Historically, Dublin has never been renowned for its cycling culture. Sure, we’ve got some pretty nice Georgian buildings, a couple of quirky cobble-stoned streets and one or two landscaped parks, but our efforts in the two-wheeled department have always been a little lacking when compared to our international counterparts. But that’s all changing now – a result that is probably more than a little indebted to Dublinbikes, a city bike rental scheme that has been in operation since 2009.
The initiative was launched after JCDecaux, the outdoor billboard advertising company, agreed to fund the project in return for 72 free advertising spaces around Dublin. Spread over 40 locations around the city, the council installed 450 bicycle stands in groups of 10 and 20.
In the first year of the scheme alone, Dublinbikes surpassed everyone’s wildest expectations. Some 11,000 people applied in the first fortnight and Dublin City Council's supply of subscriber cards was reduced to zero as the council had only envisaged a 5,000-person uptake in the first year.
By March of the next year, more than 25,000 people had applied to take part in the scheme. By the end of the first 10 months, it was reported that there were over 37,000 users, 828,000 journeys, no accidents, no vandalism, and only one bike missing (which was recovered). On 14 August 2010, it was announced that the scheme had reached its one millionth trip and by May 2011, this number had doubled as Dublinbikes had expanded to 550 bicycles and 44 stations, with plans for further expansion.
As of 2011, an estimated 300-plus bike rental schemes existed worldwide and thanks to its 70,000 subscribers, Dublinbikes is one of the most successful city bike initiatives in the world. This year, Dublin City Council has announced plans to grow the scheme, hopefully bringing bike stations to several Dublin ‘burbs.
The effect that Dublinbikes has had on Dublin is obvious. Not only do the bikes themselves encourage the city’s inhabitants to get pedalling, but the increase in biking has resulted in the council’s on-going improvement of bike lanes, making Dublin a more cycle-friendly city for all types of bike users.
Film by Ross McDonnell