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.

wp-1449189900950.jpeg

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.

image

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.

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

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

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.

PSX_20151126_162324

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.

Residents in Belfast’s Short Strand have campaigned for years to calm the traffic on Mountpottinger Road, a key rat run for traffic using the city’s Cross Harbour M3 Motorway. A recent £275,000 road upgrade promised improvements for pedestrians, but the resurfacing scheme appears to have made the traffic situation worse. It’s time to remove all through-traffic to allow families and children to reclaim Short Strand’s streets before the shocking level of HGV traffic, which ignores a more suitable bypass, causes a major tragedy.

The Bull Run

The Short Strand community in East Belfast should be a very quiet residential area, free from traffic concerns. Due to the legacy of The Troubles it is penned in by Peace Walls, with just 3 road gateways – Bryson Street, and at either end of the main spine through Mountpottinger Road and Link.

Titanic Quarter and the M3 Motorway (the key strategic traffic corridor in central Belfast serving the Westlink, M1 and M2) sit to the north, and directly to the south a huge junction links the Ravenhill, Woodstock and Cregagh, Castlereagh, Albertbridge Roads, as well as one of just three bridges linking East Belfast to the City Centre, the Albert Bridge.

ShortStrandOverview

The four-lane Short Strand bypass should be the most preferable route for journeys between the M3 and Castlereagh Street, however a significant volume of general traffic cuts through Mountpottinger Road – most obvious at evening rush hour with long southbound tailbacks.

How bad is the situation for this otherwise sleepy residential area? Here’s a condensed 35 minutes of footage during a Friday rush hour (just after 9am) which shows the scale of the problem:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OEFlIFSe92k?rel=0]

That’s 37 trucks and HGVs passing through (more than one every minute), white van man filling his boots with 41 commercial vans passing through, and an overall traffic level of around 500 vehicles per hour. The vast majority of vehicles simply enter at one end of Mountpottinger and leave at the other.

The Department for Regional Development (DRD) was at pains during the traffic reduction scheme in Belfast City Centre – Belfast on the Move – to distinguish between vehicles which had a purpose and destination in the area and those which had “no business there”. There is no more apt description for what’s happening on Mountpottinger Road. To label it a rat run perhaps minimises the scale of the problem.

The nature of these streets is very different to most of inner city Belfast. Children ride bicycles and scooters along and across Mountpottinger Road; they cross from the play-park to the shops; they roam care-free in the shadow of a constant stream of through-traffic. Collisions have occurred in the past and because of how this road is being used (or abused) a tragedy lies in wait for a local family in the future.

Why do drivers cut through Mountpottinger Road?

On the surface it seems strange that drivers wouldn’t use the route around Short Strand – marked in red on the map above – it’s wider, has more capacity, feels ‘faster’, and has no house frontages and very little pedestrian footfall. However some quite obvious and more subtle factors are at work which make Mountpottinger an attractive choice.

Northbound

Arriving at the Castlereagh Street junction with the Albertbridge Road, drivers are faced with a problem. The route around Short Strand involves a left turn, however the view is obscured by Bank House. Drivers can’t calculate possible hold-ups due to the volume of traffic (which can be at a standstill during rush hour) or if the lights at the Woodstock Link junction will catch them – the first of three potential red lights.

Ahead lies a wide opening to Mountpottinger Road – almost never congested heading north – and the subtle influence of being able to see buildings and hills in North Belfast.

Castlereagh_view

All the way down Castlereagh Street to this point, HGV drivers have seen the variable speed signs on the M3 Bridge peeking over the tops of the houses in Short Strand. Your destination is straight ahead, while an uncertain gamble lies to your left.

Southbound

There is less of a visual incentive to rat run when heading south, with the sweep left towards the Ravenhill junction inviting you to carry on past the immediate turn into Mountpottinger Link. Yet during the evening rush especially, stationary traffic around the Bridge End gyratory has already frustrated many drivers.

[googlemaps https://www.google.com/maps/embed?pb=!1m0!3m2!1sen!2sus!4v1445806383129!6m8!1m7!1suUGGj_VTKOYhYdQ4Clb1tA!2m2!1d54.59886572774367!2d-5.912189577979646!3f195.2821015561273!4f-6.994342478590866!5f1.8078551183351443&w=800&h=400]

Ignoring the rat run takes you to a filter lane which has a triple whammy of frustration for impatient drivers – a signalled pedestrian crossing, an unsignalled exit and even a cycle lane to worry about – all of which means guaranteed congestion at rush hour. After that, another set of lights has to be negotiated at Woodstock Link, and the difficult-to-reach right filter lane for Castlereagh Street has a fast light sequence which can lead to long queues and delays.

Overall, both north and south routes though Mountpottinger involve just two sets of lights – one of which is an infrequently used toucan crossing – and a good chance of a beating queues. The more appropriate bypass has three signal-controlled junctions, three chances to hit a queue, and also means mixing with ‘strategic traffic’ funnelling through a mega-junction with multiple destinations.

The Mountpottinger rat run is a gamble with extremely favourable odds at rush hour, and no worse than evens at any other time.

Radical intervention

Local residents’ campaigning for traffic calming measures recently seemed to pay off. Road humps have been a feature for many years, yet these have failed to tackle the underlying issue. When a road re-surfacing scheme was announced for 2013-14, it was a chance to give serious thought to reducing the attractiveness of Mountpottinger Road to through-traffic. The main change was a puffin crossing at the play park beside The Strand Bar, widely welcomed as bringing “benefits for all road users and pedestrians in the local area.

However, the enhanced channelisation of the road – providing a central hatched area to create turning boxes for vehicles – was a clue that the needs of vehicle movement and safety was being elevated above the need to reduce traffic volume and speed. Channelisation simply allows vehicles to smoothly travel past stationary vehicles waiting to turn right which might otherwise halt traffic flow. Instead of making Mountpottinger Road a quiet street where people could cross anywhere, installing a puffin crossing was an admission of defeat – we can’t do anything about the flood of traffic, so here’s one good crossing point.

[googlemaps https://www.google.com/maps/embed?pb=!1m0!3m2!1sen!2suk!4v1445806288250!6m8!1m7!1s1bf3pLb5yAZ09AMFjTy6GA!2m2!1d54.59751513605465!2d-5.908796658953126!3f236.40853161281657!4f-22.617075959281024!5f0.4008424344246693&w=800&h=400]

And the overall result of the road improvements? Residents will tell you the traffic levels are as bad as ever, and HGVs rattle through all day every day, hardly noticing the road humps as they heave their loads.

The problem is DRD didn’t proceed with an explicit aim to remove through-traffic – instead it ended up aiding and accelerating the typical through-journey, skewing the risk/reward balance in favour of rat-running.

https://twitter.com/OnTheFence22/status/618683697928249344

What is required now is a far more radical intervention, with the sole aim of displacing strategic through-traffic back onto the strategic route around the area and reclaiming the streets for local residents, families and children. A 20mph zone should be introduced tomorrow, but physical changes to the streets are badly needed.

My preferred street redesign (intended to kick off discussion) is based on three key principles:

  1. Remove *all through-traffic (see 2)
  2. Retain the Metro 5A bus service through Mountpottinger Road
  3. Provide a design solution with the least inconvenience to local vehicle movements

Dissuasion at the entrances

The visual attraction to straight-ahead rat-running from the Castlereagh Street junction must be eliminated. To begin with, any scheme intending to reduce traffic levels on Mountpottinger Road will mean two exit lanes will be unnecessary, so the road should be tightened to one lane in, one lane out.

Albertbridge_Junction_1

Shifting the ‘entrance lane’ over to the right will break up the visual invitation to fly straight ahead, and some structural planting, trees etc. will add to the feeling of a barrier. However the goal is not to close the entrance – so as to inconvenience local residents – but to plant a seed in drivers’ minds that this is a residential street, not a ‘main road’. Earlier signage on Castlereagh Street can flag up ‘No through road’ or ‘Unsuitable for HGVs’ to further dissuade use.

Albertbridge_Junction_2

At the Mountpottinger Link end, the sweeping filter lane allows HGVs to trundle through at speed, again tipping the risk/reward balance towards rat-running.

Short_Strand_1

Removing this filter lane, and designing a tighter turn into Mountpottinger Link will allow residents and buses to access the area, but will be slower – making it more difficult for trucks and articulated lorries to negotiate. The straight-ahead option becomes far more attractive in drivers’ minds.

Short_Strand_2

On their own, design changes at the gateways will only dissuade general traffic, but not stop rat-running. Ideally, blocking up Mountpottinger Road at some point would achieve this aim, but would fall foul of objective 3 – annoying local residents to the point of probable objections. One solution however offers a way to ‘snip’ the road without actually closing it to traffic – a Home Zone.

ABD0678
The Dings Homezone development, Bristol (Picture Library Sustrans on Flickr)

These interventions have been trialled in England (but never here) and are a way to radically alter the design of a street to provide strong visual cues to drivers to alter their behaviour, including using build-out elements and designated parking areas to create chicanes to further control speed and movement.

A Home Zone on a short stretch of Mountpottinger Road, in conjunction with work at the gateways, has the potential to solve all the traffic issues in the area at a stroke.

Mountpottinger_1

At the southern end, Madrid Street could be quickly redesigned as a through-road, requiring northbound traffic on Mountpottinger Road to stop and give way. The entrances to the Home Zone could be placed on the right hand side of the road to further confuse users arriving for the first time. Now instead of a fast through-road, general traffic would need to make a significant diversion along Lisbon Street to the left and Edgar Street to the right.

The Home Zone itself could be designed with a single lane, allowing only one vehicle to cross comfortably at a time. Signage for the home zone could include ‘No through-traffic’, ‘Buses, access and parking only’ as more ways to make people wishing to drive through feel uncomfortable and unwelcome. Metro bus services would be the only through-traffic to regularly use the Home Zone – not ideal, but socially important for the area. 10 buses per hour would be an acceptable trade-off to remove hundreds of other vehicles.

Mountpottinger_2

The Home Zone area would be paved to indicate to drivers that this area is not a road for driving at speed, but is for a different purpose. At the northern end a mini roundabout could facilitate movements to/from the Home Zone and between Mountpottinger Road and Beechfield Street.

Drivers arriving expecting to scurry through the area at speed would be met with a series of visual and physical obstacles to progress which, encountered once, would plainly stop any thought of future rat-running.

The benefits of a Home Zone solution include:

  • Radically altered streetscape to remove propensity to rat run through the area.
  • The impact on local residents would be minimal.
  • Risk/reward of rat running tipped away by slower journeys and embarrassment of travelling through a clearly residential place.
  • Bus services can continue to move through Mountpottinger Road.
  • Access retained for emergency services, municipal and utility services, residents parking and local movements.
  • Walking, cycling and street play is promoted through a more pleasant road environment and radically reduced traffic levels.
  • Local vehicle movements across the Home Zone are still possible, if not as attractive as before.
  • Two alternative local routes (Lisbon and Edgar) are available on either side.

Any possible delays to Metro 5A service due to these streetscape changes would be offset by a more reliable journey times at rush hour, with tailbacks eliminated at the junction towards Castlereagh Street. An agreement would need to be reached with Translink to ensure that non-operational services – empty school buses and terminated services – returning to the Short Strand depot would use the bypass route rather than the Home Zone.

The Short Strand faces a daily invasion by impatient drivers, a shameful situation which makes a serious or fatal collision seem inevitable in the near future. The quality of life for residents, young and old, is unnecessarily affected by noise, vibration, fumes and physical danger, and the main authorities with a role in changing the situation – DRD, Belfast City Council to name but two – will fail us by ignoring the problem. A Home Zone-centred street redesign has the potential to make a difference, but a better solution may be out there – it’s time to start that discussion. Through-traffic has no place on these streets, and for the good of Belfast we need to take a stand and recognise the need for change. Short Strand residents could draw some inspiration from their counterparts in the Amsterdam neighbourhood “De Pijp” over 40 years ago..

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YY6PQAI4TZE?rel=0]


Twitter updates

ROBblog

 

 

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On Friday 20th June 2014, the second annual Ride On Belfast event took to the city streets. Last year, around 70 people rode from the Gasworks to the City Hall, inspired by and assembled under the banner of The Fréd Festival. This year the theme was ruthless expansion, with the twin aims of:

  • being the biggest peloton in Belfast since the Giro d’Italia
  • encouraging people not used to cycle commuting to try it out

That was the simplest expression of what Ride On Belfast is about – people riding bicycles in Belfast for their own reasons, whether being the most practical way to work, for the school run, for their health or just the enjoyment. It’s not a protest, it’s not ‘taking back’ the roads, it’s not causing aggro to others – just riding a bike.

But to make this year really special, we needed some new, innovative tactics..

The Weather Underground

Belfast is used to long arid summers, heatwaves lasting months and emergency air-drops of Mr Frostie supplies, but Fréd and his goons needed to be sure that precipitation wasn’t going to affect Ride On Belfast. There was nothing for it – with a brass neck, we tweet-bombed all of the finest weather presenters on local television, and Frank Mitchell too.

And by jove, the BBC crew got into the spirit, with Angie Phillips retweeting, Barra Best tweeting his own predictions, and the fabulous Cecilia Daly (the new darling of Belfast cycling) going the extra mile..

And so, the day before Ride On Belfast gathered, we got our first official ‘national’ weather forecast!

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And as it turned out, the weather was just about perfect on the day..

 

The Gathering

This year’s Ride On Belfast was helped by some last minute news from Translink, as their early morning ban on bicycles on trains was eased to accommodate those travelling for the event:

This was a most welcome nod to active travel, and hopefully will give Translink and DRD pause to consider trialling this over a longer period.

The gathering crowd was impressed to see Northern Ireland’s Transport Minister Danny Kennedy ride into the bunch with his new Cycling Unit in tow. Regular cyclist and MLA Sammy Douglas also joined in.

Minister Danny Kennedy arrives with his bicycle outrides
Minister Danny Kennedy arrives with his bicycle outriders

 

The Grand Départ

Under severe pressure from hungry commuters, the peloton set off a little earlier than planned. With a tight first turn from the Gasworks green onto the road, the Minister seized his opportunity and put in a devastating early kick. This split the peloton at the Ormeau Road crossing, and the breakaway group was never caught again. Apparently, Danny Kennedy’s sprint finish down Donegall Place was a phenomenal sight.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XbGdaI6zEqc?rel=0&w=600&h=338]

 

On The Open Road

This year Ride On Belfast took an extended trip around Belfast, leading to an iconic roll down Royal Avenue towards the City Hall. The PSNI officers took a relaxed back seat this year, yet the busier junctions were taken with ease. Notable pinch points (again) were the length of time to traverse Shaftesbury Square (not great for cycling at all) and the bus lane at Great Victoria Street (still not great for buses, never mind cycling). Holding the outside lane along Carrick Hill worked to control what was expected to be the busiest and fastest traffic of the ride. The traffic-restricted streets of the city centre were a joy.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5uxRPmcbSYY?rel=0&w=600&h=338]

 

Selfie On Belfast

After the last year with Máirtín Ó Muilleoir as Lord Mayor, Belfast has fallen in love with the selfie. As well as people just taking them for the craic, See.Sense also ran a competition for the best selfie taken by their stand at Belfast City Hall..

https://twitter.com/GeoffCaves/status/479915437950763008

 

City Hall and well-earned grub

A huge thank you again to Travelwise and Belfast City Council for providing a free breakfast at the Bobbin Cafe (and the new option of a free coffee at Javaman) for those who completed Ride On Belfast. The City Hall grounds became a sea of bicycles for the morning, while local cycle lighting tech firm See.Sense showed off their wares and PSNI bike officers were busy security-marking bicycles for the punters.

Inside the City Hall, the breakfast queue stretched out the door (which is testament to the rise in participation at Ride On Belfast) and we’re all grateful to the Bobbin staff for coping under severe pressure.

 

The Media

Straight after the event, our Twitter traffic was enough to set #RideOnBelfast trending locally – maybe next year “sectarianism” can be beaten by cycling? Little steps..

Paul Reilly brought the UTV cameras down to see what all the fuss was about, and importantly set the day in context with a reminder of the shocking scene of a child’s bicycle under a truck at Ballyhackamore the day before. Along with the tragic death of 5 year old Conor O’Neill 9 days before, Bike Week had a strong focus on road safety and infrastructure improvement this year.

DKROB

The Irish News covered the event in its Saturday edition. Might need to check that ear-to-shorthand connection though, as ‘enthusiast’ (a word I’m almost violently resistant to when it comes to practical cycling) somehow crept into a quote. And “giro d’italia” needs capitals. #facepalm

 

The Aftermath

Ride On Belfast turned out to be a really positive, fun event and this was reflected in social media comments directly afterwards. We had new cycling commuters, people trying out cycling for the first time in years, as well as familiar faces.

https://twitter.com/donnakmonteith/status/479984227816337409

In the end, the various breakaway groups which started from the Gasworks numbered 150, with close to 200 registered for the bicycle breakfast at City Hall. Overall that was a doubling of participation from 2013, which is a credit to all involved – The Fréd Festival, Travelwise (DRD) and Belfast City Council.