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City to get on its bike with £1.3m cycle hire scheme

A major investment will make Glasgow Scotland's first "velo city".

PEDAL POWER: Glasgow could follow the London template where public hire was established by Mayor Boris Johnson, inset. Main picture: Getty
PEDAL POWER: Glasgow could follow the London template where public hire was established by Mayor Boris Johnson, inset. Main picture: Getty

Plans are under way for a bike hire scheme to be operational within Scotland's largest city in time for the 2014 Commonwealth Games and growing to more than twice its size after the event concludes.

The scheme will make initially 150 cycles available at 15 docking stations located throughout the city by March, expanding to 400 bikes at 30 stations.

It is expected to be piloted for three years, with the £1.35 million capital and revenue costs covered by Glasgow City Council and an operator sought through competitive tender to run it on behalf of the authority.

It is still unclear how much the scheme will cost users – this will depend on the choice of operator, but the council said it expected it to be about £1.50 for two hours.

It is expected users will register and pay for use of a bike either for a specified distance or period. Bikes will be located at docking stations around the city and registered users will be able to unlock them and return them to other stations.

The plans will be unveiled by council leader Gordon Matheson at Scottish Labour's conference in Inverness today.

High-profile examples of such public schemes already exist in London, Paris, Barcelona, Amsterdam and other European cities, among more than 300 cycle-hire operations around the world. The vast majority have been established since 2000.

Earlier this year, London Mayor and cycling aficionado Boris Johnson announced plans to treble spending on cycle infrastructure to almost £1 billion over the next decade as part of his promise to unleash a "cycling revolution" in the city. Belfast has plans for a bike-hire scheme with 300 bikes at 30 docking stations, while Liverpool recently announced a £1.5m project with 1000 bikes put on to city streets next summer.

A study shows such schemes require a lot of financial commitment and backing to succeed and can fail due to lack of visibility of the bikes. Theft and vandalism can also cause difficulties to the smooth operation of the schemes, although registration by users is expected to minimise this risk.

Cyclists may also need to be assured roads are sufficiently free of potholes and well-maintained before using the scheme.

Mr Matheson said: "Cycling is cheap, keeps people fit and active, and is good for the environment. I am proud Glasgow is the first city in Scotland to launch such a scheme. Labour is committed to promoting cycling and I want Glasgow to be a city that is friendly to cyclists. This investment will provide an attractive option for people looking to travel quickly around the city. Creating a healthier, more active Glasgow is one of the key legacies of the Commonwealth Games. Bike-hire schemes are popular across Europe."

The move comes three years after an initial study found a viable Mass Automated Cycle Hire (Mach) scheme in Glasgow to be undeliverable within the £200,000 funding available.

As part of the council's feasibility study, a review of 24 of the schemes worldwide was conducted, including detailed interviews with the city sponsors or operators of 10 schemes.

The concluding study recommended a scheme with low technology and infrastructure needs with flexible docking stations using standard bike racks and user-friendly, "tried and trusted technology, such as mobile phones" to hire the vehicles.

The Mach scheme would also build on the £13m of improvements to walking and cycling routes the council has delivered over the past few years.

Brian Devlin, the council's head of land services, said: "It would be the intention to implement the Mach scheme in spring 2014, prior to the start of the Commonwealth Games.

"It is recommended the council agrees to underwrite this project at this time to provide a level of certainty to private sector tenderers that the council is serious about this project."

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