Are Dublin’s free bikes a poor deal?

DCC comes under fire in 'unsafe' billboards-for-bikes swap

The rental bikes in Lyon, a city where the scheme is working well

The agreement between Dublin city council and JC Decaux to set up the city’s first free public bike hire scheme has recently received heavy criticism. 


The deal sees JC Decaux given space for 72 advertising panels in the capital, with Dublin receiving 450 bikes and signage in return. Critics of the scheme include one of Ireland’s biggest advertising agencies and the Dublin City Business Association.   

The French company has already begun to erect their 72 advertising panels, but the positioning of the boards has been called into question, with some motorists declaring them unsafe. The council has also been criticised for granting permission for the signs, with dissenters suspicious they’re bad value for the number of bikes the city is receiving.

Stuart Fogarty, of AFA O’Meara, Ireland’s largest advertising agency, said of the scheme: “They will be the most expensive bicycles in the world. Those advertising sites are worth at least 100 million Euros and we are swapping them for a few hundred bicycles, a few advertising panels and some signage for tourists,” he said. “There are too few bicycles to make any real impact on traffic, so what’s in it for Dublin?”

BikeRadar research shows Fogarty may have a point. Rough calculations show that the scheme will offer around one bike for every 1124 inhabitants – a stark contrast to Paris’s lauded Velib’ scheme, which has approximately one bike per 110 central city area residents. In addition, Paris’s deal saw the city get 12 bikes per billboard, but Dublin receives just six for every advertising space it allows.  

Members of Dublin city council have openly voiced their criticism. Andrew Montague, a Labour councillor and chairman of the Dublin Cycling Committee, compared their scheme unfavourably with Lyon – one of the cities visited by councilors when assessing potential schemes. “Their scheme started with 2,000 bikes and there are now 3,000, which is testament to its success,” he said. “It’s disappointing that we will begin with just 450. To have a real impact, it’s important to have a high density of bikes in the city – but at least it’s a start.”

The architectural community is unimpressed with the scheme as well. Archiseek, an architectural website, estimates that it would have cost €26,400 to object to all the planned billboards individually. It also estimates that about half of the planning objections lodged so far against the new billboards have fallen at the first hurdle.


The bikes are not yet available for use, but voice your comments below – is the city of Dublin being taken for a ride?