I thought I’d write a quick post about Glasgow’s new public bike counter, which stands at the western end of the Bridge to Nowhere. It’s part of an initiative of Sustrans and the Scottish Government, which has also seen counters installed in Edinburgh, Clydebank, Coatbridge, Stirling, Benderloch (nah, me neither), Inverness, and Perth. This is what it looked like yesterday evening:
It’s been operating since the 25th of June, so by my calculation that’s about 400 bikes a day. More than I’d have guessed, but it’s not great. It’ll be interesting to see how it holds up in the winter.
Public bike counters are fun gizmos, but the justification for them is pretty flimsy. They are essentially marketing tools. They’re meant to make people stop and say “hey, that’s a lot of bikes – maybe I should start cycling”. They won’t elicit this reaction if you install them in places where there aren’t a lot of bikes.
What’s happened here is that somebody in the Scottish Government has seen the famous (in cycle campaigning circles) bike counter on Queen Louise’s Bridge in Copenhagen (allegedly the “busiest bicycle street in the world”), thought “that looks pretty cool”, and come up with some cash to get some bike counters in Scotland. They’ve even made sure to buy the exact same model of bike counter used in Copenhagen. It’s just the latest part of the Government’s vacuous “market our way to mass cycling” strategy, which misses the point entirely. Lots of people cycle over Queen Louise’s Bridge because of the network of cycle tracks that cover the entire city. The cycle tracks on the bridge itself are 5 metres wide in each direction, a luxury unknown in the UK. That’s what makes it attractive – not some photogenic toy.
If there’s one genuine value of Glasgow’s public bike counter, it’s that such a visible display of failure might prod the authorities into action. Here’s hoping.
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