Stationless bicycle share should be regulated, but care is needed

IMAGE: DublinBikes, the city's current public bicycle sharing system, uses a network of docking stations.

IMAGE: Many stationless or hybrid systems like Biketown in Portland (pictured) use geo-location tech in different ways, but the city could add a geo-location requirement to keep bicycles off narrow footpaths.

ANALYSIS: As long as the council moves fast to regulate stationless bicycles share — which it seems to be doing — there should be no problem waiting a little longer for the stationless revolution.

The council is right to take an interest in the quality of the bicycles and the protecting the public realm.

Minimum standards should be set on the quality of the bicycles. While it might not be to the liking of some operators, we would even go as far as suggesting internal brakes would be safer than v-brakes and brake pads. Minimum brightness of lights is also a must.

Safeguarding the public realm — including narrow footpaths and other public areas — need to kept clear of poorly parked or even abandoned bicycles.

Maybe in the longer-run, the council could also look at a requirement for geo-fencing (software which know the location of the bikes) to stop the bicycles from from being parked on certain streets with narrow footpaths or next to fire exits. But excluding large parts of the city centre could be seen as over-regulation.

The city should also be open to treating different areas of the city differently — a rule that suits the city centre may not be required in the suburbs.

IMAGE: Pearse Station in Dublin is one of many locations which has ample space which could be partly used for high-density bicycle parking.

The city council had suggested starting with a trial of stationless systems outside the city centre, but this makes little sense as it would tell us little about how a system would work overall — unless the city wants to keep bicycles out of the city centre? That’d defeat the point. People should be able to have the option of cycling, for example, from city centre shops or train stations to suburbs, finishing a rental far beyond the range of DublinBikes stations.

Cross council boundary co-ordination is likely also needed to account for trips from

Bicycle parking needs to be expanded both in the city centre and in many suburbs regardless of bicycle share. The lack of bicycle parking is a reason to expand bicycle parking faster, not a reason to slow down the roll out of bicycle share. This, however, will require a mix of on-street stands and more expensive high-density bicycle parking at train stations, busy retail areas and other locations.

A number of operators are likely aiming to offer €1 per 90 minute rentals or similar pricing — the city must be aware of this if they want to see bicycle sharing really take off. If pricing requirements are pushed up because of excessive fees or charges from the city, it could limit the potential of the proposed systems.

Care is needed, but regulation should generally be welcomed.

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2 Comments

  1. Both the government & DCC messed up big-time in all this. They should have expanded Dublin Bikes long ago. The demand was there. They should have funded it directly from central government and not relied on funding from commercial entities. The savings in health, time saved from reduced congestion, reduced infrastructure upkeep costs etc etc etc would more than paid for it all. Short-term thinking abounded. A wasted opportunity.

    I agree with the need for proper regulation of any such bike schemes, but now while we wait for that oversight we’re all left with a shambles. Still not enough Dublin Bikes. Still too many people using private cars. Public transport still being hindered by cars. Pollution still too high, etc etc etc.

  2. Stationless is a better model, but perhaps the council needs to sting the company for investment in a stated number of new bike racks in the city and suburbs – a number equivalent to the number of bikes it’s putting on the streets (1,000). That would also ensure a certain commitment by the company to keeping its bikes in good order and available.

    Swathes of suburbs and inner city areas (the Clanbrassil Void and all up Harold’s Cross most of the way to Terenure, for instance) are virtually bike-parking free, and bike parking is so urgently needed in the city centre that every sign is decorated with bikes like a Christmas tree. As Lord Mayor Brendan Carr has said, this can make pavement access difficult for the blind and disabled; the solution is in the Council’s own hands – more bike stands.

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