Is the Glasgow cycle hire scheme really more popular than London’s already?

Scottish upstarts. 

Battle of the bikes. Image credits L-R: Nextcycle; ZanMan at Wikimedia commons

It’s been a rough year for the relationship between England and Scotland. One’s thinking about dumping the other after hundreds of years of marriage, and propaganda (sometimes Lego-strewn) is rife on both sides.

So we’re sorry to say that yet another dispute has emerged between the two nations. According to a news report on the Herald website yesterday, Glasgow’s new cycle-hire scheme, the Mass Automated Cycle Hire Scheme, or “Mach”, is already more successful than London’s. It only launched on 24 June.

A spokesperson from operator Nextcycle told the paper that the bikes were rented an average of 1.24 times per day during the scheme’s first 12 days. (That’s 2,505 total rentals, divided by 168 bikes, divided by 12 days.) This, the paper said, makes it more popular than London’s scheme, where bikes are rented at a “daily rate” of 1.16.  

Unfortunately for Glasgow, this number appears to be, um, wrong.

It looks like they got 1.16 by taking the authorities’ figures for the bikes’ daily usage over the first 12 days of London’s bike hire scheme, and dividing them by the number of bikes available – originally meant to be 6,000. The problem is that, for three months after launch, the actual number of bikes available was around 5,000 (and, some claim, even lower): there weren’t enough docking stations installed to house 6,000 bikes.

Using the lower figure of 5,000 bikes, the uptake over the first twelve days in London works out to 1.39 uses per bike. That’s a whole 10.8 per cent higher than the Glasgow bikes’ 1.24 uses per day.

There’s also the issue of scale to consider. In Glasgow, Mach launched with 168 bikes; London’s scheme launched with 5,000. Granted, Glasgow’s population is only around 600,000, while inner London’s is around 3 million; but to achieve the same ratio Glasgow would have needed to introduce 1,000 bikes.

What’s more, at the same rate of usage, fewer bikes per capita should, logically, mean more hires per bike. It hasn’t. London’s bikes were simply used more in their first two weeks than Glasgow’s were.

In one area at least, Glasgow is winning: the average journey time so far is 58 minutes, according to Nextcycle, whereas London’s is just 17. One enterprising pair even rode their hire bikes to Loch Lomond, around 20 miles outside the city.

The scheme will add 170 more bikes within the next couple of months. Given time, then, Glasgow could still pull ahead in the bike-hire peloton. 

This is a preview of our new sister publication, CityMetric. We'll be launching its website soon - in the meantime, you can follow it on Twitter and Facebook.