— Only 3.4% of poll respondents said they use bicycle share less due to improved bus service.
Officials at the National Transport Authority have claimed that bicycle share use is down in Cork, Limerick and Galway due to people switching to bus, but users report that bicycles are in a poor condition and stations are out of order.
The Irish Examiner reported on Sunday that an National Transport Authority spokesperson said: “We believe improved services by Bus Éireann, particularly in Cork and Galway, where there was a noticeable increase in bus passenger numbers, was a factor.”
The number of trips taken in the last year was down in Galway by 30%, in Limerick by 20% and in Cork city by 11%.
Figures provided by the National Transport Authority, which oversees bike rental schemes in the main regional cities, also shows an even more significant drop in the use of the bikes in Galway and Limerick.
The newspaper reported that the NTA said that the trend in switching from bike to bus was still a welcome sign that commuters were opting to use sustainable transport modes. The system was sponsored by Coca Cola Zero upto November last, but the NTA said it will not be looking for a new sponsor.
In a Twitter poll with 147 respondents this week, only 3.4% of respondents said that they use bicycle share less due to improved bus service. Over 70% of respondents said that they reduced bicycle use due to poor condition of the bicycles or stations being closed. Another 26.5% said that they have bought their own bicycles.
Responding to the news of the NTA’s claim of bicycle users switching to improved bus services, Brian Leddin, Green Party TD for Limerick City, said:
This was one day last year when the pedal came off while I was cycling. There's only so much of this that people will put up with before they stop using the scheme. pic.twitter.com/s5tHU9Gk4o
— Brian Leddin (@BrianLeddin) April 13, 2020
In a blog post about the scheme, Limerick Cllr Elisa O’Donovan (Social Democrats) said: “Today we hear the news of a significant decrease in users across all three cities. There are many reasons why this may be the case. However, I know what I have learnt in relation to the oversight and governance of the scheme by the NTA is something that must be addressed urgently if we are to change the fortune of the public bike scheme in regional cities.”
In January 2019 when IrishCycle.com asked the NTA why did its board decide to extend the contract to Telfourth, treading as An Rothar Nua, without re-tendering the bicycle schemes, a spokesperson for the NTA said: “The original tender competition for this contract advertised for, and envisaged a ten-year contract period, with a five-year contract signed initially and a provision to extend the agreement for a second five-year term. This is the extension option exercised by the NTA at their meeting in January 2018.”
Asked if the NTA was aware and was its board made aware of users complaints of bicycle stations not working, stations not being fully commissioned and otherwise remaining out of action for a long period of time, the spokesperson said: “The NTA is aware of customer complaints within the scheme. The level of customer complaint (as logged through the customer call centre) is low for the scheme in general.”
On the station issues, the NTA spokesperson said: “The NTA is also aware of the programme for commissioning stations and addressing non-functioning stations. Shortly after the scheme was commissioned, system support (including the provision of spare parts) was withdrawn by a supplier to the scheme operator for certain aspects of the scheme. This matter is before the Commercial Court at present.”
It added: “The NTA is satisfied that the operator, Telfourth Limited, has responded effectively to the difficulties presented by the lack of technical support. A programme to address the remaining stations is underway and will be completed in a number of months.”
Public and cycling campaigner reaction
There was also some strong reaction from cycling campaigners and members of the public on Twitter to the NTA’s claim that improved bus services lowered usage:
Broken stations, one of the several issues turning ppl off the scheme. See other replies to this thread.
Bizzare of NTA to blame the 220 bus success on drop off of users.
— conn donovan #stayhome (@conndonovan9) April 13, 2020
How ignorant can @TFIupdates be when it comes to cycle transport? The Limerick bike share scheme is failing because the bikes are falling apart, the stations are only located in the city centre and the streets are dominated by motor traffic. Today’s @irishexaminer pic.twitter.com/FWlUH0dBJc
— Limerick Stay At Home Cycle Design (@LkCycleDesign) April 13, 2020
The last time I used bike share, the handlebars were so stiff I could barely control the bike and neither the gears nor lights were working. Alot of the stations in Cork are not working properly and the info on the real time app is not correct.
— Eoghan (@Cowa19942) April 13, 2020
Such a pain in the proverbial going to a bike dock in Cork.and finding a) the dock is offline, b) the dock is showing online but screen frozen, or c) you take a bike but 2 secs later realise gears fecked so have to return it, sometimes multiple times. I often just give up 😔
— Splendid Isolationist 🚴🏞📚💪 (@Maulvirane) April 13, 2020
I let my membership lapse last September. Was fed up with poor condition of bikes and Stations being closed or faulty. Basically the service was not reliable. Had sent repeated polite feedback comments to BikeShare on the service … tumbleweed.
— Kevin Jennings (@kevigi) April 13, 2020
Fall in use of bikes is actually due to the fact that each year 15-20%of the bikes stop working. The parking portals are also breaking which reduces ability to be able to park bike @ your next stop. New sponsor and fix up the bikes=great scheme again. @CorkCyclingCrew @IBIKECork
— Cork Citizen (@CorkCitizen) April 13, 2020
If the NTA or the council want to know the opinion of bike share users they could email us a survey. Yearly subscribers aren't anonymous, they've got our emails.
— Majo 'Immigrants, we get the job done' Rivas, LL.M (@rivasmj) April 13, 2020
Issues have been on-going.
This was in early March 2020:
College of Commerce station has not been operational since before Christmas. 20 bikes in one half of the stand and cannot be borrowed due to what looks like a glitch on the screen. The other half sits empty, with out of order pins in the slots.
— Eoghan (@Cowa19942) March 7, 2020
This was reported in January 2020:
15 bikes parked up. App says 1 bike. Tried to use the station and got an error message. Same issue last week and after reporting, was told I was using it incorrectly.@IrishCycle @CorkCyclingCrew #bikeshare pic.twitter.com/vEGvlKv1a2
— Eoghan (@Cowa19942) January 5, 2020