Cycle Highway In Chiswick 'Will Put Local Shops At Risk'

Councillor Jo Biddolph claims Enfield 'Mini Holland' adversely affected local traders

enfield cycle lane
Part of the Enfield cycling scheme


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Cycle Superhighway 9 (CS9) will seriously and adversely affect Chiswick’s retailers, and especially its independent shops, cafes and restaurants, claims Councillor Joanna Biddolph.

Cllr Biddolph, who represents Turnham Green ward, set up the Chiswick Shops Task Force to help independent retailers through the current tricky retail climate, has met and talked with retailers along the Enfield Mini-Holland cycling scheme to find out, first hand, what impact a cycling scheme might have on Chiswick. Their comments make grim reading, she says.

jo biddolph

"The area – the A105 through Palmers Green and Green Lanes then on to Winchmore – is about as close to Chiswick High Road as it’s possible to be with independent shops, cafés and restaurants along a main road with residential side roads leading off it. Although this Mini-Holland scheme is different structurally from a superhighway (it’s on the pavement surface, not dug out of the pavement) it travels immediately outside shop fronts. The shops were very similar to shops in Chiswick."

You can read her full report but the following is a summary.

Cllr Biddolph talked to 10 independent traders. Among comments they made to her were:
• “Shops will suffer. Of course they will suffer … I don’t receive any extra trade. Nor do I see any extra cyclists.”
• “The impact has been quite bad especially during the construction work. It took a lot of people away. In six to eight months they developed new shopping habits – they’ve gone.”
• “It has affected our business. We were hoping that cyclists would come in but there aren’t any and they haven’t. It started during building. Customers preferred to park somewhere else and that changed their habits. Business is down by 50 per cent. They are just not walking in.”
• “There have been too many accidents. We’ve had to call an ambulance twice.”

cars gridlocked
Traffic congestion during construction

• “We were told that construction outside our shop shouldn’t be more than two weeks. The sign said one month. After four weeks the sign came down but there were still JCBs parked in front of my shop. It dragged on. Three months later there was a bit of human activity.”
• “My turnover is down by £72,000. I got a 10 per cent discount on business rates for the three months of construction but the rate review implied it would be for a year. The damage is permanent.”
• “They moved my loading bay, which has seriously compromised my business, and I get a lot of calls from potential customers saying they can’t park. My customers inevitably come by car.”
• “During construction it hit shop turnover – we know in that year it was down by £40,000 when we would have expected it to go up by £15,000, based on year-on-year increases. Building it took ages to do, not surprising as they were on a day rate – there was no incentive to complete the work. Meanwhile, I had to reduce my staff (I lost one and a half staff members) as the shop was so quiet and another left as he could see the way the business was going.”
• “There has been a huge drop-off in people visiting the area. They got out of the habit during the year it was constructed. It was dirty, inaccessible, noisy and ugly.”
• “The effect has been phenomenally bad ... A few businesses have changed hands. One is trying to sell up. We’re all experiencing the same – habits have changed. It took so long to build it, then rectify it, people have moved to places where they can park.”
• “People have stopped walking. There is more pollution now, with traffic stopped behind buses.”

map of cycle lane showing ambulance route
Map shows (in red) that a fire engine would have to cross into the traffic going the other way

• “A lot of customers came by car as ours is a destination business. Now they don’t come any more. It has increased pollution – and has pushed pollution to the side roads – and is for people with an agenda who are anti-car. Yet we want people to buy cars for the UK economy. It’s hypocrisy.”
• “It’s terrible. You can’t park. Construction went on for ages. No-one could pull up and cross it. I lost 10 to 15 sales a week – at a cost of £1,500 to £2,000 a week. If they do come it’s because they can find a space but it’s random. Business was 50 per cent down during construction and it’s 30 per cent down now.”
• “I have empty shops on either side of me. One went bankrupt. Rent and rates are too high. And cyclists do not stop and shop – not one. Professional cyclists don’t use it.”

Side roads where cycle lane was introduced

Cllr Biddolph is urging residents to "talk up Chiswick" while recognising the risks to retailers generally, including from CS9 on the pavement along Chiswick High Road.

“Although this is depressing news in relation to CS9, if it is implemented, residents can help our independents by using them,” Jo said. “There is much chatter in Chiswick about shops that have closed and the risk to those that continue to trade. This affects morale not only of our independent retailers but also of residents – it keeps them at home or avoiding the independents. The good news is that many independents are trading – and want custom to continue to do so.

“Barely a day goes by without me being in an independent – I make a point of it. Residents could do the same. Instead of automatically reaching for extra goods – or a free coffee – in supermarkets or chains, why not instead choose to buy from an independent? I realise that price and convenience matter but prices in independents are often cheaper plus you’ll have a more enjoyable experience, chatting to the owner or manager, that counteracts the drear of shopping on automatic. It’s about thinking local and remembering the well-known phrase, “use it or lose it” – within your budget, of course. Why not look for what you can afford, rather than what you can’t?”

The Chiswick Shops Task Force is pursing all four of its aims and has recently held two workshops for traders wanting to make the most of social media marketing. Other workshops are planned as are other initiatives to encourage local shopping and to influence policy makers.

Do you agree with Cllr Biddolph? Discuss on our forum.

March 11, 2019

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