminder about the need to build the Gasworks Bridge. It will finally obliterate the mess of Cyclesaurus, and reboot the Bin Lane to prevent the daily incursion of delivery vehicles from embarrassing Belfast.

The Ormeau Ave entrance to Alfred St will be made into a continuous footway to prioritise pedestrian and cycling movements.

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Redesigned one-way street entrance will feature a continuous footway across the junction

19 on-street parking bays will be removed to provide space for the new cycleway running past the entrance of the Premier Inn Hotel. Will this prove to be one of the more controversial elements of the plan? The popcorn is on standby..

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19 car parking bays will disappear to accommodate cycling (pinch me)

The junction of Alfred St with Franklin St / Sussex Pl remains the busiest and riskiest junction for cycling on the route. Making Alfred St one-way reduces the total possible vehicle movements on the junction from nine to seven, and with continuous cycle priority across the mouth of Franklin St it may improve safety.

I suspect it won’t be long before Franklin St is stopped up to vehicles here, but that is a battle for another time and another (ongoing) consultation.

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Cyclesaurus – the busiest, riskiest junction still problematic despite Alfred Street becoming one-way

The May St junction will now have a straight-ahead view (removing the traffic pole clutter and cycling slalom effect) with separate crossing for those on bicycles and pedestrians. Vehicles emerging from Alfred St will now be banned from making left turns towards the City Hall. Given the crossing phase is likely to coincide with this green light, it will be most interesting to see if this is observed.

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A messy junction simplified – straight-ahead cycleway separated from pedestrians and no left turn for vehicles

And then to the Bin Lane – why is work necessary to this kerb-separated cycle track? Just take a look at the #BinLane hashtag over on Twitter to find out. The kerb will be removed in favour of a consistent design approach of bollards along the length of the scheme. More controversy (and popcorn) but this time from cycle campaigners? The comments are open..

New loading bays created in place of paid on-street parking on Upper Arthur St (directly below a 472-space multi-storey, for context) will accommodate commercial needs. The intention of bin owners is unclear at this stage.

BBIP1_BinLane
These foolproof kerbs will be replaced by bollards and car parking bays to the left converted to loading-only bays

To misquote The Dark Knight, this protected cycleway is not the plan Alfred St and Belfast’s Linen Quarter deserves, but it is the one it needs right now. With more place-appropriate measures like side street blockages, removal of most on-street parking and cellularisation with area-wide one-way restrictions for motor vehicles, perhaps 90% of circulating and through-traffic could be removed from these streets.

That is the way to humanise the whole area – choked as it is by cars searching for on-street parking spaces – and would make separate space for cycling unnecessary. Any bollard v kerb debate should bear in mind that realistic end goal. But for now, until that plan can be argued for and achieved, mode separation will help to make cycling more attractive.


Sections 2 and 3 – Grosvenor Road to City Centre

This represents the first half of the cross-city route which will straddle the city centre from (almost) the Royal Victoria Hospital to Titanic Quarter Railway Station and the greenway network beyond.

Slightly disappointing is the Grosvenor Rd section itself, which will be a shared footway. Once the route is established and seeing regular bicycle traffic (which the expansion of Belfast Bike Hire further up the Grosvenor Rd to the Royal Victoria Hospital guarantees) the Cycling Unit should be given the budget to create a cycleway ramp to Wilson Street. This would significantly cut the journey time and amount of shared used footway on the route, and liven up an otherwise silent street choked with ‘free’ parking.

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Around the corner to Durham St and the beginning of the protected two-way cycle track, to be built utilising roadspace rather than footway.

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A protected cycle track will be built using road space on this side of Durham Street

The mini roundabout at Barrack St (an earlier measure to reduce rat-running and to humanise these streets) will be replaced by signalled-controlled crossings, flipping bicycle users to a bollard-protected cycle track on the opposite side of the road.

BBIP1_CollegeSq
Two-way cycleway to run on the right hand side (as pictured) of College Square North

At the junction of College Sq N and College Ave, a bold decision has been taken to rework traffic movements to create a bicycle priority junction. A low-level bicycle signal and dedicated crossing phase matching in with traffic turning left out of College Sq N will ensure bicycle users are treated like kings and queens of the road.

BBIP1_College
A dedicated cycle crossing will be placed here, and the right turn seen above will not be permitted

And over on College St, traffic mostly emerging from a surface car park will no longer have that option. The street is to be stopped up to vehicles, becoming  a “bicycle street” with minimal interactions with vehicles expected. This again is radical, should be applauded, and will provide evidence for similar options around the city.

Onto Queen St and there is another bollard-protected cycleway – it may feel like overkill on a street which has seen so much traffic removed over the years, but serves a key purpose as a contra-flow to the one-way system for vehicles.

BBIP1_Queen
Possible conflict point with a shared loading bay / cycleway at the mid point of Queen St will be keenly observed

The wider plan is for a traffic-free route all the way from Falls Park, traversing (if possible) Bog Meadows, meeting the cycleway beside the Westlink (and very likely a branch into the new Belfast Transport Hub) then across the city to meet the greenway network which is currently spreading over East Belfast, and the ‘spine’ of Belfast cycling, the traffic-free NCN route 9 from Lisburn to Newtownabbey.


Sections 4 and 5 – High Street to Titanic Station

These last sections are planned to begin sometime in the Autumn and expected to be finished by the end of the year. The High Street section is undergoing a major rework following consultation feedback, but the impressive removal of a lane of traffic on Middlepath St to create a new two-way cycle track will still set a high water mark for cycling development.


The shadow boxing ends – the Cycling Unit is two years old, the Bicycle Strategy for Northern Ireland is now operational and we arrive at the Delivery Phase. Hallelujah!

It is important to set these route announcements in context – the Belfast Bicycle Network Plan and Bicycle Strategy Delivery Plan have yet to be finalised and published by the Cycling Unit. The Minister and her team should be commended for pressing on despite the scant budget at their disposal to date.  If this project signals a Seville-like determination to just get on with building dedicated routes, the future for cycling in Northern Ireland looks bright.

*Note: the section drawing are not the final, final plans but an earlier version available here.

The early and perhaps surprising success of Coca-Cola Zero Belfast Bikes has seen continual demands for expansion. Before Belfast City Council announces the official ‘Phase 2’ of the project, expansion is already being driven by a series of partnerships with organisations across the public, private and academic sectors. Northern Ireland Greenways can now reveal firm plans to grow the bike hire scheme to at least 45 stations across Belfast.

Belfast_Bikes_campus

Belfast Bikes launched in April 2015 with 300 bicycles and 30 stations dotted around the inner core of Belfast. The capital costs of £1.1m were provided by the Department for Regional Development (DRD), with Belfast City Council committing to administer the scheme until 2020. Nextbike were chosen to provide the bicycles, station infrastructure and systems, while NSL won a 3-year contract to run the day-to-day operations. Coca-Cola Zero are providing £100k a year to sponsor Belfast Bikes for the first 3 years.

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The initial scheme layout faced some criticism for its city centre limitation, although in Belfast the geographical coverage of any major public investment can be sensitive. The decision to focus on the inner city, driven mostly by the need keep a dense pattern of stations within 300-500 metres of their neighbours, paid off when user numbers and usage levels grew steadily over the summer of 2015.

BBrentals

By October 2015 the signs of success were clear – 100,000 hires within 6 months, with a favourable comparison to Glasgow’s scheme taking 14 months to reach the same total with more stations, bicycles and subscribers. Belfast had a genuine good news story and the political support to green-light expansion plans.

Before undertaking a major expansion with ‘Phase 2’ (plans expected to reach Council by Summer 2016) Belfast City Council have been able to partner with external organisations to provide an interim expansion of docking stations. This saw Queen’s University fund the establishing of 2 stations within its grounds, and Titanic Quarter Limited doing the same for a dock near Titanic Belfast. All 3 stations opened in November 2015 and 30 extra bikes brought Belfast’s total fleet up to 330 by the start of 2016.

But further expansion is on the cards with more organisations offering capital funds to create new stations. Negotiations are underway between the Council and Belfast Health and Social Care Trust (BHSCT) to provide stations at its 3 main hospitals. Sustrans has already launched its offer of free on-road cycle training for BHSCT staff to encourage Belfast Bike Hire registrations. These docking stations should be approved by the Council’s Strategic Policy and Resources Committee (SP&R) on Friday 22nd January 2016 with shovels breaking ground within months.

The Department for Social Development (DSD) also wants Belfast Bikes to form a key part of their inner city regeneration schemes, Building Successful Communities (BSC), in the north and west of the city.

BelfastBikesExpansion

The DSD schemes on the Lower Falls and Lower Shankill are also expected to be approved by the SP&R Committee this Friday. However the Lower Oldpark proposal could be shifted closer to the city centre (and within a workable range of the main Belfast Bikes footprint) by switching focus to the new Girdwood Community Hub beside the Mater Hospital and Crumlin Road Gaol. The lead time is likely to be slower for the DSD proposals with further approvals needed by the 3 individual BSC Forums.

Another sign of the success and importance of the Belfast Bikes scheme is growing private sector interest. The approved planning application for a new Allstate NI office beside Belfast Central Station includes a £25,000 commitment for the establishment of a Bike Hire station at Maysfield. Allstate has form as a company promoting sustainable transport in Belfast, winning the 2014 Fréd Festival Award for Best Large Employer for Cycling.

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Possible Belfast Bikes location at new Allstate NI building (beside Dutch bridge)

With various regeneration schemes and new builds around the city over the next few years, expect many more organisations to step in, taking some of the capital funding burden away from ratepayers in a win-win arrangement for the city.

As we near election time the shining success of Belfast Bikes can only help to highlight the demand for cycling in Belfast and with it the need for investment in safer, dedicated infrastructure. Seeing big employers recognising the value of cheap, flexible and congestion-busting transport around Belfast is heartening too. Belfast City Council’s next step into ‘Phase 2’ holds risks, but the popularity of Coca-Cola Zero Belfast Bikes cannot be doubted and should justify a bold expansion over the next 18 months.

For more analysis of the Belfast Bikes scheme see this excellent report by Niall McCracken at The Detail – The gaps in Belfast’s cycling network – from November 2015.

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Belfast’s 7 large grocery retailers are not doing enough to support customers who want to shop and cycle, a survey of supermarket cycling facilities has found. The survey reports that there are just 100 bicycle racks outside Belfast’s 40 supermarkets, and almost half of Belfast’s supermarkets have no bicycle racks at all. This poses a significant barrier to the success of ongoing efforts to encourage more people to cycle in the city.

In November and December 2015, NI Greenways travelled to all 40 of Belfast’s main chain supermarkets – Asda, Dunnes Stores, Iceland, Lidl, Marks and Spencer, Sainbury’s and Tesco – to check how easy it is to pop in when riding past on a bicycle. This was inspired by a long, frustrating (and still ongoing) Twitter exchange with Lidl NI over their lack of bicycle parking at Castlereagh.

But what was the situation elsewhere in Belfast? And why focus on supermarkets – surely they’re only for doing the ‘big shop’ which needs a car? I dread to think how many small convenience stores I’d have to visit – so for this study I’ve left out Centra, Mace, Spar, Supervalu, Russells etc and smaller versions of supermarkets such as Tesco Express. Strangely, Forestside sits outside Belfast City Council but is definitely a ‘Belfast’ shopping centre so makes it into the survey – stores in Abbey Centre and Dundonald don’t.

One of the great benefits of cycling (and this has been shown in studies around the world) is the ability to stop at small independent stores and do more shopping, more often, in smaller batches. ‘Cyclists’ are great local shoppers. As well as independent retailers, most supermarkets in Belfast are on the main arterial routes, and whether through larger products ranges or competitive pricing, they’re occasionally on my list of stores to visit.

However, trying to find somewhere safe, secure, well-lit and sheltered to lock a bicycle can be a challenge at many supermarkets. Sub-standard bicycle racks – or being expected to lock up to a lighting column, fence or trolley rack – feels a little bit insulting in clear sight of vast, beautifully-manicured car parking, or trolleys insulated from the elements.

So I devised a scoring system, based in part on Planning Service recommended standards for bicycle parking from 2005 (after which some of these stores were built or redeveloped), to benchmark the city’s supermarkets.

superrank

This system means supermarkets can be independently rated against a consistent benchmark out of 7 points for the quality of facilities laid on for customers arriving by bicycle. A score of 6-7 would identify a store offering adequate to good facilities, not necessarily exceptional. It also allows for an average score across each brand’s stores to be worked out, to determine which chain offers the best facilities overall.

Survey facts and figures

  • 17 out of 40 Belfast supermarkets have no cycling facilities whatsoever.
  • Tesco provides around half of all the supermarket bicycle racks in Belfast.

PIEMAP2

 

  • Just 5 of the 23 cycle parking areas in Belfast supermarkets have direct and visible CCTV coverage.
  • A reasonable 17 of the 23 cycle parking areas are close to supermarket entrances.
  • Just 9 of the 23 cycle parking areas have some shelter, although this covers 48 of the 100 racks.
  • While the best individual supermarket is located in South Belfast, the area with the best overall ranking for supermarket cycling provision is North Belfast – this runs counter to cycling commuter patterns in the city.
  • Out of a total possible score of 280 across all supermarkets, Belfast scored just 69 points – this means Belfast supermarkets are doing less than a quarter of what’s needed to provide adequate cycling facilities.
  • Just 1 out of the 22 stores with bicycle parking offers any additional services to customers arriving by bicycle.

Belfast’s best supermarket chain for cycling facilities

With an average score of 4.5 out of 7, Sainbury’s is the clear leader in cycling provision.

LeagueTable2

 

Sainsbury’s 3 stores at Forestside, Kennedy Centre and Knocknagoney have just 14 racks between them, but the quality, security, proximity to store entrances were a cut above the rest. Sainsburys and Dunnes Stores are the only supermarket chains with bicycle parking outside all of their stores in Belfast.

Sains

Although Tesco provides half of all the supermarket cycling racks in Belfast, the quality of their bicycle areas was not as consistent as Sainsbury’s.

Iceland is the only supermarket in Belfast with more stores than bicycle racks and, along with Dunnes, may not have been directly responsible for installing any of the cycling facilities which happen to be outside their stores.

Lidl’s only bicycle racks are designed to lock front wheels, rather than the recommended Sheffield-style stands.

Belfast’s best individual supermarket for cycling facilities

Tesco Newtownbreda just pips Sainsbury’s Forestside to this title. Both stores scored 6 out of the maximum 7 points, but Tesco’s 15 racks and CCTV coverage tip the balance towards this superstore in south Belfast.

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Belfast supermarkets that go the extra mile

Just one, Sainsbury’s Forestside – offering a rent-a-lock service in case you’ve forgotten to bring yours.

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How does my local store rate?

You can find a rating for each of the 40 supermarkets in Belfast, including comment from the brands themselves on the survey, on the following pages:

What next?

Supermarkets position themselves as key social nodes in our urban life, and they do play an important role in the fabric of communities. While it’s desperately important to use and support our smaller independent retailers, supermarkets can influence wider travel habits by taking a lead and making the bicycle a more attractive option. The investment required is tiny compared to some of the big supermarkets’ trading profits posted in recent years, and the space needed doesn’t seem to be lacking either. Re-purposing just 2 car parking spaces gets you into double figures of bicycle racks.

Lidl Castlereagh car park

Good quality and attractive bicycle parking facilities should be an obvious choice for a responsible retailer interested in building good links with the local community. And the more people we can encourage to shop here and there, safe in the knowledge their bicycle is safe outside while their custom is valued inside, the more footfall we can drive to our smaller local shops too.

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We’ll return to the same stores next year to see what’s changed and aim to give a 2016 Fréd Award to the Most Improved Supermarket. Whether succeeding or failing right now, individual benchmarks have been set – who can be the shining light in Belfast next year?

Note: Visits to each of the 40 supermarkets in Belfast were made in November and December 2015 and facilities (or lack of) were recorded as observed at the time – NI Greenways is happy to correct any errors identified in this survey.
*This post was updated on 9/12/15 to amend the score of M&S Boucher as that store’s 2 racks were missed on the initial visit. This changes the overall M&S score from 1 out of 7 to 1.4 out of 7. This did not affect the original overall 4th place rank of M&S on the league table.

Over November and December 2015, Northern Ireland Greenways surveyed cycling facilities at the 40 chain supermarkets in Belfast. Tesco’s 8 major supermarkets were included, along with the flagship city centre Metro store at Castle Place. For consistency across the survey, smaller Tesco Express stores were excluded.

superrank

This system means we can independently rate any supermarket against a consistent benchmark out of 7 points for the quality of facilities laid on for customers choosing to arrive by bicycle.  A score of 6-7 would identify a store offering adequate to good facilities. So how does each Tesco store in Belfast rate for cycling facilities?


Tesco Antrim Road

2Points

2 points for Tesco Antrim Road, for 5 racks and proximity to the entrance. However there are big problems here. For a start, there are only 2 usable racks here due to their position (park your bike one way, you render the racks on the other side redundant).

Tesco Antrim Road

Then there’s the strange decision to place the red racks in direct conflict with a blue badge car parking space.

Tesco Antrim Road

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So no marks for quality, and despite the position near the entrance, CCTV coverage would go a long way to improving the feeling of security, with the racks being needlessly tucked away in a dark corner.


Tesco Ballygomartin

5Points

Just 3 racks but an impressive 5 stars for Tesco Ballygomartin – what gives? There is plenty to praise here – although there is a small walk to the entrance, it’s close enough for a point, especially given the double-whammy of safety. There’s a CCTV camera in clear sight of the racks as well as the large windows looking into the till points – you would need a real brass neck to attempt to steal a bicycle here.

Tesco Ballysillan

Add in good shelter, half-decent quality of racks and you’re a few additional racks away from challenging the very best in Belfast.


Tesco Castle Place

2Points

2 points for Tesco Metro Castle Place – are these racks owned and installed by Tesco or government agencies in Northern Ireland? For this survey it’s not so important – the ability to lock your bike outside the store is – but Tesco loses out on the extra point for rack quality as a result, even though these Sheffield stands are excellent.

Tesco Castle Place

The location already benefits from a Belfast Bikes station directly across the road, but there’s plenty of space to work with at the front of the store. No shelter and no CCTV coverage keeps the score low.


Tesco Castlereagh

3Points

On first view, compared with Ballysillan above, you might wonder what’s wrong with the scoring system that would rate a store with 12 racks lower than one with just 3.

Indeed, Tesco Castlereagh’s attempt to make a high-profile dent in the bicycle traffic passing by its front door moved me to write an article in 2012. But things didn’t work out as I or Tesco hoped here.Tesco Castlereagh

The 3 points for Tesco Castlereagh are for double figures of bicycle racks (2 points) and quality of racks (1 point) but that’s it. While the sign located at the side entrance is great, positioning the racks here around 60 metres away from the store entrance is a mistake. Most days you’ll see more bicycles latched to the trolley cages than the bicycle racks.

Tesco Castlereagh

The bicycle area is very exposed, both lacking shelter (while all the trolleys on site benefit from a roof) and no CCTV coverage adding to the worry that thieves will be off in a flash out onto the road and away.

Its an unfortunate score for the store with second most bicycle racks in Belfast, but Tesco should swallow pride on this experimental location and put the racks where customers clearly want them – right beside the front door.


Tesco Dunmurry

0Points

Racks there were none.

Tesco Dunmurry


Tesco Knocknagoney

3Points

A disappointing 3 points for Tesco Knocknagoney given the sheer scale of the superstore on the eastern edge of Belfast. There are 6 good quality racks which are nicely sheltered, but the pillars obscure a clear sight of the CCTV camera.

Tesco Knocknagoney

The walk to the front door is one of the longest in Belfast unfortunately, and it’s not for want of space elsewhere. A tame effort at a flagship store.


Tesco Lisburn Road

0Points

It would be fair to say this is the most surprising omission in the whole of the city. South Belfast being the heartland of cycling in Belfast, and this store being within an easy cycle (but not walk) of student accommodation as far away as Malone Road, and… nothing.

Tesco Lisburn Road

Frustrated customers (understandably) take to locking bicycles on the barrier outside, which is there to stop kids running across the busy pedestrian crossing – not for bicycle parking. The streetscape is clogged due to Tesco inaction.

Tesco Lisburn Road

There’s plenty of space in the nice underground car park here, but again no bicycle racks. Just a strange decision which needs urgently revised.


Tesco Newtownbreda

6Points

Is this the current gold standard in Belfast? A very respectable 6 points for Tesco Newtownbreda out of 7 as it ticks every box except for offering additional services for bicycle users – close to being perfect.

Tesco Newtownbreda

15 racks are placed right at the entrance to the store, under the shelter of the store itself (which is on the first floor) and a wonderfully outsized CCTV camera points right down on the scene – probably more for the adjacent ATM machines, but the message sounds loud and clear.

Tesco Newtownbreda

There’s even a big sign saying Bicycle parking which is almost non-existent apart from in Tesco supermarkets in Belfast – a small but important sign of pride.

More of this please.


Tesco Yorkgate

4Points

A creditable 4 points for Tesco Yorkgate which gets off to a difficult start with the quality of the racks. We give a point as at least you can lock the frame to the stand and rest your bicycle safely, but we’d like to see Sheffield-style stands (and many more of them) by this time next year.

Tesco Yorkgate

Otherwise the area is under cover and right beside the store entrance so 4 easy points.

This store will become student central very soon with the opening of the Ulster University Belfast Campus, while the developing plans for the York Street Interchange now have excellent dedicated cycling links from Belfast city centre. This is one store that must be prioritised for improvements to match coming demand.


What Tesco says..

“We actively encourage colleagues and customers to cycle. Locally we work with planning authorities to ensure our stores can be accessed by bikes and cycles can be securely parked.

“Our colleagues actively participate in the ‘Cycle to Work’ scheme, offering discounted bikes and incentivising cycling locally.

“Finally cycling forms part of our community initiatives, with colleagues cycling and being active while raising funds for great local causes.


Verdict

TescoRank

We’d expect to see the mighty Tesco challenging at the top of the table, but an overall average of just 2.78 out of 7 is a cause for concern. There’s good work going on in some stores, but it feels like a bout of consistency has tried but failed to break out. From rack design to signage to placement you can see the seed of a push towards the top spot in 2016, but Tesco really shouldn’t have stores which ignore some customers’ needs entirely.


How does Tesco rank for bicycle facilities against other supermarkets in Belfast in 2015? Find out in Store Wars VII: The Cycling Revolution Awakens..

Note: Visits to each of the 40 supermarkets in Belfast were made in November and December 2015 and facilities (or lack of) were recorded as observed at the time – NI Greenways is happy to correct any errors identified in this survey.

Over November and December 2015, Northern Ireland Greenways surveyed cycling facilities at the 40 chain supermarkets in Belfast. Sainsbury’s 3 major supermarkets across the city were included.

superrank

This system means we can independently rate any supermarket against a consistent benchmark out of 7 points for the quality of facilities laid on for customers choosing to arrive by bicycle.  A score of 6-7 would identify a store offering adequate to good facilities. So how does each Sainsbury’s store in Belfast rate for cycling facilities?


Sainsbury’s Forestside

6Points

6 points out of 7 for Sainsbury’s Forestside points to something decent happening in South Belfast. Yes the racks are a little close to the wall, but if the transportfiets pictured below feels comfortable here, it passes the test of quality. In fact there’s a little of everything here except for racks into double figures – otherwise this would be hands-down the best supermarket bicycle rack in Belfast.

SainsburysForest

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What brings this store up to 6 points is an additional service targeted at shoppers arriving by bicycle. The only supermarket in Belfast to actually go the extra mile, locks are available to rent in case you forgot to bring one.

Forestside

This is easily in the top three locations in the city – but is it the very best?


Sainsbury’s Kennedy Centre

2halfPoints

Sainsbury’s might kick themselves here – great potential wasted on poor execution and planning means just 2.5 points out of 7. The racks are too far from the entrance for comfort, which is a further problem without CCTV coverage.

SainsKennedy

But we can only award half a point for a sheltered location – for some reason the racks were placed half under the roof and half out – with the unfortunate sight of poor drainage leading you to imagine a bike locked to the third rack might end up being dissolved in a heavy shower.

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What could have been..


Sainsbury’s Knocknagoney

5Points

Another strong showing from Sainsbury’s down on the Harbour Estate with 5 points out of 7. This rack is just within the bounds of proximity to the entrance, saved somewhat by the view out from the store and CCTV coverage.

SainsburysKnock

Store management could have a winner here with a little more thought and investment. Although Sainsbury’s support for a Belfast to Holywood Greenway would go a long way to increasing two-wheeled custom and currying favour with me..


What Sainsbury’s say..

“Holywood:

  • New bike racks added to store 8 months ago.
  • Cycle to Work scheme in place at their store.

Forestside:

  • In conjunction with the shopping centre there is a Cycle Club. Customers are encouraged to take part as well as colleagues and managers. Organise bike rides, hold events.
  • Bike racks out the front of the store.
  • Cycle to Work scheme.

Kennedy Centre:

  • After Christmas will be getting the City Bikes – massive boost for cycling.
  • Bike racks outside the store.
  • Cycle to Work scheme.”

Verdict

SainsRank

Not the only supermarket chain with 2 stores rated with 5 or more points, but it’s the consistency of good quality bicycle provision that gives Sainsbury’s a decent average score of 4.5 out of 7 points. Sainsbury’s are in a great position to make a few tweaks and sew up the top spot in 2016.


How does Sainsbury’s rank for bicycle facilities against other supermarkets in Belfast in 2015? Find out in Store Wars VII: The Cycling Revolution Awakens..

Note: Visits to each of the 40 supermarkets in Belfast were made in November and December 2015 and facilities (or lack of) were recorded as observed at the time – NI Greenways is happy to correct any errors identified in this survey.

Over November and December 2015, Northern Ireland Greenways surveyed cycling facilities at the 40 chain supermarkets in Belfast. Marks and Spencer’s 4 major supermarkets were included, as well as the flagship city centre Food Hall on Donegall Place.

superrank

This system means we can independently rate any supermarket against a consistent benchmark out of 7 points for the quality of facilities laid on for customers choosing to arrive by bicycle.  A score of 6-7 would identify a store offering adequate to good facilities. So how does each M&S store in Belfast rate for attracting customers by bicycle?


M&S Ballyhackamore

0Points

Ouch. Just a stone’s throw from the Comber Greenway and this M&S Food Hall has no bicycle facilities.

MSBally

A bad start.


M&S Boucher

2Points

 

On the same block where the world’s largest online bicycle retailer Chain Reaction Cycles has its flagship Belfast store, M&S has made a half decent effort to encourage customers to drop in and lock their bike outside.

MSBoucher

These two bike racks hide behind the bin and are easy to miss (I did first time round*) and although they benefit from being right beside the store entrance, the lack of shelter or CCTV, as well as the bin reducing the quality of the space, holds back the score to just 2 out of 7 points.

Space and cost isn’t an issue for Chain Reaction – showing the way for M&S to improve..

MSChain

 


M&S Donegall Place

2Points

A rating of 2 stars for M&S Donegall Place is probably down to the work of the government Streets Ahead project, with 3 good bicycle racks outside one of 3 main entrances to the flagship city centre store.

MSDonegall

There’s scope to add racks facing Belfast City Hall and in Callendar Street to make this a much more accessible store.


M&S Forestside

3Points

Whether the credit goes to Forestside management or M&S is debatable, but losing a point for quality is not debatable here. While the racks benefit from a close position to the dedicated M&S entrance, and a CCTV camera is a good deterrent to theft, the racks themselves suffer from some unfortunate conflicts.

MSForest

Whether it’s the street light pole or the exit sign getting in the way of locking up your bike, this area occasionally gets seen as a dumping ground or other worthy causes..

Again, given the high quality facilities just around the corner at Sainsbury’s Forestside, M&S should be doing better here.


M&S Lisburn Road

0Points

Gah – in Belfast terms (which isn’t saying much) the Lisburn Road is a cycling superhighway. But no racks for passing customers on bicycles here.

MSLisburn

So both Tesco and M&S on the Lisburn Road are currently failing in this department – I wonder which supermarket will react the quickest?


What M&S say..

“We offer a ‘Cycle2Work’ scheme which gives all our employees in the UK significant discounts and extras on bike purchases.

“Given the focus on cycling in Northern Ireland at the moment this is something we will look at in the coming months and speak with our landlords and retail park colleagues about.”


Verdict

 

MSupdate

It’s a disappointing average score of just 1.4 out of 7 for Marks and Spencer, and the racks at Donegall Place and Forestside may be more through luck than M&S design. There is much to do in 2016 for this premium brand, with Ballyhackamore and Lisburn Road stores representing the most obvious quick wins.


How does M&S rank for bicycle facilities against other supermarkets in Belfast in 2015? Find out in Store Wars VII: The Cycling Revolution Awakens..

Note: Visits to each of the 40 supermarkets in Belfast were made in November and December 2015 and facilities (or lack of) were recorded as observed at the time – NI Greenways is happy to correct any errors identified in this survey.
*This post was updated on 9/12/15 to amend the score of M&S Boucher as that store’s 2 racks were missed on the initial visit. This changes the overall M&S score from 1 out of 7 to 1.4 out of 7. This did not affect the original overall 4th place rank of M&S on the league table.

Over November and December 2015, Northern Ireland Greenways surveyed cycling facilities at the 40 chain supermarkets in Belfast. Lidl’s 5 major supermarkets were included, along with the flagship city centre store at High Street.

superrank

This system means we can independently rate any supermarket against a consistent benchmark out of 7 points for the quality of facilities laid on for customers choosing to arrive by bicycle.  A score of 6-7 would identify a store offering adequate to good facilities. So how does each Lidl store in Belfast rate for cycling facilities?


Lidl Andersonstown

image

No racks.

LidlAndy


Lidl Castlereagh

0Points

Nothing. This store has a special place as the inspiration for this survey, so thank you to Lidl.

LidlCastle

Knowing my luck it’ll be the last supermarket in Belfast to get a bike rack. More on that later..


Lidl Connswater

0Points

No bicycle racks at a supermarket virtually on the Connswater Greenway is bad enough.

LidlConns

Having Halfords next door showing you exactly what is possible (even if you consider this limited space) is much worse.

LidlHalfords

There will be no excuses here next year.


Lidl High Street

0Points

This is a curious case. The location doesn’t benefit from any government-provided on-street racks.

LidlHigh

Unfortunately for Lidl, word reached NI Greenways that 3 wall-mounted bicycle racks were slated for inclusion as part of the planning process for this relatively new store.

PP

More on this later too..

LidlHighBikes


Lidl Shore Road

2Points

Just when you thought we were going for a clean sweep, along comes the strange phenomenon of the wheel-bending rack. Unsigned and very hard to spot even when standing right next to them, these are the most basic of provision and frankly the worst supermarket bicycle racks in Belfast.

LidlShore

This particular rack at the Shore Road store even has the added danger of being right beside the ‘road’ in the car park – a car parked right over this spot just after I wheeled away. 2 points out of 7 for a rack and proximity, and not much else.


Lidl Stewartstown

3Points

Another wheel-bender at Stewartstown, this time scoring 3 points out of 7 for the additional benefit of being under the store roof for shelter.

LidlStew

These racks feel like an afterthought.


What Lidl says..

“2 stores mentioned have bike racks presently (Shore Road and Stewartstown). 2 stores are currently being redeveloped (Connswater and Andersonstown Road) and we are considering plans to have bike racks. Unfortunately our city centre location does not have a car park therefore we cannot facilitate a bike rack. “


Verdict

LidlRank

The statement from Lidl is welcome (God knows many have tried on Twitter to get such detail) but what’s left unsaid is quite interesting. First off, that firm ‘no’ on High Street is strange given the planning permission had 3 racks listed.

No mention is made of the quality of the racks slated to go into Connswater and Andersonstown Road – front wheel racks again? Please no. Finally, the silence on Castlereagh Road is funny given how many times ‘feedback has been passed on‘ over the last two years. Maybe management might be advised to actually engage with organisations who care about cycling? It’s not like Lidl is pushed for space on this site..

LidlPano

Come on Lidl, you can do much better than an average 0.83 out of 7 points, if you really care. I’m rooting for you.


How does Lidl rank for bicycle facilities against other supermarkets in Belfast in 2015? Find out in Store Wars VII: The Cycling Revolution Awakens..

Note: Visits to each of the 40 supermarkets in Belfast were made in November and December 2015 and facilities (or lack of) were recorded as observed at the time – NI Greenways is happy to correct any errors identified in this survey.

Over November and December 2015, Northern Ireland Greenways surveyed cycling facilities at the 40 chain supermarkets in Belfast. Iceland’s 12 major supermarkets were included, which includes 2 city centre stores on Bridge Street and Castle Street.

superrank

This system means we can independently rate any supermarket against a consistent benchmark out of 7 points for the quality of facilities laid on for customers choosing to arrive by bicycle.  A score of 6-7 would identify a store offering adequate to good facilities. So how does each Iceland store in Belfast rate for cycling facilities?


Iceland Andersonstown

0Points

Not a good start.

IceAndy


Iceland Antrim Road

0Points

No racks here.

IceAnt

Just next door a row of small independent stores do a great job of encouraging people to arrive by bicycle.

IceComp

But not Iceland. Why not?


Iceland Ballysillan

0Points

A theme developing here.

IceBal


Iceland Bridge Street

2Points

A place to park a bicycle! However, was this cycle hoop installed by Iceland or the government? So no point for quality, and anyway we’re a bit past offering customers a street pole to park against while shopping.

IceBridge

Other than that it’s beside the entrance and fairly visible while inside.


Iceland Castle Street

0Points

Clearly there’s no space to install bicycle racks here. Ahem.

IceCastle


Iceland Cregagh

1Point

I’m sorry, but we’re giving this bicycle rack to Transport NI as it’s on the footway somewhere near this Iceland store. A point for being able to lock a bicycle in the general area.

IceCreg


Iceland Finaghy

0Points

This is depressing.

IceFin


Iceland Kennedy Centre

0Points

This Iceland store is inside the Kennedy Centre, which has no bicycle parking at the main concourse entrance. Just yards away the Jobs and Benefits Centre shows how easy it is to install decent bicycle racks.

IceKen


Iceland Newtownards Road

1Point

I suspect it’s Belfast City Council’s Renewing The Routes project to the rescue here.

IceNew

Space does exist in the small car park to the side of the store, but no bike racks. We’re less than a minute’s cycle from the Comber and Connswater Greenways here.

IceNewRack

That’s a Sheffield stand close to the neighbouring Russell’s convenience store. One point, hardly worth shouting about.


Iceland Park Centre

3Points

Easily the best of the lot, although crucially the glory is shared with Dunnes Stores and the Park Centre management.

IcePark

5 good racks right beside the centre entrance, although a big missed opportunity for shelter and CCTV coverage keeps the score low.


Iceland Shankill

0Points

Nowt.

IceShan


Iceland York Road

Nah.

IceYork


What Iceland says..

Iceland declined to comment.


Verdict

IcelandRank

Is that really 12 Iceland supermarkets in Belfast, with a total of just 8 bicycle racks between them, and not one obviously installed by Iceland themselves? An average score of just 0.58 out of 7 points is shocking.

Iceland and I agree on one thing – there is nothing good to say about this. Iceland accounts for more than a quarter of all the supermarkets in Belfast, and has a lot of work to do to bring them up to standard in 2016.


How does Iceland rank for bicycle facilities against other supermarkets in Belfast in 2015? Find out in Store Wars VII: The Cycling Revolution Awakens..

Note: Visits to each of the 40 supermarkets in Belfast were made in November and December 2015 and facilities (or lack of) were recorded as observed at the time – NI Greenways is happy to correct any errors identified in this survey.

Over November and December 2015, Northern Ireland Greenways surveyed cycling facilities at the 40 chain supermarkets in Belfast. Dunnes Stores’ 2 major (grocery) supermarkets were included, along with the flagship city centre Food Hall on Cornmarket.

superrank

This system means we can independently rate any supermarket against a consistent benchmark out of 7 points for the quality of facilities laid on for customers choosing to arrive by bicycle.  A score of 6-7 would identify a store offering adequate to good facilities. So how does each Dunnes Stores location in Belfast rate for cycling facilities?


Dunnes Stores Annadale

1Point

This is a whopper of a disappointment. Why? This decades-old Dunnes supermarket sits right in the middle of Belfast’s Cycling Revolution, in the Ballynafeigh ward with cycling at over 6% share of journeys to work, the best in the whole country.

image

So with a spacious (and barely ever full) car park out front, there is.. one cycle hoop next to the store. Again there’s no clear ownership by Dunnes so no extra point for quality, and the dark spot would make anyone think twice before leaving their bike.

image

Expecting shoppers to latch their bicycles up onto the car park fence (as is common) just isn’t good enough. This should be a class-leading location.


Dunnes Stores Cornmarket

2Points

Like Marks and Spencer around the corner, Dunnes may be benefiting from a little bit of government-provided good fortune here – so no additional points for quality.

image

However the prime location outside the store makes this a great option for shoppers.


Dunnes Stores Park Centre

3Points

Good fortune or not – who knows? Either way the site beside the entrance and decent quality mean Dunnes and Iceland have to split the credit here. It’s a moot point as this Dunnes is closing, which is a major blow to Park Centre and the local community.

image

Shelter and CCTV, along with another rack at the second entrance would be useful additions for Iceland and if another supermarket anchor tenant moves in.


What Dunnes Stores says..

No comment received.


Verdict

DunnesRank

Dunnes Stores could be very lucky here – you couldn’t say for certain that any of these bike racks were installed at the behest of Dunnes, and yet the 3 Belfast stores get an average score of 2 points out of 7. Annadale sticks out like a sore thumb and better use could be made of the car park to attract some of the hundreds of people cycling past every day.


How does Dunnes Stores rank for bicycle facilities against other supermarkets in Belfast in 2015? Find out in Store Wars VII: The Cycling Revolution Awakens..

Note: Visits to each of the 40 supermarkets in Belfast were made in November and December 2015 and facilities (or lack of) were recorded as observed at the time – NI Greenways is happy to correct any errors identified in this survey.

Over November and December 2015, Northern Ireland Greenways surveyed cycling facilities at the 40 chain supermarkets in Belfast. Asda’s 2 major (grocery) supermarkets in the city were included.

superrank

This system means we can independently rate any supermarket against a consistent benchmark out of 7 points for the quality of facilities laid on for customers choosing to arrive by bicycle.  A score of 6-7 would identify a store offering adequate to good facilities. So how does each Asda store in Belfast rate for cycling facilities?


Asda Shore Road

5halfPoints

Asda Shore Road gets 5.5 points out of 7, one of the best scores in Belfast – but it’s held back by a minor detail. 10 racks of half decent quality (why so close to the wall?) are within a wee dander of the entrance, and covered by CCTV.

Asda Shore Road

BUT while staff and customers have a handy sheltered smoking area in the background, the second row of bike racks are open to the elements, so just a half point here. Nearly spot on.


Asda Westwood

0Points

No racks.

Asda Westwood

This is a shame for such a big store, and Sainsbury’s just up the road is doing such a good job too..


What Asda say..

No comments received.


Verdict

The smallest sample of stores in the survey so it’s one good, one bad giving an average score of 2.75 out of 7. Shore Road lifts Asda above most other chains in Belfast and helps put North Belfast (unusually) on the cycling map of the city. Replicate (or even better, surpass) those efforts up in Andytown and Asda can cruise towards the top next year.


How does Asda rank for bicycle facilities against other supermarkets in Belfast in 2015? Find out in Store Wars VII: The Cycling Revolution Awakens..

Note: Visits to each of the 40 supermarkets in Belfast were made in November and December 2015 and facilities (or lack of) were recorded as observed at the time – NI Greenways is happy to correct any errors identified in this survey.