Friday 21 March 2008

Minister urges Dublin to adopt Paris system of bike rental

The Irish Times has reported that the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Eamon Ryan TD, has urged Dublin City Council to adopt the Parisian model for its city bicycle rental scheme.

The city council has signed a deal with outdoor advertising company JC Decaux for 450 bicycles in exchange for allowing the company street advertising space estimated to be worth in the region of €1 million annually.

JC Decaux already runs the Paris Velib scheme as well as several other bicycle rental schemes in Europe - but there are differences in how each system operates.

After a presentation at Paris Town Hall, Minister Ryan said he would like to see Dublin introduce the Paris scheme. "The best working example is Paris. People think they'll all be stolen, but when you can show such a good working system, I am hopeful. The scale of this is so good - 20,000 bicycles - you need that scale."

The scheme would work best if the mayor of Dublin had real power, like the mayors of Paris, London and New York, Mr Ryan told The Irish Times. The number of one-way streets in the Irish capital were also a deterrent to cyclists, he said.

At the Velib station outside the Paris Town Hall, Matthieu Fierling, the deputy head of the project, told the Minister how the city installed 750 wholly automatic bicycle stations last summer, currently has 1,200 across the city - with a goal of 1,451 by this summer.

On average, 80,000 bicycle trips are made in Paris every day, with up to 120,000 on peak days.

By next summer, the city will have 20,600 bicycles in service.

If cyclists were encouraged, Minister Ryan said, cities like Paris and Dublin "will reach a tipping point, where the bicycles start to dominate the streets instead of the cars". Like Paris, he noted, Dublin was a flat city where the average journey was less than two miles. "In the city, for any journey under four kilometres, the bicycle always wins and it's the only form of transport that is door-to-door."

Because the average bicycle journey in Paris lasts 22 minutes, the designers of Velib made the first half-hour of bicycle rental free, to encourage people to return bicycles quickly, for maximum turnover. There is a €150 deposit to discourage theft - a day pass can be bought for €1, a week pass for €5 or an annual pass for €29.
"In Paris, the three deterrents were fears about theft, maintenance and parking" - Mr Fierling said. Velib bikes come with their own lock and basket. They are maintained by the contractor and there is a station where they can be returned every 300m. By this summer, Paris will have invested a total of €90 millioin in the Velib system and the street hoardings which finance it.

The city has also built 400km of bicycle lanes - many of which are shared by buses. Mayor Bertrand Delanoë made Velib self-financing by linking the contract for maintaining and renting the bicycles to a monopoly on 1,600 city-owned advertising hoardings.

Nearly 5 per cent of Dublin journeys are by bicycle, Mr Ryan noted - "Once you get 7, 8 or 9 per cent, there's no reason you can't go to 20 per cent."

The Irish Times

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