SLIGO IS LOOKING to get in on the stationless bike-sharing action with the county council issuing a tender for the project to launch this year.
The council is looking for a company to provide bikes for a rental network in the city and surrounding areas along with the back-end system to operate it.
The programme is being run as part of the county council’s Urban Cycle Sligo project, which encourages more people to cycle to work or school.
Last year the council ran a small bike sharing pilot with two companies, Bleeperbike and Eco Travel, to test the waters.
Eco Travel operated the programme day-to-day while Dublin-based Bleeperbike provided 50 bikes and the software, such as the mobile app for cyclists to find and unlock bikes.
In the tender documents, county council officials said the full-fledged scheme would link up the city’s commercial, tourism and business districts and transport infrastructure.
Last year’s pilot scheme “demonstrated that there is public demand (for) access to bicycles on a pay as you go basis in Sligo”, the council said.
It added that the “topography of Sligo presents particular challenges and consequently any scheme must take recognition of these challenges”.
Bleeperbike currently runs its stationless bike-sharing service in Dublin with a couple of hundred bikes on the streets that are located through an app.
Cyclists can dock the bikes in any location within the city unlike the council-run Dublinbikes, where the bikes must be docked at specific fixed points.
Sligo county council stated that its contract will be for three years but with a review after the first six months.
The tender is a concession contract where the council has no budget to provide but the successful company will retain all revenue “in return for an annual payment” to the council.
In Dublin, Bleeperbike was granted a licence by the city council last May to operate, but chief executive Hugh Cooney told Fora that it is still considering its options in Sligo even though it took part in last year’s pilot.
“We’re not sure yet, timing-wise, if it’s going to work for us,” he said, adding that the company may not have the capacity to take on Sligo given its busy plans for Dublin.
He added that the Sligo pilot, “wasn’t quite there in the miles a month it was getting” and that the company would have to consider the business case for launching there fully.
The Sligo tender is still relatively small with the initial request looking for a minimum of 50 bikes to deploy during the summer. The bikes must be stationless and come equipped with geo-fencing capabilities to keep the units within certain limits.
“The other thing about Sligo is that it’s only looking for 50 bikes,” Cooney said. “It’s just covering the cost of all of that makes it harder, but it’s a very cycle-friendly (place) with lots of attractions around.”
Eco Travel confirmed that it will be applying for the Sligo programme under its brand Bikelink.
Bleeperbike meanwhile recently raised a small injection of cash from property tycoon Richard Barrett that has gone towards the development of its own electric bike.
On-demand transport giant Uber looked into launching e-bike sharing in Dublin recently but was rebuffed by the council.