City profile: How Glasgow is to double its bike share to capture broader cyclist demographic

By Chris Slade, BikePlus

Glasgow City Council has an ambitious vision to create “a vibrant cycling city where cycling is accessible, safe and attractive to all,” according to Glasgow’s Strategic Plan 2016-2025. Promotion of cycling is therefore at the heart of the city’s agenda. The Council has invested £15 million since 2008 on cycling infrastructure. This has grown cycling facilities substantially. The cycle network is now over 300km in length and continues to expand with a concerted effort to create a coherent, connected structure.

But with less than a quarter of households in Glasgow with access to a bike for personal use, the city needed to look at ways to get people cycling. A key focus of the 2010 Strategic Plan was to provide and grow a bike share scheme. This has been operated since the 2014 Commonwealth Games by Nextbike. The council funds the capital costs of the scheme which supports the implementation of the scheme.

Aivis Indans, from Nextbike said of pleasing progress: “We currently have over 16,000 members in Glasgow, and it has grown steadily since the launch of the scheme. We hope to increase the number of members by 15% a year.”

There are currently over 450 bikes available at over 40 stations and the bike share scheme has proven to be a success. There are 43 official stations across Glasgow, connecting main transport hubs, business districts and universities, as well as leisure destinations of Glasgow. The locations were decided by assessing the potential demand and in close collaboration with Glasgow City Council.

The scheme has been used by over 15,000 people making over 200,000 journeys since launch in 2014. An annual subscription is available for regular users which costs £60. The first 30 minutes of every ride are then free. An additional £0.50 is charged for every additional 30 minutes, up to a maximum £5 in 24 hours. Alternatively, for casual use, there is a pay-as-you-go option. The Regular Fare is available where cyclists purchase an initial £10 of credit and are charged £1 for every 30 minutes up to a maximum £10 in 24 hours. However, there is no subscription fee.

This year the city’s bikeshare scheme is set to double. An additional 500 next generation SmartBikes will be added to the fleet. An additional 30-40 stations are being planned. The new stations will expand the scheme in all directions. The main objective is to create a higher density of stations that provide more access to local users, as currently many Glaswegians complain about not having a station nearby.

The bikes can be booked either through an app, or via a customer card. The new smart bikes launching later in the year can be picked up from a Nextbike station, unlocked with a code on the bike’s computer, or via swiping the card. What if the docking station is full at the end of a journey? An integrated cable lock on the smart bike enables the bike to be locked to itself or public cycle parking next to a docking station.

Bikeplus is launching Bike Share For All in Glasgow, a project to inspire bike share ridership with reduced price memberships and engagement events in different communities, including engaging low income neighbourhoods. The project will build on the experience of the US Better Bike Share Programme and will now be delivered in partnership with Glasgow Bike Station and Nextbike, thanks to funding from the Scottish Government.

When asked what would improve bike share in the city, Indans said:“Weather would be one thing, but it seems that Glaswegians love to cycle regardless. Of course, the infrastructure has to be improved constantly, and it seems that the Glasgow City Council is doing that. To be fair, the only thing needed for a more successful bike share is the placement of more bikes and stations across the city  – and that is going to happen very soon!”