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There’s now 8 on-street bicycle share systems in Ireland… how many can survive?

COMMENT & ANALYSIS: The ESB has started advertising that it has partly-launched its new ESB Ebikes trial, which begs the question: Just how many bicycle share systems can survive in Ireland?

With the arrival of ESB Ebikes — as well as some other recent arrivals — it’s worth looking at all of the systems operating in Ireland today.

Many are still seeking permission to operate in all of Dublin, while most currently only have limited operating areas. The division of council boundaries, all with their own licensing arrangements, complicates matters.

A number of companies are awaiting to operate scooters rental once the law allows for such, and some already operating or partnering with taxi services.

We’re aware that some councils, such as Cork City, are holding off on licensing stationless bicycle share for now. Other council areas seem to be more like testing grounds to operators.

With 8 systems nationally and 6 in Dublin, things are heating up. There’s also quite a price difference between electric and non-electric offerings and the different coverage areas.

“How many can survive?” is a question that cannot be answered at this stage — it will depend on factors such as how open councils are to license operators, how many of the companies will be able to survive the war between operators, what best fits user’s needs and even how successful (or not) some of the companies are internationally.

ESB Bikes

Cost for 15 minutes / 1 hour / 1 day: €10 set rate for day, with discount of €5 per day via a €30 per month subscription. No discount for shorter rentals.

The ESB system differs to the other systems because you rent and return your bike from the same station in the suburbs for a fixed daily fee of €10, with discount of €5 per day via a €30 per month subscription suitable for anybody using the system more than 7 days a month.

The ESB system is also a trial which is funded by the EU Interreg programme. Its stations are mainly operated using Bleeper bikes (now available via the Bleeper app according to the ESB) and partly using Moby bikes (not available to use until the ESB app launches sometime soon).

It’s only-small scale at just 112 bikes and 14 docking stations, which charge the bicycles. More details can be found on the ESB’s website. The also bicycles have a Cinderella clause and must be returned by midnight and fines may apply after such.

DublinBikes

Cost for 15 minutes / 1 hour / 1 day: First half hour is free with any subscription which are €3.50 per day, €5 per day or €35 per year. So as long as you’re doing short trips, you only have to worry about the subscription price. Like most bike rental systems outlined here, it’s not design to keep the a long time.

The pricing after the first half hour is designed to keep bicycles in circulation — ie €0.50 for one hour on a sliding scale up to €6.50 for 4 hours and €2 for every half hour after that.

As far as IrishCycle.com can tell, DublinBikes has the largest fleet of any bicycle share currently operating in Ireland, with around 1,580 bicycles.

DublinBikes has followed the other schemes in France and elsewhere operated by advertising company JCDecaux and modernised its system to allow features such as very handy app-based unlocking.

The modernisation also included the strange small personal electric battery packs which ebike subscribers carry around with them and slot into the bikes (subject to a recall which has now been resolved). The addition of the ebikes has had the side effect of making part of the available fleet heavier when not all users have access to the batteries to help push that weight.

But DublinBikes has been really stifled by official and political inaction on its expansion. This has left it confined to mostly inside the canals in the capital — it could likely expand to inner suburbs (such as Rathmines, Drumcondra Inchicore, Ballsbridge, Irishtown etc etc) and still be highly successful. Nearly as strange is the unwillingness to give the system much or any docking stations around lower O’Connell Street, College Green or near Connolly Station.

DublinBikes can be rented from 5am to 12.30am. But bikes can be returned 24 hours a day.

TFI Bikes

Cost for 15 minutes / 1 hour / 1 day: First half hour is free with any subscription. Subscriptions: €3 per day or €10 per year (per city, not transferable and no discount for more than one city).

The pricing after the first half hour is designed to keep bicycles in circulation (and is the same as DublinBikes) — ie €0.50 for one hour on a sliding scale up to €6.50 for 4 hours and €2 for every half hour after that.

Operating in Cork, Limerick, and Galway for years and recently launched in Waterford the system has suffered for years of complaints that it was poorly operated and maintained.

New bikes and docking stations have been added in the last year giving the system a fresh look but some existing issues continue including not enough docking stations or bikes and not enough on-street changes to make cycling safe and attractive. There’s also indications from some users that maintenance issues are also continuing with the new fleet.

Bleeper

Cost for 15 minutes / 1 hour / 1 day: Pay-as-you-go customers are charged a €1 unlock fee and €0.02 per minute thereafter (€0.01 when in Pit-Stop). So the basic rate is €1.30 for 15 minutes, and €2.20 for each 1 hour of rental.

Customers with a Monthly Pass — €17.50 — get unlimited 1-hour trips, with the PAYG rate after the first hour.

Bleeper was the first to launch stationless bicycle share in Ireland. It is based on a hybrid model where bicycles must be locked to official bicycle racks.

While also only operating in Dublin, it has one of the widest coverage areas and second largest known fleets, 800 bikes (plus 72 of the 112 in the ESB system).

Bleeper operates in a relatively large percentage of the Dublin City Council area, the coastal parts of DLRCC and Fingal (including the north Dublin coastal towns), and parts of Dublin 15, part of Swords and coastal areas north of the city, and in coastal towns in north County Dublin.

Bleeper is available to rent and return 24/7.

Moby

Cost for 15 minutes / 1 hour / 1 day: in Dublin there’s an unlock fee of €1 and then normal bikes costs €0.02 per minute while electric bikes cost €0.15 per minute — putting normal bikes at €1.30 for 15 minutes and €2.20 per hour, and the electric bikes at €3.50 per 15 minutes and €10 per hour.

In Westmeath the normal bike rental costs €1 per hour with a max cost of €16 per rental.

Moby operates in a relatively large percentage of the Dublin City Council, DLRCC and (urban city part of) Fingal. It now also has both electric and non-electric bicycles.

Outside the capital it also offers non-electric bikes in Athlone and Mullingar.

Zipp

Cost for 15 minutes / 1 hour / 1 day: €1 to unlock and €0.35 per 5 minutes after that. So the basic rate is €2.05 for 15 minutes, and €5.20 per hour.

Zipp is currently only in the the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council area. On price the company’s website says: “There is a fixed unlock fee of 1EUR plus a variable cost per minute. the cost per 5 minute rate is 35c.”

Tier

Cost for 15 minutes / 1 hour / 1 day: €1 to unlock and €0.20 per minute, which means Tier bikes cost €4 per 15 minutes and €13 per hour.

Tier which has started in Fingal — starting in Dublin 15, Howth, Malahide and Swords, and more recently expanding to Donabate, Lusk, Rush, Skerries, Balbriggan and a wide rural area around those towns. It also has stations in the DCU campuses (in the Dublin City area but off public streets), which extends its reach somewhat.

Tier is one of two on-street bicycle rental service in Ireland which does use the hybrid stationless system where users must lock bicycles to public bicycle stands. Instead, Tier uses docking areas painted on the ground and also at bicycle racks.

On pricing, Tier says it costs “€1.00 unlock + €0.20 / min” — it also has passes, including its “Go All Day” pass which is actually €9.99 for just 60 minutes which is valid for 24 hours (ie you won’t be going all day). It also has a “Go Summer” pass which allows for unlimited unlocks for €3.99 per 30 days, it renews every 30 days and has users also charged the normal €0.20 per min fee.

Bolt

Cost for 15 minutes / 1 hour / 1 day:

Bolt, has recently started operating in Sligo and Kilkenny.

It is only one of two on-street bicycle rental services in Ireland which does not seem to use the hybrid stationless system, where users must lock bicycles to public bicycle stands, and that has proven problematic even in a relatively small town such as Sligo — edit: Locals say this was more of a tempory issues

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