A bike library pilot scheme is set to be extended following its transformational impact on a school in Dublin.
The scheme works by allowing parents to borrow electric bikes, mostly cargo bikes, for up to three months at a time as an alternative to car journeys to and from school.
It has been operating in Harold’s Cross Educate Together school since the start of the school year in September.
The school was chosen due to major issues in the mornings as the road outside is narrow and traffic backs up quickly.
In the seven months since its introduction, the school is “almost car-free – all the parents are cycling or walking their children to school”, said the founder of the Bike Library project, Prof Francesco Pilla, who is a professor and chair of smart and sustainable cities at University College Dublin. He described the success of the bike scheme as “phenomenal”.
The parents were given 15 electric bikes, three cargo bikes and four foldable electric bikes to try for themselves and their children.
The initiative encouraged parents to get cycling and their children to cycle to school. “There are now 150 bikes parked in the schoolyard, most of them belonging to the children,” said Prof Pilla.
“The parents embraced the initiative and realised it was good for the kids not to be brought to school by car and to do active travel. The bike library kick-started the active travel theme in the school. The parents are now pushing it forward.”
Fiona Connelly, a parent of three children, borrowed a covered e-cargo bike through the library. She has been able to do three different drops for her children to three different schools “without the hassle of parking or popping them on their micro-scooters. If I hadn’t trialed it, I wouldn’t buy it because you don’t know how much benefit it will give your lifestyle. It’s been amazing.”
The bike library scheme will be extended to 10 more schools in the Dublin area between Easter and summer and 10 more in the autumn. Each school will be given a selection of bicycles and they will be available free of charge to parents. If it is a success in those schools, it will be extended nationwide next year.
Many parents baulk at the price of e-cargo bikes to take children to school. Typically they cost between €5,000 and €8,000 new. The thinking behind the bike libraries is that they can borrow the bicycle to see if it suits their needs and as an alternative to a second car for school runs, shopping and short trips.
The initiative will cost about €500,000 and is being funded by the National Transport Authority.
Authority chief executive Anne Graham said the Harold’s Cross experiment had been “hugely successful” and demonstrated the usefulness of such a scheme. “We find that once people try out electric bikes and it gives you that extra distance you can travel, they will use them,” she said.
“The bike library is another excellent tool that will help us encourage more families to embrace active travel and remove even more unnecessary car journeys from the congested morning rush hour.”
The project was launched in Assumption National School for Girls in Walkinstown, Co Dublin, where principal Maeve Crowe said only one child in their primary school of 228 pupils cycles to school. There are two parents with cargo bicycles for that school and the junior school beside it which together have 400 pupils.
“We are hoping that a programme like this can help parents overcome any reticence they have towards cycling. The cost of a bike upfront is a lot, so it is best that they can try this out without the financial commitment involvement,” she said.
The project has been welcomed by the Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan who hoped it will lead to a “permanent modal shift for the school run for many families”.
- Assumption Senior GNS, Walkinstown
- Assumption Junior School, Walkinstown
- Central Model Senior School, Marlborough Street
- John Scottus Primary School, Northumberland Road
- Mother of Divine Grace School, Ballygall
- Our Lady of the Wayside National School, Bluebell Road
- Scoil Íde GNS, Coolock
- St Catherine’s National School, Donore Avenue
- St Peter’s National School, Phibsborough
- St Joseph’s Senior National School, Ballymun
- Scoil Íosagáin, Drimnagh