Stationless bike scheme could be scuppered by locking requirements

Dublin City Council wants tethering at city stands to bike-sharing firm Ofo’s dismay

Ofo’s system uses a “smart lock” that prevents the bicycle wheels from moving until the lock is deactivated by a user.

Ofo’s system uses a “smart lock” that prevents the bicycle wheels from moving until the lock is deactivated by a user.


One of the main bidders for a new “stationless” bike rental service said Dublin City Council has effectively scuppered the scheme before it starts by requiring the new bikes be “stationed” or locked to stands.

Last December, the council introduced bylaws to regulate on-street bike hire services which operate without the use of docking stations.

The council will in May issue licences to two firms to offer bike hire via a smartphone app which will locate available bicycles. GPS-enabled locks allow bikes to be left at any location around the city without the need to return them to a docking station.

The service will be separate to the Dublin Bikes scheme which has been operating in the city since 2009 as a partnership between outdoor advertising company JC Decaux and the council. The council scheme requires the user to release the bike from a stand or station using a membership card and return it to another station after use.

Last month, the council issued permit and licence application documents which included the requirement for bikes to be locked to Sheffield stands, the typical steel bicycle stands used throughout the city, at the end of a journey.

“Bicycles will be removed by the council if found not locked to an official Sheffield stand,” the permit documents state.

Tethering requirement

The tethering requirement had not been included in the bylaws issued last December.

Ofo, a bike-sharing company which operates in 170 cities in nine countries said while it has applied for a Dublin permit, it would not be able to operate if the “tethering” requirement was not dropped.

“We think the council is missing a trick here, the concept of dockless bikes is that there is no requirement to tether them to a stand, and by requiring that they are, the council is taking away parking from other cyclists, and diluting the benefits of the stationless bike,” Ofo Ireland and UK general manager Joseph Seal-Driver said.

The company’s system works by using a “smart lock” that prevents the bicycle wheels from moving until the lock is deactivated by a user. The bike also has a motion-sensitive alarm which sounds if a bike is moved without being hired. However bikes are not equipped with locks that can be used to attach bikes to a stand.

Stationless bikes

“We really hope that the council will consider our concerns regarding their new proposals to tether all stationless bikes ahead of the launch,” Mr Seal-Driver said. “If the conditions laid out are retained we would have to decline to launch in Dublin at the present time.”

In a submission to Dublin council last year, rival company Bleeperbike, which already operates in Dún Laoghaire, suggested the bylaws should include a stipulation that stationless bikes should always be locked to stands when parked.

The council has said the bikes must be locked to prevent them being discarded in inappropriate areas. Ofo said it penalises users if bikes are not properly left in designated areas.