Should Bicycle Parking Cost More Than Car Parking? Should It Cost Anything?

Dublin City Council is rolling out its BikeBunker scheme, but some cyclists have winced at the price tag – €100 for a space for a year.

First trialed in 2014, the scheme aims to provide secure bike-parking spaces for people in residential areas – addressing issues around storage and theft that can keep some from cycling.

But some have pointed to the difference between the cost of the cycle spaces, and the cost of a residential car-parking permit – which is much cheaper, at €50 per year and €80 for two years.

Shane Waring, of Dublin City Council Beta Projects, says people are “comparing apples and oranges” when looking at the two.

Janet Horner, a Green Party councillor and member of the Dublin Cycling Campaign, says the service should be free. “Having somewhere secure to leave a bike and protected is huge for supporting cycling.”

But “I don’t think we should be lacking ambition in how we want to incentivise cycling. Providing free, safe, secure parking is one way to do that,” she says.

The Price

The cost of a BikeBunker is €950 per year, according to Beta Projects, which was set up in 2012 to test solutions to different city problems in a limited way, with low risk, so the council can see what worked and what didn’t before it leapt into anything.

“There’s the assumption of maintenance once or twice a year,” says Waring, who leads the Beta Projects team.

“It includes maybe cleaning it once or twice a year, maybe repainting it or clearing up graffiti, paying for space, the shipping and installation,” he says.

The most expensive part is the hangar itself, which costs around €4,000, including installation, he says.

The Beta Projects website also says that one of the factors for the cost of the bike hangar was “covering the lost revenue of it as a car parking space”.

Waring says they expect each bunker to last eight or nine years.

Without a subsidy from the council, it would cost €165 a year for space, rather than €100, he says. So “it’s already subsidised so the question is how much it’s subsidised for”.

Independent Councillor Christy Burke, who’s head of the council’s transport committee, said on Tuesday that he didn’t agree with the pricing of the BikeBunkers.

“Bikes can get hit with graffiti, they can get stolen or vandalised,” Burke said. “I don’t agree with a €100 a year, but I do agree that your bike is going to be protected, maintenance costs will be lower and it’s going to prevent theft.”

Says Horner, the Green Party councillor: “I just hope that the charge associated isn’t going to be permanent.”

“We should be recognizing the overall savings to the city – through health, roads repair, accidents, etcetera, of people switching from driving to cycling as their main transport mode,” she says.

Cheaper Car Parking

At the moment, the council charges motorists €50 for one year and €80 for two years for residential car-parking permits for those who live in houses and in an area with pay and display metres. Some others are charged more.

Dublin City Council Press Office didn’t respond to queries as to how they calculate the cost of a residential car-parking space, or how much these are subsidised by.

Residential parking schemes are there “to eliminate illegal and all-day commuter parking”, said a council spokesperson, by email. “They are not introduced to generate revenue.”

The council has to be seen to be “fair and equitable to the residents who live in high and low demand on-street parking areas”, the spokesperson said. Therefore “€50 for one year and €80 for two years reflects this”.

They did not say how that price is determined, but said that setting price in line with hourly rates would be “very prohibitive in many areas”.

Funded in Full

The team at Dublin City Council Beta Projects spoke to different boroughs in London while researching the pilot for the BikeBunker scheme, notes a report from 2015.

Some boroughs regretted the pricing, says Waring. “They said their biggest mistake was not charging more and once they had set the cost, they couldn’t really increase it.”

“From memory, one of them had a waiting list of 60,000 people,” he says. “They felt funding was what was causing their problem.”

It “makes sense to suppress demand for this service”, he says, so there won’t be huge waiting lists. The service is only available “within the canals” and there’s a cap on two spaces per household.

Waring says Dublin City Council wants to “start from a position of strength” – and eventually bring the price down.

People can register their interest online. That’s given the team an idea of the demand for the service so far.

As of last Wednesday, Waring says, there were 176 applicants – enough to fill 40 hangars if those people lived close to one another.

“Twice that if they are all spread out,” says Waring. The areas with “clusters” of interest are Phibsborough, Rialto, and Stoneybatter.

Waring says the council are looking at whether to put all the BikeBunkers for the first phase in these areas – or to spread them out.

It plans to install the first nine hangars by November, he said.

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Aura McMenamin: is a city reporter covering the south side of the city, and jobs. You can reach her at aura@dublininquirer.com.

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