23 May 2009
Frozen out by bad bike parking on Old Kent Road
There are two problems with buying a fridge by bike. Neither is getting it home.
The first is finding a place to park. Old Kent Road is our nearest place for white goods, but its retail badlands were designed exclusively for car drivers. Currys, for example, has no cycle parking at all. Zero.
As so often happens, the staff are sympathetic and do their best to help. The Currys lot said Yeah, silly isn't it, tell you what, bring your bikes inside, no problem, Desmond here will keep an eye on them. And I make my usual rubbish jokes, if anyone tries to buy mine, don't take less than fifty quid, ha ha. What about fire regs, well if there's a fire, the first person to the bike will be fastest out of here, ho ho.
It's kind of them, but you can't really lock your bike to that horse-box-sized fridge-freezer, and it's not a sustainable parking solution. It's like saying to a driver there's nowhere to park, but if you ask that bloke who lives there he might let you leave it in his front yard.
We had a bit more luck at Comet up the road. Only a bit though. The nearest cycle parking to Comet is at B&Q next door, painted a jaunty orange (top right). We know all about this parking because it took a couple of years of pestering emails to B&Q management and to the landlords to get it put in. It's not perfect, but it's OK and it's there, so thanks guys.
The management attitude of retail stores and sites when you suggest they should install bike parking is all too often one of puzzled arrogance. Look, they say, we're fed up of being nagged for cycle parking by tofu-guzzling nutcases, how many times do we have to tell you people, there's no demand. If you want a dishwasher, then sod off and buy a car first.
Now, this may come as a shock to them, but people without cars wash clothes and drink refrigerated milk too. Some of these people, I'm told, even watch television and use mobile phones occasionally.
But with bike parking you're often banging your head against a brick wall. I don't mean metaphorically. At Old Kent Road Halfords, they've put in toastrack parking so close to the wall that you do just that (right). It's actually impossible to lock your bike to properly, so some people resort to using the barriers by the entrance (below right).
Which is clearly dangerous. Let's hope there isn't a fire here. Because if there is, I'll be under suspicion for arson now that the Home Office is monitoring all our Internet activity.
And if you want to fill up your new fridge at Old Kent Road Asda... well, they do provide parking (bottom right), but it's not great: pesky triangles placed too close to the glass wall to park properly. Do stores ever consult anyone before installing bike parking? Note to managers: Cambridge Cycle Campaign's excellent site is a good place to start.
Even if you find a park, your troubles are not over. The second problem is getting served. Say you've tried cycling upmarket from Old Kent Road - any direction from Old Kent Road is upmarket - to a well-known store that prides itself on customer service. The assistants look you up and down and think oh, cyclist, probably just here to whinge about bike parking, with nothing in their pocket but a giro and a CCJ. Then they go and serve someone else in the hope they're an MP on a farewell expenses spree.
OK, Mr Cheap Suit. I came here to spend three hundred quid on a fridge-freezer, but as you ignored me I'm going to push off and buy it somewhere else.
Finally, finally, you get round to deciding which damned model to buy. Then your problems really start. Frost-free? Reversible doors? Fast freeze? Too wide, too deep, too high? Transparent drawer fronts? Safety glass shelves? Ice-cube-dispenser? It's all explained in our helpful 32-page booklet, 169 Ways to Make Buying a Fridge Simple. I think it's easier just whingeing about bike parking.