We all know and love the Dublin Bikes. The Dublin Bike scheme is a huge success and will hopefully get expanded more and more. Back when it was introduced, a somewhat dubious deal was struck with advertisement company JCDecaux and I am still not convinced that that was the right decision by Dublin City. Since then the cost to run the scheme seem to be outrageously high and some have wondered where the money really go. And the increase in charges some while ago also weren’t the best news. So there are some issues, but all in all it is a really good scheme. AND it is a very financially stable scheme, which means that competition couldn’t really harm it: There is more demand than the Dublin Bike scheme can deliver and the prices are in general so low that any other bike rental business would find it difficult to harm the Dublin Bike business.
Regarding the future of traffic in Dublin we are constantly shown by Dublin City’s actions that the shift from cars to bikes is a huge and definite goal for Dublin.
In this bike-positive climate and having seen the same in many other European cities, a private company has decided that they want to also offer a bike rental scheme that will – to a degree – compete with the Dublin Bikes scheme, but at the same time it will not compete at all. The company is called BleeperBike and their approach is that that put bikes on bike stands in the City Centre (NOT at prescribed locations!) and you can find the bike through an app. Through that app you also book the bike and pay for the use. The fact that bikes can be in locations that are not “bike terminals” is a big advantage (Flexibility!) but the price is a LOT higher than the Dublin Bikes price.
If you use a BleeperBike for 2x 20 minute rides every working day of the year, you will pay EUR 440 in the year (Each ride up to 1 hour is 1 Euro.). If you use Dublin Bikes for your 2×20 min trips on 220 days per year, you will pay just EUR 25. So the difference is sooooo dramatic, that the BleeperBikes will never fully compete with Dublin Bikes for regular users. VERY infrequent users could however terminate their Dublin Bike card and pay the occasional Euro. And because I expect that Dublin City plans to increase the basic fee step by step (I don’t think it is justified by the way!) a pay-as-you-go scheme would be very unwelcome competition.
So what happened? BleeperBike announced that they will launch in July or maybe even before (this week was even mentioned) and immediately Dublin City goes into panic mode and spits out silly and nonsensical threats.
For example Dublin City says that the bike scheme does not have its consent to operate. So what? As long as BleeperBike doesn’t break any laws – and it doesn’t seem to – who cares about their “consent”.
DCC also have warned us that we would be using the service at their own risk? Excuse me? Is that any different than when I use my own bike? Or when I cross the street? It is the idiotic “Health & Safety” excuse that is used in Ireland whenever people have run out of arguments against something.
But it gets better! The next argument against BleeperBike is that Dublin City would have to first ensure that “there is adequate cycle parking capacity in city centre locations”. Who wrote that?????? Will we soon have check points at access roads where the (private) bikes are counted and the gate will get closed if too many people enter the city on bikes? And with all the cars that are taken out of the city we sure have more than enough space for bikes.
Next argument: Dublin City has to ensure “that bikes are not abandoned at unsuitable locations”. How is that different for my own bike than for a rental bike scheme?
Bu if you thought you have heard now the hight of stupidity, we are not finished yet. The final clincher from DCC’s point of few seems to be the threat that “Dublin City Council is empowered under Section 71 of the Roads Act 1993 to remove unlicensed items on the footpath/roadway without further notice.” That law was made to give the authorities the right to remove signs/advertisement that is not licensed, not to remove your bikes (or someone else’s bikes) whenever they feel like! And they use the fact that (very small!!) BleeperBikes’s name is written on the bikes. If you go to the BleeperBike website, you will see that it is TINY writing and would be not bigger than the brand/manufacturer name that is printed on every bike, but DCC is clearly grasping for straws.
I have no connection with BleeperBikes and heard the first time about it today! But I think DCCis REALLY going over the top here. Sure, competition blocking is always a cool thing if you want a monopoly, but in my opinion it will be a good thing if there will be some competition. It will keep DCC on their toes, one would hope.
…and if you have concerns then at least use proper arguments instead of nonsensical ones.
Here are some links:
The Journal.ie wrote about DCCs objections here.
The Dublin Bilkes website is www.dublinbikes.ie and the BleeperBike site is www.bleeperbike.com
By the way: The BleeperBike website is really not finished yet and the app crashes every time you try to start it, so they have a LOT more work to do before they can even compete with Dublin Bikes. But the above opinion is about the principle and about how bully tactics are used instead of genuine arguments.
I think DCC are more concerned about what’s coming down the road. China’s bike share companies like Mobike, Yobike & Ofo are aggressively expanding into EU markets this year. Surprisingly bleeperbike is part funded by Yobike.!? Yobike are already using dubious expansion methods in Towns like Bath when they only agreed to operate in Bristol. If you google bike shares in China you can get an idea of the issues of concern for DCC. It’s not simply about a monopoly. This is about regulating an industry that has got out of hand. There are at least four bike share companies waiting to expand into Ireland. Yobike & Mobike are competing for EU market share. There is a lot more to this than meets the eye.