The following is an article written for Triple Pundit, an innovative new-media company that cultivates awareness and understanding of the of the triple bottom line.
On a recent visit to Dublin, Ireland, as I made my way back to my hotel along the quiet, rainsoaked streets, I rounded the southeast corner of St Stephen’s Green to find a rack of 20 identical shining bicycles in the lamplight. At the center of the bikerack was a kiosk: glowing, begging for attention. I read the information on the bikesharing kiosk, and immediately, renting a bike and careening through the city streets became my number one holiday objective.
Since 2009, Dublin has seen overwhelming success with its bicycle sharing program. Dublinbikes, modeled after the Paris Bike Program, has had a high adoption rate as Dubliners are using the bikes much more than anyone had expected. The program has been so popular that this past November, the City Council voted to expand the program from the current 500 bikes to 5,000.
The brilliance of the system is found in its simplicity. When Dubliners need to get from one part of town to another, they can check out a bike from one of 40 bike centers around the city and deposit at another when they are done.
Dublin Bikes from Guillaume Driscoll on Vimeo.
The bicycles are free for the first half-hour. Afterwards, there is an escalating, hourly-based, tiered pricing structure. This encourages riders to keep their trips brief and allow more users the opportunity to utilize the biking system. The rider is also on the hook should anything happen to the bicycle while it is in their care. If the bike is not returned the credit card on record is charged.
Due to the monetary incentive, the program has had only several bikes damaged and very few stolen, unlike the Paris scheme, whose theft and vandalization rate threatened to end the program.
Riders can sign up for the service easily by registering online for a Longterm Hire card. However, if a rider is visiting the city for a short period of time (as this writer was) they can sign up for a 3-Day pass for €2 (~$3).
According to a local Transportation Department survey, 70% of the riders use the bikes for commuting purposes, while 30% use it for shopping or enjoyment. Of shoppers, almost half of riders made trips that they otherwise would not have, adding additional revenue to local business. This is also helped by another feature of the bike that allows riders to use a built-in onboard bike lock should riders want to make a stop during their ride.
Expanding the Program
Because of the extremely high popularity of the program, the city council voted last year to expand the program from 450 to 5,000 bicycles in the coming years. In addition to the number of bikes available, the program also hopes to increase the number of locations of bike stations where bikes can be picked up or dropped off. One issue some riders mentioned was that on occasions bike stations would fill up and riders would have to locate the next closes station on the kiosk. Increasing stations would alleviate this issue as well as open up it up to more riders.
There are even questions if the program’s effects can be felt nationally. Over the last two years the Ireland biking industry has seen a significant increase in bicycles sales, prompting many in the industry to wonder if there is a correlation, in addition to a faltering economy and skyrocketing gas prices.
City officials in the United States have also taken notice of the program’s popularity. In April, the city of Boston signed an agreement to start their own version called HUB that could be in place as early as this July. Other cities, like San Francisco, are eagerly searching for alternative transportation methods that are both healthy and sustainable, and will certainly be watching these programs closely.
Back in Dublin I hopped off my bike to catch my breath after peddling frantically through the morning rush hour. I was barely able to to keep up with the bike traffic. However, just two years into the program DublinBikes shows no sign of slowing down.
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