'Free' bike scheme to expand 10-fold as pedal power grows
The number of 'free' bikes on the streets of Dublin is set to increase almost 10-fold within just four years.
There has been a dramatic increase in pedal power on the streets of the capital, with tourists, commuters and students availing of the Dublin Bikes scheme.
Currently, there are 550 bikes available across the city's 99 stations and within four years that number will have increased to 5,000.
Members have taken more than six million journeys on the bikes since the scheme opened in September 2009.
At the moment, the Dublin Bikes scheme is undergoing its 'phase three' expansion, which brings the number of bikes from its current level to 1,500 by June, with 102 stations.
Lord Mayor Oisin Quinn said the popularity of the scheme will see it increase to 5,000 bikes across the city and into the suburbs by 2018 at the latest.
"The ultimate objective is to bring the bike numbers up to 5,000; that's the realistic estimate that we have," he said.
Mr Quinn said the 5,000 mark was a planned initiative and that the figure was decided upon as the maximum amount of bikes the city's traffic plan could contend with.
Junior Transport Minister Alan Kelly described the scheme as one of the most successful in the world. "It has raised awareness of cycling in general in Dublin and the numbers of cyclists has gone up by over 40pc since its introduction," Mr Kelly said.
"Motorists have even changed their behaviour and are more accommodating of cyclists and the general visibility if cycling has come on.
"Cycling has taken off massively in this country thanks to Dublin Bikes and other measures.
"I expect the expansion over the next few years to be a huge success," Mr Kelly added.
On March 12, Dublin Bikes recorded a record number of trips in one day, with 7,642 journeys being made on that day.
Mr Quinn described the figure as "great" and they are aware the demand is there. "With the longer evenings and better weather more people use the bikes," he added.
The bike scheme is also understood to be in the final- stage negotiations with a major sponsor to fund the next big expansion.
In New York, the bike scheme is sponsored by Citi Bank and in London the 'Boris Bikes' – named after Mayor Boris Johnson – are sponsored by Barclays Bank.
Mr Quinn is himself an avid user of Dublin Bikes, hopping on one several times a week to get around the city for appointments and meetings.
Dublin Bikes has more than 36,000 active long-term subscribers, with 95pc of journeys taking less than 30 minutes.
Any journey under 30 minutes is free.
The latest expansion, which started last November, will see stations reach as far west as Heuston Station and as far east as the docklands.
This year alone, new stations have opened in places like Mount Street Lower, Hanover Quay and City Quay, with expansions of existing stations on some inner city streets.