Friday 1 May 2009

450 rental scheme bicycles to be available at 40 Dublin sites from July

THE 450 bicycles which are to be provided under long-awaited bicycle rental scheme for Dublin city will be available at 40 locations around the city from July.

The installation of the 40 bicycle “stations”, where users will be able to pick up or drop off bicycles, began this week and is due to be completed by the end of June, paving the way for the scheme to begin in early July.

The bicycles are being provided through a deal between Dublin City Council and advertising multinational JC Decaux. Under the deal JC Decaux will provide and maintain the bicycles in exchange for a 15-year permission to use outdoor advertising space in Dublin estimated to be worth €1 million annually.

The advertising panels, about 100 of which were granted planning permission last year, were erected last summer. Initially when the scheme was proposed the bicycles were to be made available once the advertising was erected. However, the council took several months to find suitable locations for the stations. Developer Mick Wallace is building the stations and expects their construction to take nine weeks.

Concerns have been raised that the bicycles will be stolen or abandoned, but in reality they are no more likely to go missing than the renter’s own bike, according to the council’s cycling officer, Ciarán Fallon. “The subscriber will have to provide a deposit, which can be taken from and returned to their credit card when they return the bike to the station. They will also have a lock, so the bikes will be looked after in the same way as any other bike.”

Labour councillor Andrew Montague, who has campaigned for the scheme for several years, said the rental rates had been set at a level which would attract a high number of users.

“It will cost €10 a year to join and the first half an hour rental will be free; there will be an increasing scale of rents after that to encourage a frequent turnover of the bikes at the stations.”

The bicycles will also be available to tourists at a reduced joining fee. The scheme, which has been run by JC Decaux in several cities including Paris, Vienna and Lyon, has proved extremely popular, Mr Montague said.

“In Paris each bicycle has about 10 different users per day and 90 per cent of those using the bicycles had never cycled in the city centre before. Getting more people cycling leads to much greater levels of safety for cyclists.”

The scheme has drawn considerable criticism, most notably from Green Party TD Ciarán Cuffe, who called it a “dodgy deal” due to the large amount of advertising space JC Decaux was getting access to. However the council has consistently maintained the deal was a solid one for the city and included the removal of large numbers of old-fashioned advertising hoardings on the sides of buildings.

The council originally intended the bicycles would be provided free, but it could not find anyone to run a free scheme. In April 2006, it announced JC Decaux had been selected to run a bicycle rental scheme. In April 2007 the council granted JC Decaux permission to erect in the region of 100 advertising panels across the city.

Irish Times

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