Simple joy of Glasgow cycling has eased my return to city centre – Alastair Dalton

The woman hopped off the bike, flicked its lock into position and was on her way – all within a couple of seconds.

One moment she was cycling along a street, the next, strolling along the pavement. It was a striking example of the potential to change the way we get around urban areas.

Using a hire bike in Glasgow is that easy.

Picking one up is almost as effortless: Download the app, press location on the map, go to the nearest rental station, choose a bike, scan the barcode on it and press OK. The lock automatically opens, jump on and off you go.

Hire bikes have been available at dozens of locations across Glasgow since 2014 (Picture: Sandy Young/PinPep)

I’m rediscovering that simplicity while my own bike is being repaired, cycling to The Scotsman’s new city centre office.

At £1 for 30 minutes (but free with £5 or £10 monthly season tickets), a return trip from home is less than half the price of a peak train fare and still cheaper than an off-peak ticket.

Driving to work would never cross my mind, but with the rocketing cost of fuel plus parking charges, that option would be far more expensive too.

If you’re feeling lazy, or need a boost, there are even electric bikes available.

Though not as powerful as some privately-rented e-bikes I’ve tried, they make for effortless pedalling if you’re not bothered about going fast.

However, I’ve found hiring them too stressful as they cost more to rent, and completing my trip in the 20-minute limit for the initial £2 cost (alas, season tickets are still not available) can be a close-run thing.

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The Glasgow City Council scheme, currently branded as OVO bikes after its energy company sponsor, is now a firmly established feature of the city’s streets, having been launched to coincide with the Commonwealth Games eight years ago.

It has 1,000 bikes and 126 e-bikes at 96 hire stations across Glasgow, with 215,000 rentals so far this year – up 9 per cent on 2021.

Other Scottish cities such as Dundee and Stirling have similar schemes, and it is extraordinary that Edinburgh remains without one, nearly a year after the increasingly successful Just Eat Bikes was scrapped during a funding row.

Working back in Glasgow city centre after being relocated for 14 years to an office on the south side of the city, I’ve noticed things have improved further for cycling.

There are now more segregated lanes – essential for encouraging people new to cycling – including the Continental-feel route along Sauchiehall Street.

There are also bus lane-style bike-only lanes on roads that were brought in during the pandemic, such on Broomielaw and Clyde Street on the riverside west towards the SEC.

The key now is providing enough road space to accommodate more cyclists to avoid them coming into potential conflict with pedestrians on shared paths, especially narrow ones. These must be widened, marked with much clearer signs or phased out.

The stranglehold of the car over city centre streets has also been eased, with more vehicle-free zones such as on one side of George Square.

Completion of the area’s low-emission zone will help further, with only vehicles with the cleanest engines now permitted access, and enforcement due to start next May.

I may be imagining it, but I even sense the air is cleaner than when we left St Vincent Street in 2008.

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