Wheels start turning as city gets saddled up

Mon, Sep 14, 2009, 01:00

THERE IS little evidence to prove the benefits of wearing a helmet while cycling, the councillor who initiated the capital’s new bike rental scheme has said.

After the launch of Dublinbikes yesterday morning, Labour councillor Andrew Montague said it was not essential that those hiring bikes in the capital wear safety helmets.

“We don’t have compulsory helmets in Dublin and I would not be overly concerned about cycling without a helmet,” he said.

Blue skies and warm sunshine contributed to what was a perfect day for the launch of the scheme.

Hundreds took advantage of the good weather to try out the 450 bikes now available to rent from 40 stations between the Royal and the Grand canals.

Cyclists can register online for annual membership using a credit card at a cost of €10 or can pay with a credit card at 14 of the stations for a three-day €2 ticket.

Rental is then free for half an hour and costs 50 cent for the first hour, rising to €6.50 for four hours. The bikes are available from 5.30am to 12.30am.

The scheme has been funded by advertising agency JC Decaux in exchange for the use of advertising space in the capital.

Mr Montague, who first proposed the scheme five years ago, said, with the removal of HGVs, Dublin was now a much safer place in which to cycle.

Asked whether helmets should be made available to those hiring the bikes, he said there was little evidence available on their benefits. “In Brisbane they made helmet-wearing compulsory and although the rate of accidents dropped and they thought it was a success, they realised it was because the rate of cycling had dropped by 50 per cent,” he said. “Helmets put people off.”

He said 80 per cent of cyclist deaths involved HGVs, especially those turning right, and “a helmet is not going to save you in that situation”. Mr Montague also said he envisaged the scheme being extended to the suburbs in years to come. “This is just the beginning as far as I’m concerned.”

More than 1,000 bike journeys were made in the first six hours of the scheme, a spokesman for Dublin City Council said last night. He said it now had more than 2,000 subscribers – an increase of 500 since Friday.

Out and about yesterday and wearing helmets were Roddie and Deirdre Aherne. “We’ve been all over the place,” Mr Aherne said. He would recommend the bikes and consider them for business.

Catherine O’Donovan found the bikes “female friendly”: “I don’t cycle, but I feel confident on it.”

She would consider picking up a bike at Pearse Street near where she lives and cycling to the Luas to commute to work. Ger O’Donovan said he would like to use the scheme. “I’m always wary of getting my own bike stolen,” he said.