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Bicycles help green Ireland's capital

A free bike scheme and a bike-to-work program have encouraged cycling in Dublin.

In Dublin, 450 specially-made bicycles, available from 40 stations run by the JC Decaux company, are free for the first half hour of use. (Conor O'Clery/GlobalPost)

DUBLIN, Ireland ― It’s not quite like Amsterdam yet, but against the odds Dublin is becoming a city of cyclists again.

A free bicycle scheme in this rainy metropolis of narrow roads, potholes and, it has to be said, bicycle thieves, has been a spectacular triumph. Indeed Dublin City Council boasts that the program is “the most successful in the world by any measure.”

Despite predictions that the 450 specially-made bikes, available from 40 stations around the city, would quickly be stolen or tossed in the River Liffey by vandals, only two have been pilfered in the first six months of operation. These were quickly recovered, and none have been vandalized, according to council spokesman Paul Finan.

It helps that the bicycle is ugly and that one needs a credit card to use it. The machine is free for the first half an hour, but costs half a euro ($0.67) for the first full hour, and 6.50 euros for four hours. This ensures that riders don’t leave them lying around, otherwise the final charge on their credit card would be substantial.

“The scheme has exceeded all expectations,” said Finan. “Since its launch in September '09, we are heading for over 500,000 trips with a population of 1.2 million people in the Dublin region.”

Dublin’s success compares dramatically with a similar scheme launched in Paris in 2007 and run by the same company, JC Decaux. In the first 18 months, half the original fleet of 15,000 in the French capital disappeared. Many were dumped in the Seine, and a few ended up in eastern Europe and Africa.

The Dublin bicycle program is part of an effort by the council to reduce carbon emissions and make the Irish capital a green city. A government bike-to-work tax incentive program introduced last year has also increased the number of bicycles on the road. It allows employers to buy bikes for up to a maximum of 1,000 euros, and sell them to their workers tax-free, which reduces the price by about 40 percent.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/ireland/100409/bicycles-dublin-going-green