Bike Bunkers and the Cost of Parking
Dublin City Council plans to roll out another 350 “bike bunkers” to meet growing demand for the lockable, covered bike parking pods, said Will Mangan, a council executive engineer last week.
It will cost €3 million over three years, funded by the National Transport Authority, Mangan said at a meeting of the council’s transport committee on 8 September.
Bike bunkers are locked hangers for four or six bikes that are usually installed in a car parking space on a residential street.
When the council began to roll-out the scheme, some councillors said it was too expensive, and that they didn’t understand why it cost so much more to park a bike than a car.
At the transport committee meeting, Brendan O’Brien, head of transport for Dublin City Council, said that the council is going to reconsider the cost of private car parking and permits in the city.
Council officials had been planning to propose a discussion around that with councillors, he said. “Which hasn’t been raised in a long time.”
“Bike bunkers kind of threw up this anomaly,” he said, that in effect, people with bikes pay €600 for the same space as the council gives away for €50 for a car.
Council officials will likely bring a report to the next transport committee meeting, he said, centering around whether to reduce the cost of a bike bunker, or increase the price of a parking permit, he said, “and cross-subsidising some of this”.
The council’s greening strategy and move towards outdoor dining is also reason to reconsider the cost of parking. “Obviously there’s various different demands now on that space,” he said. “That all means removing some car spaces.”
Bunker costs should be made proportional to parking spaces, says Janet Horner, a Green Party councillor. “The first thing everybody will always say is why is it €50 for a [car] parking space?”
“Obviously try to explain to them that the way these are kind of run separately, but we do need to address that, you know, inequality in pricing,” she said.
Mangan, the council engineer, said the €100 cost for a bike space will continue for this tender. “Once we have a certain number in the city, we can certainly look at the price structure,” he said. “Obviously it’s all on demand, the pricing demand.”
The council plans to tender within the next six to eight weeks, he said. The company that wins the contract will be responsible for traffic management, and installation and maintenance of the bunkers.
Where the new bunkers go will be based on demand, said Mangan.
Delivering by Bike
This month, the council plans to launch a six-month trial scheme to give electric cargo bikes to city businesses to do deliveries, Jennifer McGrath, an executive engineer with the council, said at the transport committee meeting.
It’s so businesses can replace trips that would otherwise have been done by car or van, said McGrath.
Businesses will pay €100 per month for a bike. Maintenance of the bikes and cycling training for delivery cyclists will be provided by the cycle-sharing company Bleeper Bikes.
Cargo bikes are a key solution to traffic congestion due to deliveries, said Brendan O’Brien, head of transport for the council.
“As we change the city and as we build out better and better cycle tracks, this provides a really good way of still making sure that businesses can stay, you know, still, still get to deliver, still compete, still stay in the area,” he said.
Richard Guiney, CEO of business association Dublin Town, said the scheme has scope to take vehicles off the road in the “last mile” of delivery. It could allow the council to rethink the management of deliveries in the city, he said.
“For example, on Grafton Street which can get very, very congested,” he said, and sometimes trucks don’t obey the allocated delivery window.“It’s supposed to be 11 o’clock but often it’s beyond that.”
Mannix Flynn, an independent councilor, said he supports the idea of reducing congestion of vans and trucks. “One has only got to look at Henry Street in the morning, even Grafton Street, when the deliveries are coming it’s outrageous.”
McGrath said that cargo cyclists should walk down Grafton or Henry Street. “In those areas there should be no cycling and cycling is not permitted.”
Flynn said there is still a finite amount of road space. “At the end of the day, what difference is this going to make to what’s being taken off the road in terms of delivery?”
Dublin City Council did not respond to an email sent Friday asking how much of Dublin city traffic consists of delivery trucks and vans.
Horner, the Green Party councillor, said the bikes could offer a solution to illegal footpath parking of heavy-goods vehicles, which damages the footpath.
Additionally, the council should use cargo bikes for their own services, she said.
“Some of the waste collection, you occasionally see the trucks parked up on the footpaths and things, which is never a good look,” she said. “It’d be great if we could look at a more sustainable way of maybe delivering some of those services.”
Martin Hoey, transport representative of the Public Participation Network, asked whether cycle lanes may be too narrow to safely fit the cargo bikes.
McGrath said that the team had measured the width of the bikes. “Very much to my knowledge, it is narrower than the minimum width of most of the cycle tracks,” she said.
Donna Cooney, another Green Party councillor, said that the cargo bike scheme should extend to home deliveries for goods bought from city shops. Guiney, of Dublin Town, agreed.
McGrath said that’s something the council is looking for businesses to do as part of this pilot project. “So if you know anyone who wants to set that up, let me know. It’s a fantastic idea, I love it,” she said.
Setting the East Link toll
The toll to cross the Thomas Clarke Bridge, which links North Wall and Ringsend, could be raised by 50c for car drivers following a public consultation and discussions by councillors.
The East Link toll fare had been dropped from €1.75 to €1.40 for car drivers in 2017 when the council was forced by Revenue to stop including VAT.
O’Brien, the head of transport for the council, said councillors had asked in a budget meeting on 25 November 2019, to put a toll rate increase out to public consultation.
Councillors had requested in 2019 that the toll see an increase from €1.40 to €1.90 for car drivers, following a public consultation and a vote at full council.
The public consultation finished in March 2020, but the publication of the results was delayed by Covid, O’Brien said, and they only got four responses. “We got very, very little response to it.”
At the council meeting, Deirdre Conroy, a Fianna Fáil councillor, said: “The bridge has been there for over 30 years, it’s over well paid for. And so the cost must have an absolute significant need.”
Mannix Flynn, the independent councillor, said that car drivers shouldn’t face an increase in the toll. “Particularly now, you know, in this pandemic and particularly now in relation to reconfiguring the city.”
Fifty cents is a significant increase for car drivers, said Anne Feeney, a Fine Gael councillor.
Janet Horner, of the Green Party, said that since the cost of the toll was €1.75 for car drivers in 2017, an increase to €1.90 is a proportionate rise over that time.
“Still, cars and driving in the city is largely subsidised by the general taxpayer,” she said, “so I don’t think that it is inappropriate to be raising costs in that way.”
Councillors debated what the money should be used for. General maintenance, or a better footpath or cycle lane were suggested.
O’Brien says he has cycled this route and it isn’t safe. But the council has found there is not enough space for a cycle lane on the bridge, he said.
“Unfortunately, the bridge itself is just a bit too narrow, footpaths aren’t great,” he said.
O’Brien said the money is divided to cover the toll operation, maintenance of the bridge and an eventual upgrade.
Some is used by the council’s transport department, he said, and €125,000 from tolls each year goes to the East Link community grant, he said.
The council is currently designing a walking and cycling bridge to the west of the East Link, he said, using money put aside from the toll.
“Once we have that in place the actual East Link itself will be upgraded,” he said. “That’ll tie in with the removal of the Point roundabout as well, and the cycle network along the East Wall.”
Further discussion on increasing the East Link toll was deferred until the next meeting of the transport committee, which is scheduled for 3 November.