Anybody who travels to Dublin regularly will be aware of the Dublin Bikes Scheme. There are similar schemes in Paris, London and other big cities around the world.
The concept is straight-forward. Bikes are provided at various stations throughout the city, and the general public gets to use them. If you take a bike from one of the stations, and return it to any of the other stations (or the one you took it from) within 30 minutes, you don’t pay anything. The only requirement is that you are signed up to the scheme and this involves giving your credit card details and paying an annual fee of €10. Once you’re signed up, you can use the bikes to your heart’s content and as long as you return it to any one of the stations within that 30 minute window, and if you manage not to mangle it in some way, it doesn’t cost you very much. Aside from the wider societal benefits of getting people out of their cars and onto bikes, there are major advantages to the individual.
- It’s very cheap and reliable public transport – beats taxis and buses hands down in terms of cost and flexibility for most urban journeys.
- You don’t need to buy a bike and worry about it being stolen whenever you lock it somewhere in the city.
- You don’t need to find a place to keep your bike and you don’t have to maintain it.
So, who pays for all this? The beauty of the Dublin scheme is that the council got the advertising company JC Deceaux to finance and operate it. In return, the council permitted JC Deceuax to put a whole load of new advertising billboards around the city.
Now, there is much talk of similar schemes being rolled out in Limerick, Cork and Galway (see an article in the online newspaper broadsheet.ie). Obviously, this will be great if it happens, but it’s also clear that Ireland’s smaller cities bear no comparison to its capital.
Could a bike scheme work in Limerick City? Where should the stations be located? How would it be financed?
A few things immediately spring to mind.
On the face of it, Limerick may be suited to such a scheme. It’s a reasonably compact city, with few hills, wide, straight streets and it’s easy enough to get around.
On the flip side, it has a small population, and how many of us would abandon our cars and use bikes to get to and from work, or to the shops each day? Would enough people use it to make it viable? Or is there enough of a footfall in the city centre to make it worthwhile for a company like JC Deceaux to pay for it?
Limerick is also not very bike-friendly. Our streets might be wide and straight, but the traffic system is designed primarily with cars and trucks in mind. There’s a lot of work to be done to make the city a place where you would quite happily and safely cycle around.
The suburbs of Limerick are a fair distance from the city centre and probably that bit too far away for cycling to hold much appeal to the average commuter. The two principle commuter routes of Castletroy and Raheen to the city centre both have significant hills along them, and hills are the cyclist’s enemy.
There’s a group called Limerickbikes.ie and they are interested in getting such a scheme implemented here in Limerick City. You can see more about what they are at on their facebook page here.