THE hugely successful free bikes scheme in the capital is due to be rolled out in up to four other cities in the new year.
Four multinational companies have expressed interest in providing sponsorship for bike schemes in Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford. Cork will be the most expensive scheme, costing an estimated €500,000, with the other cities costing €350,000 each.
Junior Transport Minister Alan Kelly said the response from the private companies had been very encouraging.
"I am confident we can get a city bike scheme up and running (this year) in at least one city outside of Dublin, if not more," he said.
The National Transport Authority has advertised the scheme to companies over the past six months on the basis that they agree to provide sponsorship for a period of three to five years.
Under the new sponsorship model, companies will have their names attached to the bikes being provided in the four cities. The number of bikes and stations to be provided in each city is dependent on the level of sponsorship provided by each of the four companies which have come forward.
The Department of Transport is expected to contribute around €1m to the schemes, and the councils in each city may also provide some funding.
Mr Kelly said that the Dublin Bike scheme had been a great success, with more than four million journeys made since its launch in 2009.
"The Dublin Bike scheme has created huge awareness levels around cycling and made it fashionable again. Adding a bike scheme to Cork, Limerick, Galway or Waterford would certainly represent a major boost for cycling in this country," he said.
The National Transport Authority carried out feasibility studies for all four cities and found that it was not possible to copy the Dublin Bikes funding model, where advertising company JC Decaux is paying for the cost of the entire scheme in return for free billboards around the city.
The populations in Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford are too small to interest advertisers in this type of scheme. So the option of private sponsorship is being pursued instead.
In Dublin, most of the 70,000 people who use the bikes spend an average of 13 minutes on them. Each bike is used 10 times per day on average. And around 97pc of journeys are made within the free 30-minute journey window. There is a €10 per year subscription charge and there are also charges if a bike is used for more than 30 minutes on a single journey.
Although the scheme launched with 450 bikes and 40 stations, this has since increased to 550 bikes and 44 stations. Dublin City Council has plans to increase the number of bikes in the capital even further to 5,000, and the number of stations to 300 over the coming years.