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Dublin City Council is looking into starting a shared e-scooter scheme in the city and trying to figure out how that would work.
The council is inviting companies that might want to operate a “public e-scooter sharing scheme” to answer questions and help it consider options.
“At this point what we’re effectively doing is asking the market sort of technical issues,” said Clive Ahern, an administrative officer for the council’s transport department, at a recent meeting of the transport committee.
E-scooter operators can send the council their views on the reams of questions in a draft prior information notice (PIN), which it has put out as a way to create a formal process rather than having one-to-ones with some operators and not others, said Ahern.
“We’re on a fact-finding mission,” said Ahern. The council might then use the information gathered during a competitive tender process for the public e-scooter operator, he said.
However, there would first need to be national legislation on e-scooters on public roads and any shared schemes, said Ahern to councillors, which hasn’t been issued yet but has been promised.
Bye-laws would need to be in place before the council would go out to tender, said Ahern. They would be similar to the bye-laws put in place for bike sharing in 2017, he says.
Following legislation, the council would offer at least one licence to operate a scheme in the city, according to the council report.
The Idea of Dockless
One question the council is examining, the PIN shows, is what kind of parking should be allowed for the e-scooters: leave them wherever, or leave them at specific stations or docks.
Declan Meenagh, a Labour party councillor who is visually impaired, said he was disappointed that the PIN left open the idea of stationless scooters, and that it should be changed to only consider scooters that would be parked at stations.
“Scooters by their design are complete trip hazards. And the idea that we could operate a virtual restriction or any kind of stationless scooter is unacceptable,” he said.
Donna Cooney, a Green Party councillor, said she thinks docks are a good idea, but using docks does tie the e-scooters to some locations.
“The good thing about, say, something like the BleeperBikes is that you can go to somewhere else, then get a bus, and then get another kind of transport,” she said.
She asked if stationless e-scooters could be allowed in a way that people are penalised somehow if they left them in an unreasonable way – that they would have to pay something.
Carolyn Moore, a Green Party councillor, said she agreed that in other European cities, e-scooters strewn on streets have been a problem, particularly for those with disabilities.
Any e-scooter schemes have to be spread equally throughout the city though, she said.
“I’d have a concern about black spots or areas where this kind of a scheme wouldn’t be extended to,” says Moore, “because of the same issues that are preventing, I guess, DublinBikes from expanding.”
Ahern, the council official, said that at the moment the PIN shows that the council is leaning strongly towards the idea that people would have to lock the scooters up.
“That’s one of the reasons for going out to the industry. We’re asking them do they have the capability?” he says.
There may be dedicated e-scooter stations in the city centre, says the council in its PIN, and elsewhere, the scooters might have to be locked to fixed structures.
Scooters should be locked to fixed objects, said Hugh Cooney, founder of BleeperBike, a Dublin bike-share company that is planning to launch e-scooters.
“If scooters are very popular, there will probably be a need to build more fixed locations for the scooters to be tied to,” he says.
Locks are attached to a mount on the stem of the scooter, which could then be locked at a regular bike stand, he says.
When scooters can be parked “loose”, without being locked, they are geo-fenced, says Ahern, meaning a GPS signal tells the rider where they can or can’t park the scooter. This can cause trip hazards, he says.
Painting an area on the ground where scooters can be parked can make it clearer, says Charlie Gleeson, founder of Zipp Mobility, which operates e-scooters in England.
Called a “virtual parking base:, the user will be charged until they park their scooter within the boundaries, he says.
It’s a balance between physical infrastructure and none at all, says Gleeson. “If we see a shift in demand in certain areas, we can just paint more bays there.”
Among the questions the council is asking operators for feedback on is how they would ensure that e-scooters don’t divert people away from walking, cycling, or public transport.
Janet Horner, the Green Party councillor, said one of the things she would like to hear as part of the technical dialogue is the evidence that operators can present around that modal shift.
“And ensuring that we’re not taking people away from walking journeys onto scooters, but that we’re taking people out of cars and into scooters as best as possible,” she said.
Bringing in e-scooters could help reduce the number of cars in the city centre, says Richard Guiney, CEO of DublinTown, which represents city-centre businesses.
“There is an opportunity in terms of micro-mobility, particularly around commuting,” he said.
The council will be asking operators how displacement of people who are active mobility users, such as walking or cycling will be counteracted, said Ahern. “We’re very conscious of that.”