The operators of a new bike rental scheme in Dublin city have said they will introduce the bicycles this week despite strong warnings from the local authority that it could remove them from the streets.
Bleeperbike, a service similar to the Dublin Bikes scheme but operating without dedicated bike stations, said it expected to roll out several hundred bikes over the next few days.
Dublin City Council said the launch of the scheme was “premature” and that it was likely such operators would have to apply for a licence under new bylaws.
The Bleeperbike service operates via mobile apps, which show the locations of the bicycles on the streets of the capital.
On Friday evening, the council issued a statement saying the launch of the scheme was happening without its consent and “in direct conflict” with the approach agreed at the May meeting of the council’s strategic transport policy committee.
The council said it had been decided at that meeting that bylaws should be prepared and that “engagement with the market” should take place with a view to running a pilot bike scheme in the city.
As bike share schemes provided a public service, operated within the city’s streets and made use of the city’s public realm, it was considered that regulation of the schemes through bylaws was necessary.
“The main issues to be addressed include managing the potential impacts of the scheme on the public realm, ensuring the bikes are fit for purpose and properly maintained, insurance, ensuring there is adequate cycle parking capacity in city centre locations and ensuring bikes are not abandoned at unsuitable locations,” the council said.
The bylaws would likely require operators to apply for a licence to operate within the city and the launch of the scheme was “therefore premature” pending the preparation of bylaws.
It said the Bleeperbikes were “unlicensed” and the company would be advertising the services.
“As such Dublin City Council is empowered to remove them from the public domain. It is an offence under Section 71 of the Roads Act 1993 to place unlicensed items in the public footpath/roadway. Dublin City Council is empowered under Section 71 to remove unlicensed items on the footpath/roadway without further notice.”
The council said it had written to the company to ask it to “desist from launching the scheme at this time and from distributing the bikes around the city”.
“Should Bleeperbike ignore this request, members of the public are advised that they use the scheme at their own risk.”
Reiterating its statement after a meeting of officials on Monday afternoon, the council said it was not aware that Bleeperbike had officially launched on the streets of Dublin, but it said it intended to remove the bikes as previously advised.
It said it recognised the opportunities that stationless bike share schemes presented.
“However, the lessons learned from other cities, such as those in China, indicate that the regulation and management of such schemes is crucial in order to minimise the negative impacts of the schemes on the public realm.”
Hugh Cooney, chief executive of Bleeperbike said the company could not wait to go through the licensing procedures because it had secured a ‘first-mover’ advantage in the market.
“There’s no dates as to when they will officially launch the pilot they spoke about. If I was to wait indefinitely, I give up the first-mover advantage that we’ve secured over the last nine months, being a local company, getting to the marketplace first. That’s invaluable to anybody – any business person would know that,” Mr Cooney told RTÉ’s News at One.