THE hugely-successful Dublin bikes-for-hire scheme will be available in three other cities from next summer.
Public Transport minister Alan Kelly today unveiled plans to have 700 bikes installed in Cork, Limerick and Galway by next July.
Sponsored by Coca Cola Ireland, the bikes will be branded ‘Coke Zero bikes’ with 315 for Cork, 200 in Limerick and 185 in Galway.
There will be 31 docking stations in Cork, 23 stations in Limerick and 19 stations in Galway, with the locations to be decided over the coming months.
The schemes, which will be the first of their kind outside the capital, will allow cyclists to use bikes for either free or at a low cost and take or leave them at various docking stations throughout the cities.
The cost has not yet been decided, but is expected to be the same as Dublin where it costs €10 per year to subscribe, with the first half-hour free.
After that, charges range from 50 cents per hour up to €6.50 for four hours.
The number of cyclists in Dublin has grown 40pc since 2009, and it is hoped that similar rises will be shown in the regions.
"This is a breakthrough day for cycling in Ireland,” Mr Kelly said. “Cork, Galway and Limerick will be joining the likes of Paris, London, Barcelona and Dublin as the cities which have their own public-bike schemes.
“We would estimate that an additional 700,000 cycling trips will be taken per annum because of this scheme. This project has been over two years in the making. Having held the first bike symposiums in the cities mentioned to explore the possibilities of putting such a scheme together, it is an amazing achievement to see it pay off and a private sector partner for the schemes secured,"
A tender to seek partners for the scheme was inititated by the National Transport Authority (NTA) in November 2012, with Coca-Cola chosen from four companies which entered the bidding process.
NTA chief executive Gerry Murphy said the local authorities were pursing cycling and public transport improvements, and that the scheme should prove as successful as that in Dublin.
The bikes and stations will cost €4m to install, paid for by the NTA, and €900,000 to operate and maintain.
The NTA are currently in the process of competitive tendering for companies to supply, install and maintain the bikes as part of the scheme. The tender process is expected to be completed by December 2013, and the bikes will be available by next July.
The NTA also plans to extend the Dublin Bikes scheme from 550 bikes at present to 1,500 over the next year, with new docking stations to be provided at railway stations, the outskirts of the city centre and in the Docklands.