THE National Transport Authority has ruled out extending the public bike scheme to the suburbs in Cork, claiming that the manual refilling of bike stations outside the city would result in ‘very significant increases’ in the cost of the scheme.
The NTA spends just over €1 million per year operating the scheme in Cork, Limerick and Galway, with Cork accounting for ‘about half’ the total cost, according to a response to a parliamentary question posed by Labour TD Seán Sherlock.
More than 860,000 trips have been racked up on the public bikes in Cork since it was introduced in 2015, with 11,500 members registering in that time.
Its popularity prompted calls for the scheme to be extended beyond the 31 city centre bike stations, with areas like Wilton, Blackpool, Bishopstown, Douglas and Mahon suggested.
However, the NTA has now essentially ruled out such an expansion on the basis of cost. Hugh Creegan, the deputy chief executive of the NTA, responded to the parliamentary question from Cork East TD Sherlock, describing the expansion as ‘challenging from an operational cost perspective.’
The scheme operates on a ‘self-distributing’ model at present, where users take short trips and drop their bike at a different station, keeping a constant flow of bikes between stations.
A manual bike distribution system is also in place, involving a fleet of trucks refilling stations to prevent shortages.
Extending the scheme out to the suburbs would vastly increase this workload, Mr Creegan said.
“As bike stations move further out from a central area, the flow of bike users generally becomes more unbalanced at each station, requiring a lot of bike redistribution by truck. This means an increasing level of operational cost associated with this redistribution,” he said.
Peter Horgan, Labour representative in Cork South-Central, slammed the response by the NTA.
“Once again it is a collective shrug to the cycling potential of Cork city and the suburbs from the NTA,” said Mr Horgan.
“We talk about enhancing the transport options through cycle lanes and other infrastructure yet we back down at practical investment. There is always a person with the finger on the purse-strings saying that it’s too expensive.
“If Cork is to really expand as a metropolitan place to live and work on a sustainable basis then this sort of investment is needed sooner rather than later.”