Sunday, June 21, 2009

A (Bicycle) Accident Waiting to Happen

I spotted a row of unusual grey metal columns in Dublin's Exchequer Street yesterday. I eventually figured they were part of the imminent 'bike-rental' scheme to be launched in September by the Council and JC Decaux. Dublin City Council is getting 450 bikes for 'free' from JC Decaux in return for the latter having use of advertising space around the city.

The bikes are the same as those used in a similar scheme in Paris. Which is why we should be worried. Here's Division of Labour on the Parisian experience:
Parisians have clearly taken to Vélib'. They are also taking the bicycles, and wrecking them, at an unanticipated rate.

Since the program started in July, 2007, 8,000 of the bicycles have been stolen, and nearly 1,400 people were arrested for Vélib' theft just last year.

Police have retrieved about 100 of the purloined bicycles from the depths of Paris canals and the Seine River. Some have been spotted on balconies. There have been reports that a few turned up, mysteriously, on the streets of other European cities. But the fate of most of the missing bicycles is unknown.

At the same time, 16,000 bicycles have been vandalized.

It seems half of all the bikes have had to be replaced by JC Decaux. No big deal for Dublin County Council surely - after all the deal is that JC Decaux must have 450 bikes available at all times? So they, and not the Council, are financially liable for replacements. Problem is: the same deal was done in Paris, but it turns out the city council there is now having to pay for replacements themselves - at a cost of €1.6 million a year.

On yer bike I say to that kind of deal. Though preferably not one subsidised by the taxpayer/rate payer.


  1. how embarrassing to hear what the french cretins do with the gifts of free transport by bicycle around town. i fear the same will happen here with the irish cretins ... however, maybe we'll be delighted that our citizens act like caring socially-conscious humans. it could happen!

  2. Surprise, surprise Irish commentator is pessimistic about new cycle initiative.

    Strange as to why you choose to compare Dublin to a scheme in a city five times its size and not one just half its size (Lyon) where it has been enormously successful.

    The Lyon experience does not mirror that of Paris and it has increased by 80% the numbers of bikes using the road. (Though it may be counter intuitive - increased bike use decreases as a percentage of bike users the rate of accidents, as car drivers become more familiar and expectant of cyclists).

    In Paris the bikes have been used 42 million times in just 18 months with an average of 10,000 km per bike per year. Does that sound like a failure to you!!!

    Yes there have been problems in Paris but the projected revenue from the project is €20 million in year one - so replace a few of the bikes still would not put a dent in the revenue generated. Also the project in Paris is 20,000 bikes significantly larger than the numbers proposed for Dublin.

    You pay a deposit of €150 from your credit card when you rent the bikes out so that covers some of the cost involved.

    What is the overall contract work to Dublin Council, I have heard a figure of €90 million!! OK there is ugly billboards to contend with.

    I think any initiative that gets fat (or should that be obese) lazy Dubliners back on a bike and away from their beloved reliance on motorised vehicles is a good thing. Believe it or not Dublin is an ideal city to cycle around – not too hilly and relatively small. And no it doesn’t rain that much ... you big girl!!

    However, the depressing thing is your pessimism is probably well placed and this scheme could end up a disaster.

  3. Just for the record: I think bicycles are a great mode of transport. I just don't see the need for the taxpayer to get involved (even at one remove).

    Let the market do the innovation I say. Like bamboo bikes:

  4. My complaint is your comparator for the Dublin scheme, you used Paris as an example while I contend Lyon would be more appropriate.

    Where in the Lyon initiative is the tax payer involved? In actual fact it is an income generator (ok the bicycle piece is only a small component part of an overall scheme)with possible health benefits.

    You have gone slightly at a tangent in terms of bamboo frames, which are curretly very costly but nonetheless a very interesting proposition.

    Delighted to see your holding on to the primacy of the market as a regulator of resources!

    (p.s. thanks for your Kiva link, what a great idea and I had never come across it before)

  5. you talk about the cost of the scheme and don't mention its potential benefits - surely that is how the scheme should be judged - do the benefits outweigh the costs?


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