NTA claims bicycle share use fall due to switch to bus, but users report system in disrepair

— 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.

IMAGE: A bicycle share bike in Cork in March 2019.

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.”

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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:

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.”

IMAGE: Stations not working or partly or fully closed is an on-going issue.

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:

 

Issues have been on-going.

This was in early March 2020:

https://twitter.com/Cowa19942/status/1236275491398705159?s=20

This was reported in January 2020:

https://twitter.com/Cowa19942/status/1213916190533439494?s=20

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