29/12/2015

Looks like the redevelopment of Tollgate could be a good thing for cycling...

Ever since I moved into Stanway area of Colchester, one of the local shopping areas I have within walking/cycling distance is Tollgate & ideal if you have mobility issues & don't drive. Problem I found with it it is not a good environment for walking or cycling due to lack of safe crossing point & main road through it is a fast rat run for drivers going to & from A12.

As for cycling other than the busy fast paced road with impatient drivers, the lack of parking facilities was a big deterrent. The main one for the shopping complex was at one end of the shops, tucked away & so often missed. I didn't know it was there for over a year after shopping at Tollgate.


The other is for McDonald's customers only, so no good unless you go there & fight your way thru oncoming traffic of the Drive-thru & if room amongst the mopeds parked there.


All this & fact Sainsburys relocated out of Tollgate, it wasn't a good place to cycle & shop despite within the area for me to & thus rarely did. Not an inclusive access area to shop that's for sure.

But for the past year or so there's been stirrings of redevelopment of the shopping complex & I know a fair few feel it's not needed as it will 'kill the town centre', I hate to say it the town centre is dying already as its at bursting point with shops & more shops wont help it as the roads are already at bursting point & going to get worse. So I for one am all for the redevelopment as I am a local resident & having more shops here would be beneficial to those like me who avoid the town centre already.


I don't fully agree with the plans tho, I sure don't agree with removal of the only safe crossing point for shared space on a rat run road. We need more safe crossing points & stop it being a rat run by making it for car park access & buses only. This would make it far slower pace on the road & safer for pedestrians & cyclists.

So where am I going with this? Well despite the battle to get planning for the buildings, the car park is already being refurbished ready for the redevelopment. At first I saw the only cycle parking disappearing behind hoardings & had a foreboding feeling of there being nothing for cycle parking, to the point I was taking the bike into the shop with me as no cycle parking...


But it looks like the Tollgate Partnership have seen there is a severe lack of cycle parking & been putting in new ones & in many locations along the shopping complex & all well lite at night too. Many Thanks to them for this!

 

 

Its only the South car park that's been done so far & almost complete, I guess North side is soon once they know the outcome of the planning permission. But I do hope it follows the same trend as this as it definitely means I can cycle there & shop knowing I can park my bike right near the shop I want where it feels safe to for me & the bike day & night.

As for the old location of the only cycle parking? Well its a building & with public toilets...


Definitely a win win for shoppers so far tho I feel some signs are needed to let cyclists know there's new cycle parking.


The plans aren't perfect & I await to see the final redevelopment but so far it is heading in the right direction & perhaps with some advice from cycling organisations we can make it better & not diss the plans too much.

27/12/2015

It's the end of 2015 & my cycling didn't go as planned...

Having a bout of Flu at the moment & off work, it's clear I wont be doing any cycling for the last week of the year. So I thought I would look over the stats of my cycling for 2015.

After doing so well during 2014 for to then end not as good as I hoped due to left Knee locking up, I thought I could get back to the level I was in during the Summer of 2014 by improving myself again in 2015.


Unfortunately that definitely did not go as planned as my knee locked up yet again in the Spring of 2015 & off the bike. So I finally got to see specialists too to find out after years of being told my knee issues were muscle weakness, my knee wasn't improving when the muscles were. That's when I finally got to the bottom of the issue of my knee & finally found out I have Osteoarthritis caused by decades of low activity & constant stick use.

This meant I will never be fully stick free & I have to adjust my lifestyle to try not lock my knee up again & that includes my cycling. On top of that, my other leg is starting to 'follow in the footsteps' so to speak of my left leg which is making walking & cycling all the harder.

So, despite all this the stats for the year don't actually look too bad considering all that's gone on with my legs...


Not as consistent in mileage month to month but I have managed to cycle every month & you can see April & August is where the legs were playing up on me, December I was busy working extra hours so my days off were actual rest days as I needed them.

But when I compare this year to previous years, I was more happy with what I saw...


Yes it's a lot less than 2014 but still better than the previous years to 2014, far more cycling done than I thought I had done that's for sure.

Of course the mileage & time I cycled is just part of the picture, due to the revelations of my ongoing leg issues & continuing disabilities it was time to re-adjust my way of cycling. So it was time to do that by searching for a more suitable bike.

Meanwhile whilst searching for that bike, I was approached by the English Federation of Disability Sports to create a short film on disabled cycling following the article I did with them the year before (Active Summer Fun: "Cycling is an activity that’s possible for anyone"). So I helped make the film in the Summer & was a joy to do. 

Whilst waiting for the filming to be compiled I continued on my quest on a better bike for my disability, well I found it. I bought an Electra Townie for its unusual but innovative Flat Foot Technology frame at the end of October. This lightweight bike with unusual pedalling ergonomics has made cycling easier, even on day one when I collected from the bike shop & cycled it back home 22 miles away. :) 


Have to thank Cycles UK for suggesting this bike where other bike shops didn't want to really help in my search.

So its now near the end of the year & December was the release date for the EFDS films under their "Me, being active" campaign which I am proud to be part of as I now have seen the positive results & here is my story: "Me, being active" - Wolf's Story but I do highly recommend reading the others who contributed at EFDS marks International Day for Disabled People with Me, being active films.

So 2015 has been a fairly mixed bag of going ons & even tho it wasn't how I hoped the year would've panned out, I sure aint disappointed in how the year went for cycling considering all the factors & have proved quite productive. So what's the plan for next year, well more of the same I guess. My new bike is still need of adding more mileage & see what I can do in long rides on her being she is my lovely 'Cruiser' now.

But I do have a bigger plan which is to get a bike to be suitable to ride to work on every shift & back & still be able to work too of course. For this it'll have to be an eBike, which of course I have found one & it aint cheap. It's the Electra Townie GO, basically same as my new bike but with a Bosch engine in it & a very long range per charge, definitely suitable for the 45 miles commute to work & back each day.

 

But with other commitments & usual living costs, the 2 grand it costs means I wont be getting it anytime soon. It has been suggested I should try crowdfunding for this bike, not something I'm comfy in doing but will think it over. It would be good to find one to try out tho to be sure it would suit me & if so saved up for in time for this time next year but that would be tight to do.

So here's to the approaching 2016 & see what this new year will bring for my cycling. :)

22/12/2015

Are Aldi as forward thinking & pro-cycling as some might believe...

Note: Updates to the blog are at the bottom if you like to get up to date if you have read the original blog already.

When I moved to Colchester in 2013, I looked out for places to go shopping where the shops have decent suitable, safe & secure cycle parking that meets my need as a disabled cyclist. Back then I needed my stick far more than I do now.

So literally just down the road from me I came across Aldi & I was pleased to see it not only had decent cycle parking but it met my needs, just the crossing of the access point of the car park is an issue but it is if you walked too.


It's even on par to Asda's cycle parking, which I use as they have a better range of goods but Aldi is great to have if I need a quick shop run.


And I've been happy to use it to shop at Aldi ever since, well that was until this year...

I started to see a trend which I made complaints about...


Being used as a trolley bay...



But more often being used by drivers to park in as car park is full.

So what did you think I get when I complained, nothing. Quite normal to be honest as most just feel it's totally acceptable to use the cycle parking as they see fit.

I know this as I see it at The Range, B&Q & Homebase.




So I thought, oh well the same old nonsense from yet another business who don't really care about cycle parking. Then it goes to a whole new level, I was there last week & I saw this...


Yup, they've gone & removed it! Gone is the safe, secure & convenient cycle parking! So I made a complaint & so did Colchester Cycle Campaign. I didnt get a response as usual but Colchester Cycle Campaign did. They were told, there's cycle parking at the rear. My response was 'What rear?' There is no rear! So I went to have a look...


As you can clearly see, there's no way there's any cycle parking at the rear of the building. So in the car park I go to have a look...

 

Nothing obvious showing or even signs to direct you there...

 

Still not see anything, so go to the Church section of the car park & loading bay...

 

And found the discarded cycle parking remains that was at the front. So look further on...


Found it, can you see it? Its tucked away in the dark dank rear of the car park...



A neglected cycle parking that's used as a dumping ground, not exactly a safe & secure convenient parking for cyclists & especially those like me with mobility issues which the front parking was perfect for. Definitely discrimination against cyclists & disabled customers IMO. 

So why have they done this & treated cycling customers as 3rd rate people? So to gain 3, yes THREE extra car parking spaces instead of the dozen cycle parking at the front that was used!!!


So is this how Aldi really feels about us cyclists? Would you take your family on their bikes & park here in the dark winter nights? Would anyone who cares about cycling & their bikes want to risk them parked in the dark recesses of the car park? I for sure will not be using Aldi again until I get a full apology & have the front cycle parking re-instated. 

Of course other cyclists won't bother too, nope they'll quite happily park their bikes at the front of the store & lock them to the railings & cause obstructions to others. 


Then it'll be those Bloody Cyclists again! Causing a nuisance & doing what they like when in fact it is Aldi who is to blame & I will happily tell that to anyone who blames the cyclists!

Will you happily feel its OK to be not seen & pushed out of sight, out of mind to those in the car park by using this poorly located & neglected cycle parking when we had something decent at the front in the first place. Pushed into the dark dank corner of the car park for 3 measly car parking spots?

So in answer to my question 'Are Aldi as forward thinking & pro-cycling as some might believe', my answer has to be no! They're as carcentric as many other companies & I can't wait to see what Lidl be like when it opens as I'll go there instead or stick to just Asda.

Update 30th January 2016

So far the response from Aldi has been very poor, so deafening quiet. Nothing, not even an excuse to justify for doing this. So I went there today at 6pm just as it got dark & normally be busy & here is what I observed.

  

As you can clearly see the well lit front parking area is busy & full of cars, cycle rack still not been put back.


Where is was is filled with just 2 badly parked cars...


No signs of any cycles in the front parking area or entrance...


So went to look at the rear & see the delivery HGV there, so now I guess Aldi are fine for cyclists to have to go around & mix with large HGV's in the car park. We all know what can happen here with such large vehicles with really poor field of vision.


And here's the back car park after I walked past the HGV & stand by the 2 cars parked on the left & where they now want cyclists to park right at the back. Just look how dark it is, how empty it is of cars too, not even drivers want to park in this dark & dingy section of the car park & guess what, no cycles parked here too. When the other cycle rack was at the front, I often saw 3 or 4 cycles there every time I went shopping at Aldi.

That's right, since when I saw the heinous actions of the Carcentric company & blogged about it I have not seen anyone park their bike at Aldi. Can't say I blame them, I won't be going to Aldi ever again. I don't care they could save me 1/3 off my shopping bill as they are treating me as a second rate customer for my choice of transport. For putting the convenience of the car above the safety & security of me & my bicycle as well as those who like to cycle to shop at Aldi, to discriminate me as a cyclist & a disabled shopper then why should I spend my hard earned income to feed their profit?

So Aldi here's an #aldichallenge for you, put back the cycle rack & make a public apology to those you're treating as second rate shoppers for choosing to cycle. Then maybe us cyclists will come back, until then Asda will get my business as they know how to treat cyclists with respect & give proper safe cycle parking.


Hell, even Tollgate are showing improvements in cycle parking: Looks like the redevelopment of Tollgate could be a good thing for cycling. So why are Aldi so backwards in this when they're supposed to be forward thinking in shopping?


Update 12th February 2016

After posting this blog on social media, some of my followers had mentioned that the car park isn't solely for Aldi customers & Kings Church to share. In fact the car park is split & the rear section is solely for the Kings Church members, so I went to investigate this further.

This is what I found...

 

As you can see there does seem to be fencing that I thought was due to bins but looks to be a boundary fencing too now I have had a closer look. As you can see, Aldi shoppers are parking where they like before the fencing despite spaces available in the back. Big yellow signs are visible but on a closer look you can see they all are not the same & wall signs backs it too.


Photo also shows a blue line which is the boundary of the 2 sections.


So the cycle rack are the rear actually belongs to Kings Church, therefore the removal of the cycle rack at the front means Aldi now has NO cycle parking at all. And those who do cycle to shop at Aldi are now forced to lock up where it now becomes an obstruction all thanks to Aldi.

 

The removal of the cycle parking hasn't improved parking of motor vehicles, if anything I have no doubt it has made cyclists who still shop there use their cars instead & as you can see it is shambles. Parking where they shouldn't as no spaces available...


And just 2 cars badly parked in the space of the old cycle parking that could easily have up to 12 cyclists parking & they were there be more parking spaces for the drivers choosing to shop here. It's clear now that Aldi does not want cyclists to shop here as there are now no cycle parking for them!


Oh & if you really really want to park at the rear at risk of getting in trouble with Kings Church, would you if you knew how poor the area is??

 

Would you really want to park your bike here?


Update 18th February 2016

Despite the emails going to & from Aldi & me, they haven't actually addressed the issue or spoke to me about why they did it & what they are going to do to rectify it but I am making waves. So today I get an email from a fellow cyclist of Aldi submitting a planning application for cycle parking on the footpath outside the car park, don the side of the store & besides the fire exits.
Link to the application: Aldi Planning Application


They also are trying to claim in the application the cycle parking at the rear is theirs & not belong to Kings Church, well I have already proved that to be a lie in previous update.

Of course I have submitted my objections & any others locally like to then please do so by the link given earlier. I have said the following in my objection:

I am objecting to the plans to put cycle racks outside the parking area of the Aldi store. There was previous covered cycle parking in the car park that was more than suitable for some years & I have been using since 2013 when I moved to Colchester & was always used when I was passing or shopping at this store, the store took this covered cycle parking down without consultation with those using it or from what I can tell without planning permission. It is at the moment dumped around the back by the loading bay. All of this is detailed in my blog with photographic evidence I posted publicly last year when Aldi had no intention to move the cycle parking but remove it solely for the benefit of a couple shoppers using cars. See link: http://the2wheeledwolf.blogspot.co.uk/2015/12/are-aldi-as-forward-thinking-pro.html & this planning is a poor attempt to appease those who complained. The mentioned existing cycle parking around the back is not for Aldi, this cycle parking is solely for the church goers of Kings Church & signposted as such, again all mentioned in my blog as evidence.

The area Aldi is proposing is a public footpath & fire exit to the building, this does concern me as to safety for pedestrians using the footpath & if fire exits are needed to be use in an event of a fire, the area needs to be kept clear. Then there's the fact this location is less secure & not suitable for those shopping at Aldi who cycled there, especially those with disabilities, where the covered cycle rack was actually was perfect for getting to with shopping when on sticks especially when raining as it was a covered cycle rack.

Aldi are proving to show their carcentric attitude by trying to push out shoppers who cycle to their store to benefit just a couple motorists, it discourages sustainable travel & shopping at their store as well as encourages more motor traffic onto the roads as those that cycle there will now use their cars instead. Removing the existing covered cycle rack has not improved the parking situation, if anything it has made it worse. Aldi should be encouraging local shoppers to cycle there instead as this would help lower the demand for parking spaces for cars so instead of these plans I would like the planning department to enforce Aldi to re-instate the original covered cycle rack where it was & also provide a barrier to prevent cars being parked in it as they had allowed & prevented cyclists to use it before they removed it completely.

We will see how this pans out, I have had an email today to say the area manager will contact me to discuss this further but as yet I haven't heard from the area manager.


Update 22nd March 2016

Well after yet another email to Aldi to chase up the email from the area manager I haven't had, they have finally confirmed the reason why this has happened. See snapshot below to what they said.


Well I wasn't happy with that, so here's my reply to Jed.

"Thankyou Jed for finally replying, you have now confirmed the anti-cycling policy of Aldi as they have removed a perfectly good cycle rack that WAS at the from front of the store that can house around 12 cycles to encourage & give space to just 3 cars tho often 2 as badly parked. If parking is an issue this is not how to improve it or has.
The plans for additional cycle parking is based on lies & is NOT at the front of the store BUT is in fact at the side out of sight on the public footpath. Clearly you are not familiar with the site. And as a 'cyclist' you would know is is NOT acceptable. So I & others are objecting the plans & requesting council to force Aldi to put back the original rack. 
Pushing cyclists out will just encourage them to use cars so it will increase the demand on the car park for more than the 3 spaces gained. This is just illogical & in bad taste & sticking the fingers up to cyclists.
So no I do not understand or agree this an acceptable compromise."

So I will continue with this & keep updating as I go along.


Update 7th June 2016

Despite the objections & the lies from Aldi, Colchester Borough Council has granted Aldi to screw over cyclists. And to add insult to injury, Jed thought he be clever & try win me over with this & more lies to which I responded...



And he had the cheek to try promote their promotions..




But it isn't over yet, as I said the application was based on lies & the installed racks dont even meet the planning application.

 

As you can see the racks dont even match the plans & all squashed in one area & definitely is not in front of the store, instead around the corner out of sight from the store. Even the way it has been done is telling cyclists you aren't wanted in our store.

 


 When other companies supply far better cycle parking, why would you shop at a store that doesn't want you there by pulling up a perfectly good cycle parking & tell you to basically you're not as important as 3 other car driving customers.

 

Well from what I have seen so far no-one parks their bikes there now, I hope its to use the other shops with far better cycle parking than going there by car. I for one will no longer shop there.


Update 14th March 2017

So after I had posted this blog I had no further input from Aldi to put things right but had information of their other branch on opposite side of town on Magdalen St, so I went & had a look tho it's not an area I like to get to as route from Stanway part of town is not cycle friendly & definitely not for the fainthearted. And from what I have been told by campaigners, the cycle parking at this store had to be fought for too as it never had any when this Aldi branch opened.

And this is the best the company could give?

 


So on entering the car park, can you see the cycle parking? It's not where the bicycle is on the left by the trolleys...


Perhaps this will help...


Its there, right in front, tucked up by the retaining wall. 1 of 2 locations I saw here. The other is to my right & again tucked away in the corner.


And when you get to the racks, this really doesn't fill me with confidence in a safe place to park...


And on looking at the other set of racks...

 

Definitely not a safe place to park the bike, even the drain pipes have crash barriers. So the bike parking has been squeezed in so not to take away any car parking but in the path of turning vehicles & you can clearly see the result of that & definitely can see why the bike I saw is locked to the trolley bay.

More recently a new 3rd store had been opened & I went to see the cycle parking there.

 

 

And to no surprise, there is absolutely no cycle parking at their newest store in Colchester. So that is all 3 stores in Colchester that clearly shows that cyclists are not welcome to shop in these 3 stores & despite that I have complained they still continue with their anti-cycling attitude with their newest store, thus will be why I now no longer shop at Aldi's.

I will now go & shop at Lidl in Colchester instead as they have recently opened their first store in Colchester & they have a lovely cycle parking to use (just like Aldi in London Road used to have).