Dublin is by no means perfect – but one thing we've really got right in the last decade is our city bikes scheme.
Smattered nicely across the city, readily available wherever you are and – despite some congestion issues at rush hour – a reliable way to get from one part of the city to the other, they really are the best thing we've got since the Luas arrived in 2004.
However, according to a report in the Irish Times today, the same certainly can't be said for the scheme's equivalent in Galway, which has been royally messed up by horribly short-sighted planning.
Figures released show that each one of the city's 195 bikes is used on average nine times per month, compared with the far more hard-working machines we have here, which do an average of 222 journeys a month.
In addition to this:
- Galway's 2,029 users make just 1,723 journeys between them per month – an average of less than one per person;
- Dublin's 70,552 users, meanwhile, make a whopping 333,032 journeys between them – an average of nearly five per person;
- The total monthly journey count in Galway is just 1,723 – equivalent to a shockingly low 53 journeys per day, across 195 bikes;
- The Cork and Limerick schemes, meanwhile, land somewhere in the middle – at 3.3 and 1.5 users per person, respectively.
It's worth noting that these figures are all relative, so the obvious excuse of Galway's smaller population doesn't even apply.
So what did they do wrong?
As any Dublin Bike user knows, it's really only worth queuing up at a station and taking out a bike if the distance merits it. It's a bit of a faff after all, and sometimes you genuinely are quicker walking – particularly if you have to detour or cross a busy road to get to your station.
So, if you're going from Charlemont Bridge to Custom House Quay, or even up as far as Dame Street, it's worth your while – but nobody picks up a bike to go from St Stephen's Green to Clarendon Row. It just doesn't make sense over such a short distance.
A key part of the problem in Galway is that the two furthest-apart stations are located only 1.7km apart – roughly the same distance from Harold's Cross Bridge to Leeson Street Bridge on the Grand Canal (pictured above).
That means you're going to be saving an absolute maximum of 10 minutes' journey time, and unless your commute coincides with this exact route, it's really not enough of a sell to go through the hassle of signing up and checking out a bike on any sort of regular basis.
And are they going to save it?
There's been talk of expanding the stations further, but the council have said that this would only happen once they'd carried out a two-year review.
The flaw here is obvious – provide a shit service that nobody wants to use, you're not exactly going to have numbers that justify any sort of expansion. The proof is in the pudding in that regard, as these numbers tell a fairly alarming story.
Hopefully, though, the council will take into account some user feedback – which you would hope has been coming in thick and fast – and give the scheme some real usability by expanding out to Salthill, GMIT or Westside.
Galway is certainly a more compact city than Dublin, not to mention much smaller in terms of population, but there are absolutely no excuses for usage rates like this. All they do is jeopardise the future of the scheme overall, which in turn will make it far less likely that we see it being rolled out to every medium- to large-sized town in the country.
Nobody wants that – so Galway desperately needs to look to Dublin, in terms of how we rolled out and incentivised our scheme in the early days, to make sure the city and its people get the infrastructure they deserve.
Dublin boasts one of the best city bike schemes in the world, and it's something we should all be really proud of. Surely it can't be that difficult to replicate this success, just a few short counties away.