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Midway through October, you may start seeing identical, luminous green bikes scattered around the Trinity area. That is when a new bike-sharing scheme called GreenBikeClub is going to launch.
Cathal O’Sullivan, only two years out of Trinity and currently working in the tech industry, says he and two of his friends, Sam Mealy and Ben Scallon, are gearing up to run a beta test with 20 bikes.
“We have 20 bikes on their way from Taiwan at the moment,” says O’Sullivan. The bikes will all be single-speed, but not fixies, and glow-in-the-dark green. “You’re going to notice them around the city.”
The three friends are massive fans of DublinBikes, but think it’s a pity to limit bike-share schemes to dense places.
Their plan, which was first reported over at IrishCycle.com, is to introduce a new technology to Ireland that obviates the need for expensive docking stations. With their more cost-effective approach, the creators of GreenBikeClub think they can extend the scheme to towns and cities all over the country.
“We came up with an idea, or” – O’Sullivan laughs to himself – “we thought we came up with this new technology.”
When they started doing some research, they found a company called Bitlock in Silicon Valley had beaten them to the punch. “They were way ahead of us, so we made a partnership with them rather than try to reinvent the wheel,” says O’Sullivan.
Bitlock created a U-lock for bicycles that can be locked and unlocked with a smartphone. The clunky kiosk and docking bay used by most bike-share schemes can now be scaled down to a smart phone and a smart lock, reducing the cost of a bike-share system significantly.
“The idea is that it is a bit more convenient than DublinBikes,” says O’Sullivan. Within certain zones in the city, riders will be free to park wherever they like.
O’Sullivan doesn’t see their scheme becoming something people rely on for getting around everyday. Instead, he sees it as just another option for getting around the city that might tempt different people at different times.
As a customer, you only need to whip out your smart phone, find the nearest bike on the GreenBikeClub app’s map and reserve it. And then it’s yours to pick up.
Like Dublin Bikes, you can relock it without relinquishing your temporary ownership of it if you don’t want to lose it. You just have to be willing to pay for the time it’s yours.
The beta test will be targeted at Trinity students initially. “We’re going to drop in and around Trinity College and Trinity Halls,” says O’Sullivan.
A yearly membership will cost €3, and then, every time you take a bike, it’s going to cost €1.50 for the first 35 to 40 minutes. The time allocation has yet to be determined, as it will be based on how long it takes, on average, to get from Trinity Hall residences near Milltown to Trinity’s main campus.
The club’s founders are focused on nailing the beta project. They hope to work closely with customers, as well as with their partners Bitlock, to iron out any problems that arise during the pilot period.
A year down the road, if things go well, O’Sullivan hopes to have about 1,000 bikes. “Maybe 150 to 200 around Dublin,” he says. They hope to distribute the rest in other towns and cities in Ireland.
If things go better than expected, they can expand very quickly.
“We know how exactly to get the bikes and get the locks and get them all working,” says O’Sullivan, “and we have some larger plans for how we would expand throughout Ireland.”
€1.50 sounds pretty expensive to me. I think most people would be willing to walk an extra few minutes to a Dublin bikes dock to get the free rental, given how small Dublin is. This scheme’s main value is that they’re not restricted to stations, but that’s not of much value when the cost is much higher. Even if they had a small monthly fee of say €2/month and this included a certain amount of minutes, they’re getting the recurring payments which will earn them much more than the €3/year, and the ride “feels” free when you need a bike.
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