Rothar love: a cyclist tries out a city council bicycle in Chatham Street, Dublin

ALMOST 25,000 people have signed up for the Dublin City Council bike scheme, meaning it is 100 times more popular than the Paris and Brussels equivalents.

The council is now planning an expansion of the scheme, due to be completed before the summer.

Four more stations will be provided across the city, and others near Heuston station and Grand Canal Dock are also being planned.

Dublin City Council received the bicycles free of charge as part of a controversial 'bikes for billboards' agreement.

Councillor Andrew Montague said the council could no longer meet the demand for bikes.

"We were expecting around 1,000 subscriptions by this stage, but the figure of 25,000 smashed that," he said. "Each of the subscribers are using the bikes six times more frequently than those who use the scheme in Brussels."

Montague also pointed out that Dublin had not had to deal with issues of theft or vandalism which other countries operating the system had been faced with.

"We picked our stations very carefully, and spent a long time with JCDecaux going through all the details. It took us longer to get off the ground, which we got a fair bit of criticism for, but it has worked out very well."

There are currently 800 bike stands at 40 stations, and initial expansion plans will see numbers increased to 1,100 bikes at 44 stations.

Figures have also shown that 96% of journeys taken incur no charge, being within the allocated timeframe before the council charges a fee of 50c per hour.

Since the scheme was introduced last September, there have been a total of 281,430 journeys on the bikes.

"Obviously this is not a huge earner for the council; it isn't exactly bringing in a lot of revenue, but that was never really the point," said Montague.

According to a spokesman for the city council: "Dublin Bikes has been a huge success. This is evident in the number of people joining the scheme and the fact that people have been very civic minded in using the scheme.

"Dublin City Council and JCDecaux put a lot of work into getting a system that would work in Dublin and designing a system that people would respond positively to. We're very pleased with how things have worked out so far."