COMMENT & ANALYSIS: Supermarket retailer Aldi recently issued a press release saying it would have 760 bike parking spaces for customers across Ireland by the end of the year. When I started writing this article as a news article I was highly sceptical, but ended up being pleasantly surprised.
I think I was right to be so given how they were lumping in the numbers for new and old stores — with the new retail units, they are obliged to provide a few parking racks at each store. But what happened next goes beyond minimum requirements.
I had a bit of back and forth with the PR people for Aldi and then some contact with their internal communications to see how many of the parking spaces they were mentioning are just their new stores to be opened.
It turns out all the new spaces would be at the new supermarkets, but it’s interesting still to see a supermarket put out a press release about bicycle parking. The retailer was keen to point out that in the most recent survey by the Dublin Cycling Campaign that it was ranted as having the best bike parking facilities across all supermarkets in Dublin — over half of respondents rated Aldi’s bike parking facilities as “good”, beating all other retailers surveyed.
My next question was how good would the bike parking provision be? Happily, this was around the time when a new Aldi was opening where I live in Ballina, Co Mayo. So, my question was soon to be answered.
I visited the shop on the second day of opening — as pictured below, the bike parking was pretty much full due to the narrow spacing between the racks (a common issue with supermarkets). The cargo bike on the right is mine, but I don’t know the others. If my wife and children were with me, we all of the bikes wouldn’t have fit.
I emailed Aldi again explaining this and thought I’d never hear any more from him.
Each bicycle rack should allow for two bicycles to be locked to it, one on each side. You need extra space in places like supermarkets because people are more likely to be using panniers.
The newer local Lidl in the town only has four bicycles but these four allow for more bikes to be locked there because of the good spacing:
I thought that would be the end of it and the new Lidl would remain the best bicycle parking at a supermarket in the town — both Dunnes and Tesco have nothing official (railing work for most), and SuperValu has nothing at all (I mean it’s hard to find anything to lock your bike to). While the original Lidl was given improved bike parking at some stage, it’s in a cramped corner outside the shop.
I thought that would be how it will stay until Tesco is revamped. But then, yesterday, a happy surprise — six new well-spaced bicycle racks outside Aldi Ballina:
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If anything, an oversupply, but I’m definitely not complaining. It’s a great outcome. Next, Ballina just needs some cycle routes to get people using the racks more.
In the Aldi press release, David Timoney, a lead campaigner on the issue of bicycle parking with the Dublin Cycling Campaign, said: “We are pleased to see Aldi continue to upgrade its bike parking facilities. In our supermarket bike parking survey of 2020, Aldi came out top with 52% of its stores rated as having ‘good’ bike parking facilities. Shopping by bike is a simple way of reducing traffic on our roads, reducing carbon emissions and keeping us active.”
Timoney added: “The key factors which enable more people to shop by bike are more secure bike parking, more space for cargo bikes and locating bike parking closer to shop entrances. As many of us are living our lives more locally, we are using local supermarkets more often. There is a great opportunity for supermarket brands like Aldi to upgrade and enhance its customers’ shopping experience.”
Timoney told IrishCycle.com that he wasn’t sure when the next survey would be. Both Aldi and Lidl are at an advantage over the more established supermarkets in Ireland but they seem a bit keener to get bicycle parking right compared to even newer Tesco or SuperValu shops I’ve seen.
There’s a marked difference too — even if the newer retailers are all too happy to use bicycles for good PR and some will want to look at that cynically, but it’s still far better than the disinterest shown by most of the other supermarkets.