Improved bus services put brakes on public bike scheme

Improved bus services put brakes on public bike scheme
The number of trips taken on the public bike scheme in Cork was down by over 30,500 to 241,064 last year.

Improved bus services in Cork is regarded as one of the factors for a decline in the popularity of the city’s public bike rental scheme in Cork city last year with the number of trips down 11%.

Figures provided by the National Transport Authority, which oversees bike rental schemes in the main regional cities, also shows an even more significant drop in the use of the bikes in Galway and Limerick.

The number of trips taken on the Cork scheme, which provides 330 bikes across 33 stations, was down by over 30,500 to 241,064 last year.

It was the third annual decline in a row for the scheme in Cork where usage peaked in 2016 with over 291,000 trips.

The planned introduction of 10 new stations in Cork last year did not proceed, but the NTA said it hoped their introduction could go ahead later this year.

The busiest station in the Cork scheme was at Bandfield, which is located near UCC, which handled over 24,800 rental trips in 2019.

The decline in usage last year was most pronounced in Galway where the number of bike rentals fell by 30% — 12 months after it had experienced record growth levels.

There was also a large decrease in usage levels of the bike scheme in Limerick where journeys were down 20% — with over 5,600 fewer trips in 2019.

A total of 22,219 journeys were recorded in Limerick last year in the fourth consecutive year of falling usage of the scheme. In contrast, over 40,000 bike trips were made in Limerick in 2015.

An NTA spokesperson attributed the decline in the number of journeys made on the bike rental schemes in regional cities to changes in bus services and timetables.

“We believe improved services by Bus Éireann, particularly in Cork and Galway, where there was a noticeable increase in bus passenger numbers, was a factor,” the spokesperson said.

Although the NTA said it would like to see more people using the bike rental schemes, it claimed the trend in switching from bike to bus was still a welcome sign that commuters were opting to use sustainable transport modes.

It also pointed out that despite the reduction in the number of trips taken on the regional schemes, the overall number of annual subscribers had grown by 7% last year to 22,162.

“The figures would indicate there are more users, but they are making fewer journeys,” the spokesperson said.

Sponsorship of the regional bike rental scheme by Coca Cola Zero ended in November after a five-year deal worth €3m.

The NTA said it was not seeking further sponsorship and would be using the scheme in future to promote its “Transport for Ireland” brand. Around €4m was spent on capital investment for the schemes in Cork, Limerick, and Galway which have a combined annual running cost of around €1.1m.

The overwhelming majority of trips taken on the three schemes last less than 30 minutes — which means the borrower doesn’t incur any additional charge over the annual subscription of €10 or the three-day pass which costs €3.

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