Public Transport Minister Alan Kelly unveiled the first of the distinctive looking 720 black and red bikes which will be introduced as part of the regional cities Coca Cola Zero Bikes scheme which is being overseen by the National Transport Authority (NTA), and operated by the An Rothar Nua consortium.
Coca Cola Ireland is sponsoring the schemes as part of a €3m investment over three years.
Mr Kelly said the schemes will be successful and dismissed criticism of the sponsorship deal between the NTA, which is overseeing the scheme which will promote physical activity, and a company which makes sugary drinks.
“To counter that argument, you could also say it is more important to get more people out cycling to deal with the issue of obesity. There is a direct link between physical activity and a decrease in that,” Mr Kelly said.
“I am quite satisfied that this wouldn’t have happened unless we got a company of the stature of Coca Cola on board.
“I was tasked by government to get bike schemes introduced in the major cities. Many people said it was impossible.
“But we’ve achieved it, and they will in place soon.
“I’m very proud of that achievement. It will work and I absolutely guarantee it will be successful. We’ll be back here in a year wondering if we can expand the schemes.”
Work will start in Cork next week on the installation of docking stations.
Registration for the schemes, which will have a pricing structure broadly similar to the Dublin Bike Scheme which charges a €10 annual registration fee, will take place closer to the launch date.
Mr Kelly said there was a lot of cynicism associated with the launch of the capital’s scheme in 2009.
“People said the bikes were all going to end up in the Liffey, but less than a handful of bikes have been damaged or lost,” he said.
“The Dublin bike scheme is the most successful such scheme in Europe, per capita.”
The new bikes are unique because they have built-in gear-shifting technology, enabling automatic gear changes which will contribute towards easier and safer cycling for users.
Mr Kelly said depending on the success of these schemes, additional schemes in other cities, such as Waterford, and elsewhere, may be introduced.
Hugh Creegan, the deputy chief executive of the NTA, said work on the installation of the electrics required for the docking stations in Cork will start next week. The kiosks and stands will be installed later in the summer.
He also said the NTA is examining how it can integrate the Leap card into the bike scheme’s booking mechanism. The NTA has invested €7m in the last year in bike lanes, bus priority lanes and traffic management systems in the Cork area alone.
320 bikes, 31 bike stations, 635 bike stands.
205 bikes, 19 bike stations, 395 bike stands.
215 bikes, 23 bike stations, 445 bike stands.