IRELAND’S only rural community bike scheme is under threat because the West Cork group running it can’t get insurance cover.
Cllr Paul Hayes (SF), who is a member of the group behind the Clonakilty bike scheme, raised the issue as a matter of urgency at a meeting of the West Cork Municipal District.
The scheme had been launched in a blaze of publicity in 2015, after it was announced as Ireland’s first ‘rural’ bike scheme outside of the big cities.
The bikes are located in Clonakilty, and also at outlying locations like Inchydoney and Rosscarbery, and are similar to the Cork and Dublin schemes, giving tourists and locals an alternative means of transport, with pick-up and drop-off points.
The bikes are sponsored by well-known local brand, Clóna Dairies.
Cllr Hayes said he had hoped that the Clonakilty scheme – which provides members of the public with access to 60 rental bikes – could come under the city’s insurance scheme in Cork.
But the Council’s municipal officer, Justin England, said that would not be possible.
Cllr Hayes said: ‘This is a fantastic initiative that allows locals and visitors to take a spin on the new greenway, or down to the beach, but if we can’t get insurance, the project is going to be knocked on the head.’
He pointed out that the group had also applied to Secad for Leader funding to add two new six-seater bikes to the range, and they had essentially received approval in principle for these additions.
In addition to the 60 bikes, Cllr Hayes said they also operate a single tri-shaw and use it to ferry residents from local nursing homes around the area, and this has proved to be as big a crowd pleaser in Clonakilty as the model railway’s Choo-Choo train.
But the councillor warned that the future of the entire scheme could be in jeopardy unless they can secure an insurance company willing to insure it.
Since the bike scheme was launched five years ago, insurance costs have escalated.
Cllr Hayes asked: ‘Is there any way that the Council can help out? Could the Council take it over so the system isn’t lost entirely? Or could it come under Irish Public Bodies insurance scheme?’
The Council’s senior executive officer, Mac Dara O h-Icí said the local authority would consider ‘all aspects of the scheme’ and report back at the next meeting.
Cllr Hayes said: ‘We should be extending this service, not curbing it, in its infancy.’