Dublin City Council plans to increase the capacity of the Dublinbikes scheme which will allow advertising firm JC Decaux 10 per cent more advertising space within the city to pay for the increase. Many commentators had said that the scheme would be failure and the most of the bike would be stolen, vandalised or even end up in the Liffey. Instead the scheme has been a huge success, was anticipated that the scheme would have 1,500 members but after year one year there are more than 30,000 subscribers.
The biggest issues you may have at the moment is that if you pick up a bike and bring it to the closest station to your destination only to find there are no free stands, so you move further away from your destination in an attempt to find a free stand. This is very frustration and leaves you less likely to use the bike the next time. Dublin City Council plans to increase the number of bike stands from 795 to 1,087 and the number of bikes available from 450 to 550. There will also be four new stations at Smithfield, Eccles Street, Harcourt Terrace and Charlemont Mall.
There are some issues about the latest proposals that cause me concern. We all know there is no such thing as ‘a free lunch’ in return for this expansion the Council intends to exempt JC Decaux from applying for planning permission for the new advertising structures. The last time around An Bord Pleanála refused of one-fifth of all sites granted permission by the council. Planning laws are in serious need of reform, O’Connell street is blighted by poor planning regulations and governance and the recent 30kph debacle is another such issue. If these signs are exempt from planning how can the location, design and erection of these signs be regulated. If the past decade has though us anything we need to ensure that there is proper planning regulation to ensure that Dublin as a whole is developed in a coherent way. It would appear on the surface that Dublin City Council is trying to skirt around the current planning laws to allow JC Decaux put up advertisement metropoles.
Another issue for a cyclists in Dublin is the lack of joined up segregated cycle lanes through out the city. Figures for last year shows 6,853 people cycled through the city on a given day. The recent decision to introduce a 30kph has provided little benefit to improve safety for cyclists in the city. Those cycle along the Quays on a regular basis, know that you take your life in your own hands every time you go down there. Because there are no segregated cycle-lanes cyclists must share the Bus Lanes for most of the Quays. The biggest risk I find is from taxi drivers who regularly cut me off as the swerve around you to get in the Bus Lane. If were serious about addressing safety for cyclists proper segregated cycle lanes should be top of the list.
Despite the recent announcement for Dublinbikes scheme Heuston station has yet again failed to be included in for a new bike stand. Thousands of people disembark here every day and the placement of a bike rack would be hugely beneficial to those who would use Dublinbikes to complete their journey. At present if you want to use a Dublinbikes the closest station is at Smithfield.
I welcome plans to enlarge the scheme but let’s ensure that’s its done in tandem with measures that really improve safety for cyclists. And not comprising planning laws for commercial interest, with a few bicycles as a fringe benefit, we have had enough of that .