Lee Dillon’s kids have been bugging her to let them cycle to school. She gets where they’re coming from, she says.

“Cycling’s great, cycling’s just a shot of endorphins, it’s a happy mode of transport,” says Dillon. “I’d love to cycle too.”

Whether to risk the busy roads around Ranelagh would be a call she would have to grapple with, she says. But it’s not even something to waste brain space on yet.

If her four kids got bikes, she wouldn’t have anywhere to put them, she says.

She has two car-parking permits for on-street spots outside her terrace house, she says, which irks her.

“Why do I get to do that as a car owner?” she says. “When someone who chooses not to own a car or who can’t afford to own a car, and cycles instead, doesn’t have that option for their families as well?”

More than six months ago, Dublin City Council officials said they planned over the coming three years to roll out 350 more of its BikeBunkers, one of its proposed solutions to the lack of secure on-street parking faced by cyclists.

A spokesperson didn’t respond to queries about progress on that, or whether it would consider letting residents swap their car parking space for a bunker just for their household as a way to speed up provision.

Dillon, and some Dublin city councillors, say the current rules around who can get a bike bunker are too restrictive.

Enabling people to get on-street parking permits for their bikes in the same way they would for a car – and even letting them get the bike bunker themselves – could be a fast way for the council to address the scarcity, says Dillon.

A Need for Storage

A lack of secure bike parking means fewer people cycle, says Mannix Flynn, an independent councillor.

“We know there’s a huge amount of thefts of bikes,” he says, so people aren’t inclined to leave their bike outdoors.

It’s also a mobility issue, says Mary Caulfield, a Ringsend resident who uses a cargo trike to get around.

Caulfield says she stores her trike in the underground car park of her daughter’s nearby apartment complex.

The outdoor storage in her own flat complex isn’t secure and is difficult for her to use as she is disabled, she says.

Without that, she would be housebound as she can’t use public transport at the moment, says Caulfield. “I’m still cocooning because of the pandemic.”

Caulfield says she thinks if there was more secure bike storage, more residents in her flat complex might cycle. “I think it would be helpful. If it’s safe, secure bike parking.”

What Needs to Change?

The council’s BikeBunker scheme is being rolled out as part of DCC Beta Projects and will evolve as the project develops, its website says.

Residents who live within the canals can sign up for a bike bunker on the website – but there’s currently a long waiting list. BikeBunkers have so far been installed in Portobello, the Liberties and Stoneybatter.

Dillon sent a request in a few days ago, she says. The response from the BikeBunkers team says they are for community use rather than private use.

It’s two bikespaces per household, But she has four children. “If one of them had a bike, the rest of them would want one, and we have no space,” she says.

If it’s affordable, and allowed, she’d buy her own, she says. “I’d be happy to absorb that as part of the family ownership with a view to, if I could have four bikes stored, could potentially ditch a car.”

In Crumlin, Alfreda O’Brien says she has been trying to get a BikeBunker for herself and her colleagues, who have bought bikes through the government’s cycle-to-work scheme, which lets PAYE workers buy a bike with taxes offset.

O’Brien looked up how much it would cost for their own bunker and it’s anything from €2,500 to €5,000, before installation, she says.

Her workplace hasn’t yet committed to installing it, she says. “We’re pitching for it.”

There isn’t a secure space to store their new bikes in the area, she says, just bike stands on the street. “When you look at the amount of bikes that are stolen, unfortunately you do need something more secure.”

O’Brien had asked Dublin City Council last year if they could have a BikeBunker installed, she says, but was told the scheme is only for residential areas.

It’s a pity, she says. “Because we are a part of the community. It’s an opportunity that Dublin City Council can get local businesses involved with people biking to work.”

O’Brien says that public ones would be better so other workers nearby could use them too. “You have an influx, especially in the city centre, of people who live outside that area, coming in with their bike, and nowhere safe to put their bike.”

“You’re trying to encourage people to get off the road, and yet, there’s nowhere safe to put your bike,” she says. “We’re caught between a rock and a hard place.”

So far, BikeBunkers have been rolled out in affluent areas, says Flynn, the independent councillor.

“If you’re in a block of flats and you’re trying to get the same thing, well they won’t put one in there. So there’s an inequality,” he says.

In council-owned flats, there isn’t enough secure bike storage and no BikeBunker schemes, he says. “I think that the council should be proactive in their own estates where we have a lot of cars, where we have a fair amount of car usage, to encourage bike usage.”

Would It Work?

Dillon says she would like her own BikeBunker, out on the street, where she would normally store one of her two cars.

She pays €80 for two years for a parking permit per car, she says.

“I understand that it’s public realm, no one owns it, and you’re paying for the privilege, but why can’t cyclists pay for the privilege as motorists can?” she says.

Dublin City Council would be able to continue making the same revenue as from car parking, she says. The council charges €100 a year to keep a bike in one.

Says Dillon: “It’s a win-win. You’re taking cars off the road, and you’re getting people out cycling and you’re not losing revenue, you’re maintaining your revenue stream.”

Larry O’Toole, a Sinn Féin councillor, says he thinks swapping a car parking space for a BikeBunker would be a great idea. “I would be interested in the idea, if they were safe and they weren’t an obstruction or a danger on the road.”

“Everything is feasible. If we provide designated car parking spaces, why not provide bicycle parking space”, he says, “rather than dragging them through their homes and all that kind of thing?”

Some people might be against it, he says, especially if they are permanent. “You’d have to put a structure there, and it wouldn’t be like a car-park space. When the car leaves, the space is empty.”

He could see people thinking they are an eyesore too, he says. “Especially the anti-bike brigade, they’ll obviously be questioning, What’s this, putting up structures for bikes?”

Cars are ugly too, says Dillon. “It’s just that we’re used to seeing cars. And they [bikes] don’t pollute, and they’re getting people healthy, and it’s clean air.”

Dillon says it’s a no-brainer. “It’d be interesting to hear DCC’s reasons for not doing it. I can’t think of a single good one.”

Claudia Dalby is a freelance journalist. She has worked as a city reporter for Dublin Inquirer, writing about the southside, transport, and kids in the city.

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