Today I read that over 36% of Belfast Bikes are stolen or vandalised on an ongoing basis and to be honest I am not at all surprised. [Note: This photograph as well as the others in the series dates back to May 2015]
When I first saw the bike hire scheme in Belfast I noted that the docking stations appeared to be of lower quality than other schemes that I had seen and it was obvious that it was badly managed. At the time my comments were not well received by a number of officials in Belfast. It was claimed that the scheme had only started and that I had been very selective in that I had only photographed the few stations that had problems.
Some 210 of the 576 bikes in the fleet have either been stolen or have had to be taken out of service due to vandalism, it has been reported Belfast Lord Mayor Brian Kingston. This is in sharp contrast to Dublin where the scheme does not suffer from the same levels of theft and vandalism. In fact theft and vandalism is not an issue for the DublinBikes network of 101 docking stations hosting 1,500 bicycles. When the scheme was established in Dublin almost everyone, including myself expected it to fail because of vandalism or other reasons so we were all surprised by its success and the lack of problems.
When I first photographed the Bike Rental scheme in Belfast in May 2015 I commented as follows:
Belfast City Council launched a new public bike share scheme on Monday 27 April 2015 as part of their Investment Programme. Coca-Cola Zero Belfast Bikes provides 300 public bikes at 30 bike docking stations in the city centre.
It is interesting to see how quickly the Public Bike scheme was established in Belfast. It took years to establish the DublinBike network in Dublin but it would appear that in Belfast they managed to set up their network in less than a year.
When I examined the bike-stations I could see how they did it. Comparing the docking-stations in Belfast with those in Dublin or Brussels it is obvious that the quality of the stations in Belfast is not nearly as high. The Belfast network does not appear to be as well managed as they have not allowed for the arrival of surplus bikes at stations and during my visit I noticed bikes locked to street-furniture and trees because the users could not return the bikes on completion of their journeys.
I am not claiming that one approach is better than the other but I much prefer the scheme in operation in Dublin. I have a feeling that the docking-stations in Belfast [ bolt down standard units] are not as vandal-proof or as flexible as those in operation in Dublin.