Usage of DublinBikes only started showing signs of recovery last year after being hard-hit by the pandemic — the use of Dublin’s original bicycle share decreased two years in a row after the shock of the pandemic.
Data released by Dublin City Council to this website shows that usage last year was still around 1.8 million trips down from pre-pandemic levels — with 2,001,810 trips by users in 2022 compared to 3,816,652 in 2019.
Yearly subscribers to DublinBikes continued to reduce last year — by around 6% between November 2021 and November 2022, but this was offset by a 270% increase in short-term subscribers in the same timeframe.
This increase in short-term subscriptions comes after a €3.50 1-day ticket and a €5 3-day ticket were made available via upgraded DublinBikes app.
The upgraded app also allows users to unlock bicycles from the app, bypassing the need to use the terminal at docking stations. Previously only a limited number of docking stations took credit cards and the process was complicated, restricting access to visitors to the city.
DublinBike, run in partnership with JCDecaux, currently has around 1,600 bikes available at 115 stations around the city. Fun fact: The number of bicycles available for use varies and this seems to have peaked at 2,229 in mid-2021.
Separately, The Irish Times reports today that the scheme is soon to be in operation for 15 years, meaning the JCDecaux advertising panels which largely funded the scheme will have to gain new planning permission or be removed.
In a quick — and clearly not very comprehensive — Twitter poll last week, this website asked followers if they use DublinBikes less, if so, why is such the case. The largest segment of nearly 40% said it was because they are commuting less or have moved, the second largest group at nearly 32% said that they have switched to their own bicycle, and nearly 15% said they are not cycling as much.
Only 13.8% said they have switched to dockless bicycle share as the main reason for unsubscribing from DublinBikes.
A number of replies to the Twitter poll said that the price increase from €25 to €35 per year, which started rolling out in September 2020, was the cause of their unsubscribing. Some of those people said they switched to dockless systems while others don’t cycle as much, including walking and using public transport instead.
Another factor which might now work against DublinBikes compared to pre-pandemic is the TFI 90 Minute Fare — it allows people to combine different modes of public transport for any trip of under 90 minutes and the full trip will cost just €2.00 for adults and €1.00 for young adults and students (including the current 25% public discount).
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In February 2021 two questions were asked to the council management which outlined the costs of the scheme, the replacement of bicycles and the likelihood of it being expanded, one by Cllr Darcy Lonergan (Greens) and the other by Cllr Janet Horner (Greens).
In reply, the council said that the annual operating cost of the scheme is around €2.5 million per year — offset by commercial sponsorship, outdoor advertising as well as subscriptions and journey fees generated by members.
With the decrease in use, no revenue has been generated in excess of annual operating costs in recent years, the council said.
On the question of how often the bicycles are replaced, the council said: “The operator of the scheme is required to replace the bicycle fleet every 7.5 years. One replacement cycle has been completed with individual bicycles replaced as needed due to normal usage attrition.”
Responsibility for the management of Dublinbikes switched at the start of 2022 from the Planning Department to the Environment and Transportation Department of the council. With this, the reports showing the number of bicycles in use are no longer available, at least not in the same format, but the number of bicycles on the street seems to have peaked at 2,229 in mid-2021 while the first bicycle replacement programme was progressing.
In a future article, IrishCycle.com will look at the future of DublinBikes.