Dublin City Council issues warning over new Dublin Bikes rival

While BleeperBike's CEO is concerned that waiting for byelaws will mean the scheme loses his "first-mover advantage"

BleeperBike, a new bikesharing scheme that does away with the stations required for Dublin Bikes, has delayed its launch following objections from Dublin City Council.

The local authority has warned that it will remove the company's bikes from streets as it does not have consent to operate, though it has agreed to meet with chief executive Hugh Cooney before the week is out.

BleeperBike was due to launch on Sunday, and although it previewed the service on Monday, Cooney has confirmed that the proper rollout will now take place over the coming weeks. 

In a statement, Dublin City Council said:

"It was decided at the May meeting of the Transportation SPC that bye-laws should be prepared and engagement with the market should take place with a view to running a pilot scheme in Dublin.

"In this regard, Dublin City Council has committed to preparing bye-laws and to proactively engaging with all potential stationless bike share operators with a view to giving an equal opportunity to each operator to submit a proposal for a pilot in Dublin."

The DCC continued:

"The BleeperBike bicycles are unlicensed and will advertise the service which they provide. As such Dublin City Council is empowered to remove them from the public domain."

Cooney joined Newstalk's Bobby Kerr on Down to Business last Saturday to explain how his new venture works and, more specifically, how it differs from the already highly-successful Dublin Bikes. 

"Stationless bikesharing started in China in April 2016," he said. "So the very first stationless bikesharing [service] is now 18 months old.

"The system is based on a smartlock that is fixed onto the bike. So instead of the station-based system where the technology is fixed into the ground, the technology has now moved onto the bike.

"The locks now have a SIM card inside them, so they're online, GPS-connected and it's all based on mobile communications."

That doesn't mean you can abandon said bike just anywhere when you're done.

"We want these bikes to be parked in a way that it doesn't become inconvenience," Cooney said.

"So the bikes have to be parked at a dedicated bike rack. A piece of steel, like we see around the city [where] private bikes are parked, is a designated bike rack. But a tree, someone's front gates, anything like that, is not where our bikes would be allowed."

Cooney stressed that there is a market out there that is not currently being served by Dublin Bikes.

"On one hand you could look at it as a disruptor but the plan for us would be to cover areas that are out of Dublin Bikes' coverage.

"So Portobello is the furthest south of the city of Dublin that Dublin Bikes goes to, and the Mater Hospital is the furthest north Dublin Bikes goes to.

"There's an awful lot of people who live outside of those boundaries.

"Let's say that you wanted to stay in Dún Laoghaire and get the DART home; you can't do that [with Dublin Bikes]."

Once you register your credit card with the service (using the payment provider Stripe), you can activate your account with a €5 top-up. From there, it works out at €1 per hour-long ride.

Turning to the DCC issue, Cooney said:

"Everybody knows the importance of first-mover advantage. There's no detail on when exactly... Dublin City Council are going to launch this pilot they're talking about...

"If I sacrifice my first-mover advantage, there'll be other companies that would come in with a lot more money than me and no business person would want to give up first-mover advantage."

The Dublin Bikes scheme is operated by JCDecaux in conjunction with DCC.

Noting that it is a fight he can't win, Cooney is eager for constructive engagement, using "the city infrastructure in a way that the council's happy with" instead.

"The largest Chinese operator [Mobike] is launching in Manchester next week," he said. "They are going to come to Dublin and why would I sit and wait for them to get to the starting line with me?"