Biking About Glasgow

Seven years ago (almost to the day) my sister and I went to meet my mum and dad in Paris as part of a surprise in support of their wedding anniversary. As with several things that have happened within the life of this blog, there is a post about it (though it’s a confusingly written post, at first). There is two different stories in the post (as was my style back then) and it’s the second of the two stories that I wanted to call back to.

Bikes.

This was the first time in my life that I had came across a Mass Public Hire Scheme for bikes, or what you might call today a Boris Bike scheme – I’ll describe it to you now, even though you already know what it is. Bascially, there are hundreds of bikes located at tens of different stations around the city. You rock up to one, select the bike you want, and you can cycle it away and then, once finished with it, drop back off at any station and it’ll charge you a fee for the time you had it. I noted at the time regarding the Paris system that

"In fact, there are so many that I think you could probably assume that anywhere you fancy going will have one very close."

and I was so enthused by the whole system. I thought it a revelation for a big city, and one like Paris, and I really really fancied hiring a bike and booting about the city. But I didn’t. And then, in 2010, London launched the Barlcays Cycle Hire and I was suddenly very excited.

Interestingly I added a short post-script to that post back in 2007 regarding bikes in Glasgow.

"I think it is amazing, but it would not work in Glasgow. For one the bikes would never come back to the station…"

Well, guess what? Last night I was proven entirely wrong, for I hired my first ever bike here in my home town. And it was great.

Photo of a Nextbike (not the one I used) taken outside the Glasgow Green Templeton Station (photo credit: Michael Doherty)

Photo of a Nextbike (not the one I used) taken outside the Glasgow Green Templeton Station (photo credit: Michael Doherty)

Nextbike Glasgow launched a few weeks back and it is a pared down scheme compared to the widespread Velib and Boris Bike scheme featuring simple locks and codes and a need for a mobile application. There are around 30 or so stations (some temporary for the Commonwealth Games) and 400-ish bikes, and the stations are simple bike lock stands. To hire a bike you simply need to sign up via the website and then use the app to find, hire and return a bike by entering the code of the bike into the app, and it’ll tell you the unlock code for the bike lock. Then you’re off.

I found the scheme to be a little easier to use than I expected, and to be honest the fun and exhilaration of riding a bike from Glasgow Green near to West Brewery all the way along past the Barras and then up Glasgow Cross, Argyle Street and then along Buchanan Street was part of my enjoyment. Cycling on the roads in Glasgow is given a fair beating by regular cyclists (Car-Sick Glasgow is a bloody excellent blog at ripping apart the bullshit fed by the council) due to the poor attitude they get from drivers, and the road layouts really aren’t very good for biking. However, I found it fun – the off-road cycling near to the Barras was excellent, the advance stop lines at the traffic lights, which I don’t really consider that important when driving, are actually amazing for cycling and give you a sense of power at the lights that I think you are sometimes not au fait with when a total novice biker.

As a short journey it was ideal – I was squashed into a train on the way to the Hockey event and I really didn’t fancy trying to get on a train at Bridgeton with a couple of thousand other folk, so and a couple and myself made a bee-line for the cycle hire rack (sign posted by a lovely bright pink sign), and we later met again at a set of traffic lights in the Merchant City, sharing a knowing nod.

The total cost the ride was £1. I did have to top up my account with £10 (that never will expire according to the site's conditions) and there are options for a cheaper annual subscription (currently £40 as part of a promotion) that makes your fisrt 30 mins free and then a maximum charge of £5 a day (a little more than a bus ticket, but cheaper than the combined SPT Rounabout Train, Bus and Underground ticket).

I can’t wait to try out the bikes again the next time I am in the city, and if I was a student I’d be using the system every day to boot about the city. The next time I am heading to the west end from town I might aim for it, as it has opened up usage of the new Fastlink lanes, or the new bridge across the M8 at Charing Cross, or even the canal route or the Kelvin Way.

As for my original rservations; time will tell. The bikes might go missing… but the GPS trackers will get them back.