Bicycle Parking sign at Tesco Castlereagh Road

New Belfast Tesco targets cycling shoppers

New Tesco Superstore on the Castlereagh Road

The new Tesco Superstore on the Castlereagh Road opens on Thursday 4th October, but it’s hoping to attract more than the traditional supermarket customers. At the north entrance a sign has been erected to target passing cyclists. A lot of local supermarkets have developed facilities such as disabled parking, parent and child parking, but it’s the first time I’ve seen such a prominent advert for bicycle parking.

Bicycle Parking sign at Tesco Castlereagh Road

There are a number of reasons why this is a good move by Tesco. Beyond the anecdotal evidence of increasing numbers of cyclists on Belfast streets, the Castlereagh Road benefits from half decent cycling provision. There is a long city-bound bus lane for the morning rush hour, and an equally long advisory cycle lane with urban clearway restrictions running countrybound. Even if the cycle lane is usually just one long car park during rush hour, it’s a start.

Cycle lane by Tesco on Castlereagh Road

The cycle lane was first obstructed then removed during the construction phase, but has now been reinstated on the new widened road section – a huge improvement on the former bone-shaking surface. Although only an advisory lane, it has been afforded the rare position of a continual marking across the Tesco access and at Orby Link, hopefully improving driver awareness and caution when exiting these two junctions.

How many cyclists will stop by for groceries? Let’s be honest, not a great many, as Belfast doesn’t have more than 3% of journeys on bike at present. But this move sends out an important message to both local residents with bikes, and a challenge to independent retailers in Belfast – a short trip to the shops doesn’t always need to be by car. And Tesco will be more than aware of the unique position of the site, bordered as it is by the Loop River. The Connswater Community Greenway project will see East Belfast linked by a 9km linear park, running right past Tesco.

Connswater Community Greenway will run near Tesco

What’s slightly disappointing here is the continued use of an advisory cycle lane, the default position for Roads Service in Belfast. Roads Service doesn’t favour mandatory lanes as their “introduction…can be a contentious issue and would generally lead to a displacement of parking, often to other locations that are less able to accommodate it, such as residential streets in the general vicinity.” This doesn’t apply to this section as roadside parking is unnecessary given the large car park, and anyone parking here would create a danger for passing motorists, cyclists and crossing pedestrians. A bit of foresight, creativity and bravery from Roads Service could have seen some sections made mandatory, even kerb separated here to provide extra safety for all road users, and completely discouraging countrybound roadside parking.

Bus stop outside Castlereagh Road Tesco

To be fair, observing traffic movements since the cycle lane reopened, it seems to be working well enough. The new surface makes the road marking stand out, and the addition of a new pedestrian crossing just north of the bus stop will help to slow traffic flows around the usually fast bend.

Opening a large superstore in this relatively quiet arterial route will cause some increase in traffic levels and disruption, not to mention difficulties it will cause to local independent retailers. But by actively seeking out a new market, and encouraging local shoppers to go for ‘less car, more bike’, Tesco have to be commended.

10 thoughts on “New Belfast Tesco targets cycling shoppers

    1. I may be wrong to think this is unique or unusual, but I haven’t seen any supermarket doing something as simple as putting a large sign for cycle parking right beside a cycle lane – seems obvious! Shame in a sense it’s Tesco, the big national fish in the pond, as it’s squarely aiming at local people doing local shopping. But as I say, the challenge is laid down to independent retailers and local councils – if Tesco sees cyclists adding to their bottom line at a large superstore, what are local shops missing out on by not having adequate facilities nearby?

  1. I hope they’ve managed to install the parking properly. the default for Tesco bike parking is to install it far too close to a wall so you can’t get the bike in properly … but I’m prepared to be pleasantly surprised.

  2. Connswater is my nearest and there’s no bike parking at all, yet usually half a dozen bikes chained to the railings out front. Looking forward to using this one. Castlereagh Road is a treat to get down in morning rush-hour traffic wise but the rattling surface needs attention.

    1. Always had to lock my bike on the railing by the side emergency exit there (not blocking it of course!) just good to have the recognition – people who cycle to the shops exist, and we appreciate your trade. Although the car park was packed at 8pm tonight, no sign of bikes with baskets taking over yet!

      Only one small section of Castlereagh Road has the old bumpy red stone left – hopefully not for long. New tarmac is great.

  3. Just moved close to the new Tesco Castlereagh Road and decided to call in on my way home one evening (on the bike, of course) to pick up some groceries for dinner. Got to the main entrance of the store and couldn’t find the bike parking anywhere. I wheeled the bike into the entrance and up to the security guard on the door who quickly informed me that it was at the far end of the trolley parking, a good 50m from the entrance. But worse than that, he then went on to say not to bother using the bike parking as there had recently been quite a number of bike thefts from it and I should just chain my bike to the trolley rail close to the entrance instead. So much for encouraging cyclists to use the store….

    1. Thanks for the comment 🙂 it seemed a great idea to have high profile bicycle parking right beside the cycle infrastructure (for all that is). So, two years later..

      People simply don’t trust that their bike will still be there when they return; the lack of lighting affects the feeling of personal security; the trolley racks are sited under the main structure roof, which provide attractive shelter to anyone locking/unlocking/loading a bicycle.

      The rack is so far away from the lights, bustle and relative security of the main store entrance that it’s now little more than a vanity project. The small trolley rail to the right of the entrance almost always has one or two bikes locked to it, and that should tell Tesco all it needs to know. It might be worth writing to the store manager to propose moving the parking area to a more sensible position. Happy to co-operate on this – send me an email.

      1. A staff member chains his bike to the trolley rack to the right of the entrance. It’s nearly always there when I’m popping in.

  4. Also, maybe a ‘Watch out for cyclists’ sign at the exit of the carpark wouldn’t go amiss. Have had a few cars advance straight out into the cycle lane without even looking straight into my path a good few times now.

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