Rainy weather and poor internet signal affect bicycle share in Cork, Limerick, Galway

— Complaints continue in cities after 2021 upgrade of stations and bikes.

An issue with TFI Bikes — the bike share system in Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford — which happens in wet weather is “now largely resolved”. But, according to the National Transport Authority (NTA), some of the same docking stations also have an issue with poor connections to the internet, which has yet to be resolved.

TFI stands for Transport for Ireland, which is an NTA brand, and the system is run by a private company for the authority. There are currently no stationless bicycle share companies operating in any of the four cities.

Users of TFI Bikes previously reported the system was in disrepair. In 2021 the docking stations were updated and replacement bicycles were put on the streets, but a raft of new complaints started to emerge from users since last year.

In one of these last week, Alan Barry wrote on Twitter that he “Rang TFI Bikes earlier to report another broken bike station (Grand Parade), touch screen not working and then went to error message. ‘Was it raining today in Cork?’ – ah yes it was – ‘oh the screens don’t work sometimes in the rain!’”

A spokesperson for the NTA, which is responsible for TFI Bikes, said that there are two issues — the water ingress affecting docking stations and the internet connection to stations. The latter issue is what affected the station Barry tweeted about, the NTA said.

The NTA spokesperson said: “There have been some issues relating to water ingress in a number of kiosks and bike bollards effecting the equipment, causing some stations to be offline although it is now largely resolved.”

“A solution has been identified, trialled successfully and is currently being rolled out to all stations. Cork and Waterford upgrades are fully complete, Limerick is partially complete and upgrades on the Galway stations will follow after. This is scheduled to be completed in the next month or two,” he said.

The NTA spokesperson added: “The issue with the station that was raised on social media recently related to a lack of internet signal at the kiosk. We have been in touch with the internet provider and the equipment within the stations is being updated to improve the internet signal reliability.”

Another TFI Bike user, Rob O’Domhnaill, replied to Barry and said: “I wrote a very angry email to them last night after almost missing my train for the same reason – had to run across the city! And I had the same issue in the morning at Kent. While the bikes look nice and modern and shiny, the system is just not fit for purpose.”

Users in Limerick have also experienced similar issues. One of them, Eoghan Calnan, said last October: “I’d say about 1/4 of the time the screen is frozen on @TFIupdates bike stations in @LimerickCouncil. Another 1/4 of the time the station is offline. City bikes have to be convenient and reliable. No coincidence that ridership is down since the new stations have been installed.”

Limerick-based Cllr Elisa O’Donovan (Soc Dems) said: “It’s difficult to keep up with @TFIupdates excuses on the maintenance of the scheme and they differ from city to city. I challenged Hugh Creegan on this recently and was told the contract for the operation of the scheme will be up soon.”

In December, Cork-city-based Cllr Dan Boyle (Green Party) said: “Received a text that my TFI Cork Bikeshare subscription is up for renewal. Will do so through gritted teeth. The management of the scheme has been extremely poor this year, doing nothing to encourage take up or use.” 

A number of members of the public replied agreeing with him, some saying it is a “super piece of infrastructure in our city” but just not working the way it should. Another said they were mainly subscribed to support the system and would only use it a lot more if it was expanded.

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