So the new Countdown opened today in Newtown. Have you been there yet? Looks pretty fancy. It’s the reason cycling through Newtown has been even more like a video game than usual.
I thought I’d check it out on my way home, as I needed a loaf of bread anyway. Luckily, I was in my car today, as the new Countdown doesn’t seem to cater for cyclists.
I know it’s been discussed amongst many in the neighbourhood and the cycling community, what a nuisance the roadworks have been, how they’ve endangered pedestrians and cyclists, how they don’t seem to have thought much about congestion, etc. etc. I was hoping to be pleasantly surprised once it opened. I was not.
I sat for about three minutes outside Countdown on John St. I’d already given up on using the Hanson St entrance as the vehicle turning bay only fits three cars and was already full. After two light cycles I made it around the corner to attempt a right turn from Adelaide Road into the car-park. Of course the oncoming traffic lane was blocked with a long queue of traffic waiting at the lights (heading north). After some friendly manoeuvring they managed to make a gap for me. I’m sure that’s just teething issues, right?
The car-park looks very fancy. And, there’s two levels! I know… two whole levels of underground car-parking goodness. At a rough estimate, I’d say there were about 200 parks. Flash! No expense has been spared getting into the supermarket either – you have the choice of elevators or escalators. None of these old-fashioned energy-saving stairs. Not here!
Being opening day, they had people at every entrance helpfully giving out maps and generally being helpful. So, I thought I’d ask one where the bike parks were. I hadn’t spotted any so far in my partial circumnavigation of this brand new Newtown landmark.
Alas! The first helpful helper didn’t know. But she thought there were some on Hanson St, and Customer Services would know for sure. Optimisically, I found the bread and went along to Customer Services.
“Do you have any bike parks?” I asked cheerfully.
“Places to park your bike?” I tried, thinking they might not have understood.
I may as well have asked where to land my spaceship. “No,” they replied. They did not.
So how does a fancy new building like this, which has changed the geography of Newtown and access to Wellington’s southern suburbs quite significantly, get approved without any cycling facilities? None. Nada. (Never mind the congestion which is inevitable. We can all see it – I’m just not sure if the WCC can?). Don’t they have to get permits and approval from the Council? Surely, somewhere in the Councils building guidelines there is some condition about large new buildings with excessive amounts of parking and causing ridiculous amounts of congestion should have alternative transport facilities? (To be fair, there are some motorbike parks.)
I’m about to investigate further, and will let you know what I find out. But until I hear more, please do read what Countdown has to say about their ‘new generation stores‘:
“We’re working harder than ever to make our stores greener,” says Managing Director Peter Smith. “In fact, Progressive is committed to helping to achieve an overall 40% reduction in our company’s carbon footprint by 2015 (on projected growth levels), bringing our emissions back to 2006 levels.”
With this goal in mind, Progressive is introducing tried and true sustainable principles to reduce the environmental footprint of all stores.
If you’re curious about how they intend to meet those goals, without any thought about transport, please feel free to ask them. The best contact details I can find are:
Phone the Customer Care Centre: 0800 40 40 40
Alternatively, please email your query or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
I put a cheeky post on Countdown’s facebook page yesterday and promptly got a response. Unfortunately it wasn’t telling me I had overlooked the bike racks. But they say they’re onto it. Let’s hope so.
After some investigation Countdown has informed me that they do have bike parking. (Perhaps they should share this information with the staff, as I’m sure they’ve told them that they have car parking?) After some searching, I found them. Tucked away in the corner on level 1 of the carpark. Access is via the car park ramp, then around half the car park and to your left just before you exit again. Up a step, or if you’re lucky and don’t have wide panniers, or a cargo bike, you may be able to squeeze through to use the little ramp (shown in 3rd pic). They are possibly my least favourite design – not conducive to leaning a step-through frame against them, and with angular metal edges which chip nicely at your paintwork. (Also, I know it’s not so much of an issue in NZ… yet, but those bolts look like they could easily be undone and your bike stolen along with the rack – it happens frequently in Europe where these types of racks wouldn’t last more than a week.)
So there you have it, tucked away in an awkward, out-of-sight corner but not completely forgotten, there are bike racks. It really is a shame they still seem like such an after-thought.