Glasgow’s upcoming bike-sharing scheme


A bike-sharing scheme similar to that found in London, Paris, and other European cities is coming to Scotland’s largest city, Glasgow

Bikes parked on a street as part of a public bike sharing scheme

Courtesy Zachary Staines

In May 2014 Glasgow City Council will be launching MACH — mass automated cycle hire — with 400 bikes and 31 stations, plus an extra six stations during the Commonwealth Games. Details have slowly been filtering out, starting with a report presented to the city council’s Executive Committee on 10 October 2013 and followed by a second report on 19 March 2014 to the Sustainability and the Environment Policy Development Committee.

The appendices to the first report include a low-resolution map of where bikes were to be available to hire, but exactly where was hard to discern. Eventually a Freedom of Information request got me the locations as a tabulated list in a PDF file.

The second report included much-improved details on the locations, including a higher-resolution raster map and a list of the nearest street address for each location. It’s still pretty piss-poor as accessible data goes, and so I created a Git repository in an attempt to make a better job of it.

The repo contains each location as a latitude and longitude point, all stored in a single GeoJSON file encapsulated in the Open Knowledge Foundation’s Data Package format. GitHub allows GeoJSON files to be displayed as a map directly and I’ve also made a full-screen map. Providing the locations in this format makes them more accessible, more visible, and easier to analyse.

Location accuracy

While the nearest street address is given for each bike hire location it’s still not completely clear where exactly the bikes will be sited. I’ve made educated guesses for each one (e.g. picked the nearest large empty section of pavement or an existing bike rack) but we should assume that the bikes are to be within a 100-metre radius of the longitude and latitude provided, rather than at exactly that spot.

In their response to my original FOI request back in December 2013, Glasgow City Council pointed out in a fairly tedious, corporate, manner that the list of locations is provisional. Or, in their words, the list is

only indicative and no decisions have yet been made as to whether they will, or will not, become a Glasgow mass automated cycle hire (MACH) station location. The MACH implementation team within the council has still to discuss these loose draft locations with the new service provider [German company Nextbike] who was awarded the contract on Friday 22 November 2013. The draft list is a means to provide a starting platform for discussions with the new service provider and once the list has been confirmed then the normal route whereby information is provided to elected members will be followed.

Although council officers have since undertaken site surveys of the updated locations I would assume they’re still provisional. We’ll only know for sure once the scheme is up-and-running.

The freedom of information request

My original request, dated 14 October 2013:

The submission documents associated with councillor Alistair Watson’s executive committee report on the introduction of a bike hire scheme in Glasgow, dated 10 October 2013, are available on Glasgow city council’s website. The appendices are combined into a single PDF, and appendix 2 (page 2) contains a map showing numbered locations for potential bike hire locations. The map is accompanied by the text ‘Appendix 3 to this report contains an index to the numbered locations.’ However, appendix 3 (page 3) doesn’t contain any such index.

I would be grateful if you could provide the index to the numbered locations under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

The council’s response, due no more than 20 working days later, came after 42 working days on 11 December 2013, accompanied with apologies and the promise that an internal review had fixed the ‘technical oversight’ that had caused the delay. I’m a programmer, I understand these things can happen — I would have preferred a more detailed reason though.