Re: Re: The Velibs are coming?
From the Evening Herald yeaterday:
Our cycle-unfriendly city is not ready for free bikes
By LORRAINE COURTNEY
Monday August 17 2009
In 2006, Dublin City Council announced that a deal had been made with outdoor advertising company JCDecaux: free bikes for the city, in exchange for free advertising space. It’s finally happening this September.
The city council stands to get 450 bicycles, 40 bicycle stations, billboard advertising and a series of fingerposts directing tourists to city attractions. JCDecaux will earn millions from the scheme.
The French company cut its teeth on such bikes-for-posters deals in Lyon.
The Velo’v scheme was later renamed and rolled out in Paris in 2007. The Parisian Velib (its name is a contraction of velo and libre) scheme has had some success. There are more than 20,000 bikes on the streets, a rank every 300 metres and more than two million journeys made every month. Parking spaces are being taken over by Velib rental ranks, commuters can pay for their bike journeys with their integrated transport swipe card and hundreds of kilometres of cycle lanes are being built.
Dublin is only getting a small fleet of 450 bikes. And while the council didn’t pay for the bikes, the public will have to pay to use them.
Before you can take a bike, you must first either buy a Smart Card for €10 on the new website or alternatively put a charge of €150 on your credit card. This registration will activate your account.
The first 30 minutes usage is free, and thereafter, it costs 50 cent per half hour.
You can deposit the bikes at any other station around the city, providing there is a free space for it. If you don’t return the bike, your time clocks up, as does the money you are charged for the rental.
Is the self-service bicycle the perfect solution to congestion on our streets? It seems too good to be true. Dublin City Council don’t need to cough up a cent. Traffic jams will disappear. Carbon emissions will drop and we’ll become a utopia of peddling commuters. Anyone who’s tried to negotiate the city centre recently knows that it lacks a dedicated bike-lane system to safely support existing, let alone additional, cyclists. There are simply not enough cycle lanes and cycle paths.
Some of the space dedicated to cyclists on busy thoroughfares is so limited as to be of little value to the inexperienced or people well used to cycling. And because of poor enforcement, even these narrow lanes can often be blocked by carelessly parked cars.
When the Velib cycling scheme was introduced in Paris a few years ago, the city authorities made sure to allocate more space on the streets for cyclists. But there is no indication that there will be a corresponding increase in the number or width of cycle lanes in the capital.
Hung from lampposts, drowning in the Seine, broken and torched to pieces, the Parisian bikes are proving expensive to maintain.
JCDecaux must be struggling to fund a system with such a rapid turnover. The most common vandalism reported by the repair personnel is tyre-slashing, but bikes are also being stolen and are very rarely recovered.
There are reports of the specially made models turning up in Eastern European locations and even in Africa.
More worryingly, the Parisian bikes have fallen victim to a new craze dubbed Velib Extreme.
Young riders are stealing and pushing the bikes to the extreme on BMX courses and fast descents down the long stairs of the Montmartre hill and jumps.
Daredevil stunts are filmed and then posted on YouTube. A scheme that intends making urban travel more civilised might end up increasing anti-social behaviour and bringing about more accidents.
There is one upside to it all though. The tipsy will have an alternative to queuing for a taxi home on Friday nights.
– LORRAINE COURTNEY
I dont think that the bikes will be an alternative to taxis at all, apart from the system not being available late at night, to avoid drunken cyclists, unless you live within a 10-15 min walk of the center of the city you wont have a place to park it. And you’re hardly going to get a taxi (or bus for that matter) such a short distance.
If you live outside of the city center then the bikes are not suitable for travelling to/from home anyway.
It’s a very good point about cycle lanes and safety. If we are breaking with the French Velib system by not bothering to provide adequate cycle lanes and enhance safety there is a genuine risk that there will be serious accidents as a result of the new bikes on the streets. DCC surely have a duty of care to manage this risk and will, in perhaps a short time, as soon as the first serious accident happens have no choice but to shut down the system.
Afterall the bikes are designed for tourists and city cycling novices to jump on and have a go!