So you want to cycle in Gibraltar?

I’ve been watching the progress of the local bike racks with bated breath. One has been installed near us, and as we watched its progress over the months we speculated as to what on earth it could possibly be.

It is, of course, part of Caruana’s vote softening tactics, go green, decrease traffic, and provide even more services for Gibraltar residents and tourists strategy timed to start just before the election.  It is of course, the new Gib bike scheme – or Gibi.

Today, I noticed the one near to us looked ready to go. Not a bike in sight but it was lit up and electronically connected although a closer reading showed it wasn’t connected to some internet service. What’s new.

Gib bike scheme docking station - not a bike in sight :(
Try again?

I did a quick check. Seems it was inaugurated two weeks ago by the Minister of Transport Joe Holliday.

Once all the stations were up and running, it would be open to punters. The intervening period would involve a testing period by the Gibi staff.

Well the two weeks are up, and at my local stand there are still no bikes. I haven’t seen any bikes at any stand, but maybe I should wander down to Casemates.

Let’s look at this scheme and policy seriously.

I have no issue at all with encouraging people to get out of their cars. That should be fairly obvious to anyone who reads my blogs and discovers that I invariably walk, cycle, take the bus, and use the vehicle as a last resort, usually when taking the dog to and from Spain.

Consider it another way. You are a car driver. You don’t have a bicycle. Are you really going to give up your warm safe comfortable box on wheels for some shared bike scheme? Are you going to buy yourself a helmet, gloves, and wear appropriate footwear? And are you going to pay £24 a year, plus an expensive hourly rate once you have gone over your free limit of one hour a day?

Where are the panniers or baskets for going shopping? Are you supposed to provide those as well? Because I don’t see any on the photos on the gibi bikes website.

The simple truth is, that anyone who is interested in cycling will invariably have their own helmet, gloves, cycling clothes, shoes, carriers of whatever type, bell, reflective lights etc etc – oh! and their own bike too.

Anyone who is not really interested in cycling is unlikely to invest in the extras that they should be buying. A decent helmet and gloves alone in Spain cost more than 100€.

The Code of Conduct on the Gib website says:

DO check that the cycle is road worthy (tyres, brakes, saddle, bell)

If you weren’t a regular cyclist would you know how to check all that? Ping the bell possibly. Adjust the saddle to the correct height? Pump up the tyres to the correct pressure (you do have a bike pump, right?) And if the brakes don’t work, you know how to sort those too don’t you?

Checking out the bikes, you know, brakes, saddle, tyres, bell, and everything else

Also from the Code of Conduct:

DON’T cycle on the pavement

Right. That will be why one of the pictures on the home page shows a woman cycling on the pavement. Wearing open sandals. Not a helmet in sight, not even on her handlebar. Never mind gloves, reflective clothing, sensible footwear, although she does have a flower in her hair.  Holy shit.  I must remember that one in future when I go out on the bike. Wear a flower in my hair.  That will be far more use than a helmet.  At least I will look sooooo pretty.

You can tell how seriously helmets are taken by the way the other two photos show the men slinging them over the handlebar. A bit like Spanish motorcyclists really, who drive around the campo with their cascos on their handlebars, only putting them on their head when they reach the main road. One photo shows three men wearing baseball caps, and their handlebars wearing the helmets.

And as for the eminent Joe Holliday, the photo of him inaugurating the scheme in Casemates showed him besuited, and not a helmet, item of reflective clothing or any other sensible cycling clothing to be seen.

I have no idea who is managing your PR, Gib government – but they need to try harder. Do NOT advertise new schemes and initiatives showing people doing the WRONG thing. Simple really.

What else? Well, I did think it would be good to provide helmets and gloves for people as part of the scheme, but smart-arsed Partner pointed out that would be less than hygienic. So we are left with a feeble recommend on the website to consider a helmet, and nothing else. That, is not, by any stretch of the imagination, promoting responsible cycling.

Another excerpt from the Code of Conduct:

DON’T cycle too close to moving vehicles

How about getting tough on all drivers who get too close to cyclists? Do not intimidate cyclists might be a good start. There is no need for cycle lanes. There is a need for responsible and respectful car drivers. But why tell cyclists not to cycle too close to moving vehicles? Tell those pushy drivers in a hurry to back, right, off. And possibly keep to the speed limit if that wouldn’t be too much trouble.  And not to tell cyclists to get out of the way because they, Toad of Toad Hall, are in a hurry. (Yes it has happened here in Gibraltar).  Roads are not for the sole use of car drivers – they are shared between all road users, and that includes pedestrians where there are no pavements.

A few more flaws in the scheme? Well, I think the cost is quite appalling. Seriously. Not that you can discover this on the government website. Oh no. Why would they want to tell you that once you have gone over that magic hour a day it will cost you a minimum of £2, or £5 for two hours.  Or £30 for 24 hours. And what is the late return charge of £150?  You take it back after more than 24 hours and it costs you an extra £120?  I am guessing as I have got the figures from the Chron and there is no detail. And that damage to the bike, or making off with the bike will cost you £500? Did those bikes cost £500 each? I doubt that very much.

So when you are involved in a road traffic accident (RTA) and the bike is written off – is that your fault? Who covers the insurance? Because I sure as hell couldn’t find those important details on the website.

But the best bit of this green scheme is – guess what? It involves a lorry and trailer carting bikes around Gibraltar to the various docking points so that there are some available on demand for people. I think I am seriously missing something here. This is a ‘go green’ scheme and we are carting bikes around using vehicles????????? How about the four new specialist employees cycle the bikes around? Now that would be a rather nice job, being paid to cycle around Gib.

Hello here I am :) I will cycle your bikes around Gib for you – and I might even suggest a few better PR photoshots if you are lucky.

Oh and for another interesting read on the scheme, David Eade at Panorama wrote an excellent piece. I so would have used his last line, but he beat me to it – so please, dear readers, read his column right through. I sent Panorama my CV once and I never even got a response, but I still like the way they criticise the government.  That’s what newspapers should be doing.  And so am I.

Gibraltar needs good government, not glitzy gimmicks.  I think the bike scheme is the latter.

Because, where are the bike racks for people who are already cycling?  Have any of the new bike stations got places for other cyclists to park? Well?  Not that I have noticed.  No, they are all for Gibi bikes.  There is absolutely nothing, jack shit nada, down Main Street (Calle Real) for cyclists.  Not a rack in place. Most of the few existing racks in busy areas (Europort, Line Wall Road) are always full.

So, dear Messers Caruana and Holliday, how about you thought to provide a different incentive to locals?  Maybe a subsidy or a grant?  A 50:50 split on a bike, helmet, gloves deal?   A nice free training course?   No?

Shit – no income generation there at all, is there? That’s just really giving money to locals to encourage cycling.  And that isn’t what this policy is about at all.  Is it?

Don’t play green at the last minute when you are not remotely interested in cycling.

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