Wheels set in motion for Dublin Bikes expansion


Dublin Bikes has gone from predictions of mass theft and vandalism, to one of the most successful on-street bicycle rental schemes in the world, so the big question is: “When will it expand?”

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On the back of the scheme smashing all expectations in its first year, Dublin City Council has drawn up a plan to expand across the city, increasing the amount of bicycles from 500 to 5,000.

“When I first proposed it back in 2004, a lot of people said it’d never work, that all the bikes would be stolen or end up in the River Liffey,” said Labour councillor Andrew Montague, who is the chair of the Dublin City Council transport committee. “Thankfully it has turned out to be one of the most successful bike rental schemes in the world.”

DublinBikes in use on O'Connell Street
DublinBikes in use on O’Connell Street

The first millionth journey was achieved last summer and the bikes have now being used for over 1.7 million journeys. There are nearly 50,000 subscribers and around 30,000 of those are yearly subscriptions. It is now an accepted feature of the city’s landscape, used by business men in suits and estate agents commonly listing the nearest station as a feature on property rental adverts.

The main problem with Dublin Bikes is how its success has led to capacity issues at stations.

The first phase was funded by advertising billboards in a controversial deal with ad company JCDecaux, but advertising is now taking a back seat with the new expansion.

“Predominately this is going to be funded by a few different sources – firstly the National Transport Authority is going to put some funding to it, and we’ve also got commitments from various businesses who want a station near their business and they’re prepared to pay for it,” says Cllr Montague.

He adds: “There may be some advertising, but if there is it will be a very minor part of it. Advertising was 100 per cent of the funding before, now it’ll be a very minor part of the funding.”

The Fine Gael-Labour programme for government, taken at face value, can be seen as more ambitious than Dublin City Council’s plans for expansion, which are confined to its area of the city. The programme says: “We will continue to invest in the National Cycle Policy and we will look to extend the Dublin Bikes Scheme across the wider Dublin area and to other cities and integrate the scheme much more effectively with public transport links.”

Will Andrews, chairman of the Dublin Cycle Campaign says: “It should be pushed as soon as possible. It should be given whatever funding is required – which is not hugely significant compared to what has been spent on motorways. It should be given everybody’s support.”

Does the campaign support more advertisements? “As long as the bikes get on the ground and the bikes work, we wouldn’t really want to interfere with how it’s funded. Personally as a citizen of Dublin, you’d hate to see too many of those billboards going up,” says Andrews.

With the funding from businesses model, it is not yet clear if these businesses are willing to spend on set up costs, or if they are willing to provide key on-going funding which keeps the system maintained. “We’d have to get into negotiations with them,” Cllr Montague said. “But they have indicated they are willing to provide money.”

A DublinBikes station
A DublinBikes station

The Dublin Cycle Campaign believes bike rental schemes should be rolled out in every city in Ireland and even larger towns.

And what about users contributing more to the costs? “There may be slight variations in cost, but we’d like to see the existing structure retained – you get a great take-up because the first half hour is free and it encourages people to leave bikes back quicker,” Andrews says.

Cllr Montague says Melbourne’s bike system – which has 600 bicycles, about 100 more than Dublin – is used for about 100 to 150 trips a day in summer time, while Dubliners did “2,000 trips per day in the snow.” The council’s report on the expansion (see the link at the bottom of this page) says there’s an average of 5,000 trips on weekdays in the summer and 4,000 in the winter.

JCDecaux said today that the daily record was broken yesterday, Thursday March 24. “Yesterday saw a new rental record of 5,874 journeys being taken in one day, perhaps a reflection of the sunshine we’ve been having in Dublin this week,” said JCDecaux on its website today.

The city council’s report highlights journey time reliability, health, tourism, and fewer emissions as some of the main benefits of the plan. Needing to lower emissions may sound strange in a recession, but traffic emissions in parts of Dublin were recently recorded as exceeding EU limits.

The docking stations will be expanded first to the Docklands and the Heuston areas, covering Islandbridge, and as far as Kilmainham. Following this, it is planned to be rolled out to a total of 14 zones – which will cover:

expmap-large[3] Dolphin’s Barn and the Liberties;
[4A] Fairview, East Wall, and Croke Park;
[4B] Phibsborogh, Cabra, and Stoneybatter;
[5] Ballsbridge, Ranelagh, Rathmines;
[6] Drumcondra, Marino, and parts of Glasnevin;
[7] Harold’s Cross;
[8] Ringsend, Irishtown, and Sandymount;
[9] Parts of Drimnagh and Inchicore, and further areas of Kilmainham;
[10] Donnybrook
[11] Further into Rathmines and Ranelagh, out as far as Rathgar and Clonskeagh;
[12] Areas around Crumlin and Terenure;
[13] Glasnevin east and central
[14] DCU and Whitehall.

If the five year plan goes ahead as scheduled, the ambitious strategy also mentions further expansion into the rest of the city council’s areas, such as Finglas, Ballymun, and Ballyfermot.

Why was the order chosen? Cllr Montague explains: “Each expansion has to connect to another, so you can’t start in the city centre and then put a station in DCU, you have to work from the city centre out.”

He says: “The most important expansion is the east-west expansion in the city centre, that’s why that’s the first – down towards Grand Canal Dock and towards Heuston Station. That’s the really high demand area, and we focus on high employment and high density residential areas as well.”

On a timeframe, Cllr Montague says the first phase has to go out for tender. “Until we get the tenders back we can’t say for sure, but I’d be hopeful within a year or so we’ll get it up and running, but I think once we get the first stage up and running it’ll be quicker after that.” But he adds: “There are no definitive dates yet.”


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