Sunday 30 August 2009

Council assures public it won't be taken for a ride

Dublin City Council claims "passive surveillance" and electronic locking means its bike rental scheme, which will be launched in two weeks, is unlikely to suffer the fate of a similar scheme in Paris where over half the bikes have been stolen.

Under the scheme, Dublin citizens will have access to 450 bikes at over 40 stations for use within the city centre.

The outdoor advertising company JC Decaux is funding the operation in return for planning permission to erect 72 metro advertising panels on which it can sell advertising.

But in Paris where the advertising company operates the same scheme, over half the original 15,000 bikes have been stolen or vandalised in the two years since it was set up.

The bikes have been strung up on lamp posts and dumped in the River Seine, while some have turned up in eastern Europe and even Africa.

JC Decaux said the €400 cost of replacing each stolen bike is so high in Paris that it can no longer afford to operate the scheme.

But Dublin City Council is confident the capital won't suffer the same fate. "The council has chosen the location of the bike stations very carefully. They are all located in city centre streets with extensive footfalls so the bikes will be subject to passive surveillance by passers-by, making theft more difficult," a council spokesman said.

And if that doesn't work, each bike stand in the station has an electronic locking device which tells the user through a green/red light indicator whether the bike has been successfully locked.

This was not present in other European cites, where many users were unaware
they hadn't locked the bike, thereby presenting a golden opportunity for the random thief.

"We have learned from mistakes made elsewhere" said the council spokesman.

A third line of defence against widescale theft is that each citizen who subscribes to the scheme will have to pay a notional €150 deposit which will only be debited from your account if the bike is stolen or not returned to the station within 24 hours of first being taken out.

But the council spokesman added that the same deposit will be used to cover any damage done to the bike while you are cycling, including a puncture.

Under the scheme, a person can purchase a long-term hire card or subscription for €10 a year debited from your bank or credit-card account, with a three-day card costing €2 targeted at tourists. This card is then used to release and lock the bike.

The first half hour is free; one hour's rental costs 50 cent, two hours cost €1.50, four hours cost €6.50 and every extra half hour costs €2 thereafter.

But as Parisians use the bikes for an average of 18 minutes, the spokesman said the idea is to provide free cycling limited to the city centre.

Dublin City Council is also indemnified against claims should anybody be injured or killed while using a rental bike but it has no immediate plans to expand cycle lanes to make cycling safer. It recommends you wear a helmet but one will not be supplied.

The council also defended the deal with JC Decaux. "The advertising company funds the scheme which is worth €26.5m over the 15 years of the deal. Also, the council will have access to the advertising panels worth €23m," added the spokesman.

Sunday Tribune

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