Second bicycle share firm could take longer to get on Dublin’s streets

One of the two stationless bicycle share firms who were licensed to launch in Dublin last May, Urbo, maybe be given a deadline extension, Dublin City Council said today.

This website reported on Thursday that the council had given the company a deadline of the end of the month — this was said by a council official to councillors at a transport committee meeting and IrishCycle.com confirmed it with the council’s press office before publishing the story. But today the council said that the deadline may be relaxed.

A Dublin City Council spokeswomen said: “Significant progress has been made by Urbo in progressing to launch stage. The Council will provide every opportunity and assistance to Urbo to progress to launch as a successful licence applicant, including if necessary a further extension of time. It would be premature to make any further comment at this stage.”

Asked what scoring all the companies had in the licensing tendering process, the city council spokeswoman said: “Only two companies were successful in obtaining operators licences. All the companies involved in the process were debriefed in terms of their marks scored and in relation to the successful operators scores. The Council is not prepared to publish the individual scores of each company.”

When Dublin City Council announced the winners of the stationless licences, the council’s press release used a quote from Urbo which include: “Our first scheme launched in London in 2017. We have signed agreements in place with four other London councils. Signatures in place with numerous UK & Irish councils for Summer 2018 launches.”

If the council’s public statements are anything to go by it seems that Urbo operating schemes in London helped it gain the licence in Dublin. But it is unclear why the council did not contact their counterparts in London, most of whom were readying to drop Urbo before the company was given its Dublin licence.

But just 8 days after Dublin City Council made the announcement that Urbo won a licence to run a stationless bicycle share scheme in Dublin, Waltham Forest Council said in a starting that it had “opted to end the current trial with Urbo and start working alongside Ofo” instead.

In a statement published on Waltham Forest Council’s website, Cllr Clyde Loakes, the council’s deputy leader and cabinet member for the environment, said: “Our initial venture into dockless bike hire has shown that they are incredibly popular.”

He added: “However following the recent takeover of Urbo we have seen that the company has been unable to keep up with the demands of our residents, so we have taken the decision to welcome Ofo into the borough as soon as possible.”

The next day on June 8, Urbo tweeted: “We regret to inform you that from the 4th of July 2018, Urbo will no longer be providing shared bike services in the London boroughs of Enfield, Waltham Forest and Redbridge.”

Days later on June 12, the Ilford Recorder newspaper reported a spokesman from Urbo as stating: “This was a pilot scheme and the challenges of ground operations and scaling up were greater than anticipated… We made the decision to step back from this for the moment in order for the borough to work with another partner. We will continue to operate in the UK but not in London for now.”

The company the only operated in Ipswich, but, on June 26, Urbo tweeted: “From 30/6/2018 Urbo will be taking a short break from providing our dockless bike service in Ipswich, to renew our fleet and make some upgrades to our service. New fleet available from September 2018.” The company has not tweeted since.

One of the three unsuccessful companies to tender was Chinese bicycle share giant Ofo — it had complained publicly about the licence requirement to have the stationless bicycles locked to bicycle stands at the end of rentals.

Two other companies have remained silent — IrishCycle.com understands at least one of these were happy to follow the bicycle locking requirement.

I am editor of IrishCycle.com and have reported on and commented on cycling in Ireland for over a decade. My background is in journalism -- I have a BA in Journalism from DCU and HDip in Print Journalism from BCFE. I wrote about cycling for national newspapers, and then started CyclingInDublin.com for overflow stories. Later the website was re-branded to reflect a more national focus.

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