Could residents exchange their street parking space for a home BikeBunker?

Lee Dillon’s kids bugged her into letting them ride their bikes to school. She understands where they come from, she says.

“Cycling is good, cycling is just an endorphin shot, it’s a pleasant mode of transportation,” says Dillon. “I would also like to ride a bike.”

Whether risking the busy roads around Ranelagh would be a call she would have to face, she says. But that’s not even something to waste brain space yet.

If her four children had bikes, she would have nowhere to put them, she says.

She has two parking permits for spaces on the street outside her terraced house, she says, which irritates her.

“Why can I do this 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 prefers to ride a bike, doesn’t have that option for their family as well?”

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

A spokesperson did not respond to questions about progress on this, or whether he would consider letting residents swap their parking space for a bunker just for their household to speed up supplies.

Dillon and some Dublin councilors say the current rules about who can get a bike bunker are too restrictive.

Allowing people to get street parking permits for their bikes the same way they would a car – and even letting them get the bike bunker themselves – could be a quick way for the council to address the shortage,” Dillon says.

A need for storage

A lack of secure bike parking means fewer people are cycling, says Mannix Flynn, an independent adviser.

“We know there’s a lot of bike theft,” he says, so people aren’t keen on leaving their bikes outside.

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

Caulfield says she parks her tricycle in the underground parking lot of her daughter’s nearby apartment complex.

Outside storage in her own apartment complex is unsecured and difficult to use as she is disabled, she says.

Without it, she would be housebound because she can’t use public transportation right now, Caulfield says. “I’m still cocooning because of the pandemic.”

Caulfield says she thinks if there was more secure bike storage, more residents of her apartment complex would be able to ride bikes. “I think it would be helpful. If it’s safe, secure bike parking.

What must change?

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

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

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

That’s two bikes per household, but she has four kids. “If one of them had a bike, the others would want one, and we don’t have room,” she says.

If it’s affordable and allowed, she’d buy her own, she says. “I would be happy to absorb that as part of home ownership with a view to, if I could store four bikes, I could potentially give up a car.”

At Crumlin, Alfreda O’Brien says she tried to get a BikeBunker for herself and her colleagues, who bought bikes under the government’s work-to-bike scheme, which allows PAYE workers to buy a bicycle with tax compensation.

O’Brien researched how much it would cost for her own bunker and it’s between €2,500 and €5,000, before installation, she says.

Her workplace has yet to commit to installing it, she said. “We are pitching for this.”

There is no secure space to store their new bikes in the area, she says, just bike racks on the street. “When you look at the number of stolen bikes, you unfortunately need something more secure.”

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

It’s a shame, she said. “Because we are part of the community. This is an opportunity for Dublin City Council to engage local businesses with people who cycle to work.

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

“You’re trying to encourage people to get off the road, and yet there’s no safe place to put your bike,” she says. “We are caught between a rock and a hard place.”

So far, BikeBunkers have been deployed in affluent areas, says Flynn, the independent adviser.

“If you’re in a building 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 is not enough secure bike storage and no BikeBunker scheme, he says. “I think the council should be proactive in their own areas where we have a lot of cars, where we have good car use, to encourage bicycle use.”

Would that work?

Dillon says she would like to have her own BikeBunker, down 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 it’s public property, no one owns it and you pay for the privilege, but why can’t cyclists pay for the privilege like motorists can?” she says.

Dublin City Council could continue to generate the same revenue as the car park, she says. The council charges €100 a year to keep a bike in one.

According to Dillon: “It’s a win-win. You get cars off the road, and you get people to cycle and you don’t lose income, you maintain your source of income.

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

“Everything is doable. If we provide dedicated parking spaces for cars, why not provide parking spaces for bicycles,” he says, “rather than dragging them home and all that kind of stuff?

Some people might be against it, he says, especially if it’s permanent. “You would have to put a structure there, and it wouldn’t be like a parking space. When the car leaves, the space is empty.

He could see people thinking they were an eyesore too, he said. “Especially the anti-bicycle brigade, they will obviously ask themselves, what is it, erecting structures for bicycles?”

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

Dillon says it’s a no-brainer. “It would be interesting to hear the reasons CDC doesn’t. I can’t think of a single good one.

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