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Dublin: 11 °C Saturday 7 December, 2019
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How Dublinbikes went from cynicism and disbelief to a 'phenomenon'

The latest expansion sees the number of bikes in the capital trebling to 1,500, and Coca-Cola Zero investing almost €2m.

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WHEN ANDREW MONTAGUE became Dublin Mayor, one of his aims was: ‘Provide a Free Bike Scheme for Dublin’.

It’s still there, tucked in amongst his other aims (‘a thriving Dublin economy’, ‘more affordable housing’) on his Labour profile page.

But when he first mooted the idea, it didn’t quite stoke up the sort of enthusiasm he had hoped for.

“I was the first guy to propose it,” he said today, catching some shade under a tree as the midday sun blazed overhead onto Grand Canal. “There was so much cynicism about it.”

Nearby were Minister for Public and Commuter Transport, Alan Kelly, and Lord Mayor Christy Burke, who had spent the past half hour holding poses while perched on Dublin Bikes emblazoned with Coca-Cola Zero signs.

Alan Kelly etc Dublin Bikes Source: Aoife Barry/TheJournal.ie

Montague had been inspired by bike schemes in cities like Copenhagen, which had also “faced the same battles and same cynicism and same disbelief”.

But he had also noted one important thing about them: “They eventually overcame the problems.”

“We were picking up a system that had already worked it out, that had gone through those all problems, so I was always confident it was going to work,” said Montague.

That proof was in the zero calorie carbonated pudding today, when yet another expansion of Dublinbikes, the scheme that faced that cynicism at the beginning, was announced.

The number of bikes is set to treble (to 1,500), and Coca-Cola Zero has invested a not insubstantial €2 million euro in the scheme.

“I didn’t realise the sheer scale of it, how successful it was going to be,” acknowledged Montague.

I knew they weren’t all going to be stolen and thrown in the river, but I didn’t know people would take to it with such numbers.

Pedalling into the future

He sees it as one day rivalling the Luas – which sees 90,000 trips a day – in terms of popularity. With 11 – 12,000 trips a day by Dublinbike, up from 6,000, he might not be aiming too high.

Now that his small hope for a bikes scheme has been so embraced by Dublin’s local authority (who have shed the cynicism and inspired their compatriots in Limerick, Galway, and Cork), and local people, he’s thinking of what should happen next.

“What we really need now is to provide the facilities to make cycling more comfortable for people,” he said, hoping for an expansion out to the suburbs.

As for the suggested North Quay changes, which would involve another cycling lane being constructed, he’s all for it. “Absolutely, we should,” he said. “We’ve got to make people feel confident about cycling”.

Why?

Because far more people can fit down the quays on a bike than can fit in a car. So it’s about getting the most amount of people around the city, about providing the best atmosphere for people visiting the city. It just makes for a friendlier, happier, more fun city, and bring it on.

Asked about any safety concerns with the bikes, he said that since Dublinbikes were launched, the number of fatalities in the city has plummeted. The council has also rolled out optional cycling classes in primary schools, which Montague would like to see in second level schools – and for adults too.

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Lord Mayor Christy Burke was among those who initially wasn’t quite sure about Montague’s bike scheme proposals.

“I don’t think many of us at the time at City Council believe[d] it would take off like it did, certainly like an express train – it’s coming down the track and it’s very difficult to stop it,” he said, having just disembarked from a bike that was situated perilously close to the canal edge.

He wants to see a ‘kiddies scheme’ being introduced, to encourage healthy living among Dublin’s youngsters.

Burke welcomes the North Quay proposals “with caution”, due to the congestion in the area. “Let’s see how it goes. If it rock and rolls OK, then I’m OK – if there’s problems we’ll have to address it.”

“The majority of people want to see cycle lanes, we want to see cycle lanes, we want to see the law being adhered to,” added Burke.
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A ‘phenomenon’

Junior Minister Alan Kelly was, of course, “thrilled” with the latest expansion – despite the fact the €2m team-up with Coca-Cola Zero has seen some criticism.

Many people didn’t even believe this was possible.

“Let’s be frank about it – by most measurements this is the most successful bike schemes in the world,” said Kelly, who added that local authorities have to look at provision for cyclists “because the numbers are growing so fast”.

“Cycling in Ireland is going through a growth spurt” concluded Kelly. “The infrastructure around the cities is improving rapidly… it’s a phenomenon.”

Do you use Dublinbikes? Want a scheme in your local area? Tell us what you think in the comments.

Read: Dublinbikes scheme signs €2 million sponsorship deal with Coke Zero>

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