A comment by Tim on the previous post dealing with Hourbikes drew attention to the declining number of bikes listed as available from the 4 'hubs' in central Bristol, according to Hourbike's own map. At the time of writing only 10 bikes are shown compared to 18 at the launch of Hourbikes in July. Numbers also appeared low at the 4 UWE/Parkway hubs with just 13 shown as available.
I've been keeping an eye on some of the Hourbike stands (yes CCTV people, that shifty looking character hanging around the hubs is me) and there's little evidence of any use. From time to time there's one more bike at one and one less bike at another, but I've never actually seen anybody using the system. Has anyone? Back in the summer we were told use would pick up when the students returned, which may or may not be true out at UWE but hasn't happened in central Bristol.
On the plus side I've been surprised at how little vandalism there's been. A couple of the wire baskets have been crushed but otherwise the bikes seem to have remained unscathed. Theft might explain the diminishing numbers of bikes, but I suspect they are being quietly withdrawn for use elsewhere. Ten bikes is still more than enough to cope with the minimal demand.
So is there any future for Hourbikes in Bristol? Certainly not on the basis of the current minimal coverage, as many people said at the outset. There doesn't seem to be any effort to secure more hubs either, even at Temple Meads station which is the most obvious location. And I can't see Cycling City throwing any more money at Hourbikes on the basis of current performance.
The failure of the Hourbike venture should be an object lesson for us all in the need for these things to be based on sound market economics and not just wishful thinking. The waste of resources on the Hourbike scheme has been as modest as the network coverage but there was, as possibly still is, pressure for a massive public subsidy which would have been at the expense of potentially much more productive infrastructure investment.