October 10, 2008

40 rental locations for city bike plan

THE LONG-AWAITED bicycle rental scheme for Dublin city has moved a step closer with the announcement by Dublin City Council of 40 city centre locations where the bicycles will be available for hire.

However, the 450 bicycles will not be in situ until an undetermined date next summer, the council has said.

The bicycles are being provided by advertising multinational JCDecaux in exchange for outdoor advertising space in Dublin estimated to be worth €1 million annually. The advertising panels, about 100 of which were granted planning permission earlier this year, were erected last summer.

The scheme has been beset by delays and has drawn much criticism, most notably from Green Party TD Ciarán Cuffe, who called it a “dodgy deal”, and from the National Council for the Blind of Ireland (NCBI), which said the panels were a danger to the visually impaired.

Under the deal JCDecaux will supply about four rental bikes for each on-street panel, which it has permission to display for 15 years.

Under a similar scheme in Paris JCDecaux supplies 12 bicycles for each panel and pays the local authority annual rent of more than €2,000 for each advertising unit.

Dublin City Council originally intended the bicycles would be provided free. However, it could not find anyone to run a free scheme. In April 2006, the council said that JCDecaux had been selected to run a bicycle rental scheme.

In April 2007 the council granted JCDecaux permission to erect in the region of 100 advertising panels across the city.

In 24 cases appeals were made against the panels to An Bord Pleanála. Last February the planning board upheld 18 of these appeals on the basis that the panels would cause a traffic hazard.

The council said yesterday it had identified 40 “potential public bike stations” in an area extending from the Mater hospital in the north city to the Grand Canal in the south and from Smithfield in the west to the IFSC and north docklands in the east.

The exact positioning of the bicycle stations would now have to be assessed and the design and installation of the stations would begin next March.

The hire costs and the exact operation of the scheme have not yet been determined, the council said. However, it is likely it would be modelled on the schemes which JCDecaux operates throughout Europe.

The bicycles would be located at depots around the city. To release a bicycle a user must insert a debit or credit card, from which a charge of about €150 is taken. When the bicycle is returned to a depot the charge is released back to the card. A rental charge is also applied. In relation to Mr Cuffe’s comments, the council has said there was nothing untoward about the deal with JCDecaux. It also said it was reviewing locations of some panels in collaboration with the NCBI.

The Irish Times