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Nice Ride MN: Minnesota’s Bike Share Expands

Nice Ride MN is a hit. The Twin Cities bike share recently celebrated its one year anniversary in June.  And in July they started an expansion by adding more stations and bicycles to the network.

We talked with Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak who told us about how they got Nice Ride MN off the ground:

"We were gonna have to build a really big system.  So I went to Blue Cross and I said we wanna do this. It's gonna be a major health initiative it's gonna cost $3 million dollars, we need you to put up a million dollars.  And they looked at it, and looked at it, and they said 'yes'....I was totally blown away.  And then we leveraged another million and a half from a federal grant - and again, this was Oberstar - so we got that $2.5 million."

"But then because it was such a huge success Blue Cross invested another million more and we got [other organizations contributing]."

Of course any public bike share system offers its own unique challenges and is gonna need support from the community to be a success.  Thanks to the Bikes Belong Foundation we're able to provide this short snapshot of the Nice Ride MN system, how it works, and where it's headed.

 

 

 

 

[music] 

Bill Dossett:  [00:10]  This is Nice Ride Minnesota.  We are a public bike share system.  We started last year with 65 stations just like this one, and 700 bikes.  We are expanding it already, so we’re going to end up this year with about 116 stations and probably 1200 bikes. 

 

[music] 

Bill Dossett:  [00:30] A couple of ways that you can use the system, you can be an annual subscriber and an annual subscriber gets a key that looks like this one.  With this key you just walk up, stick it right in there, now you can take this bicycle from this station to any other station in the system.  The other way to use it is a 24 hour subscriber.  A 24 hour subscriber will walk up to the pay station and put in your credit card and then you’ll have access to the system for 24 hours.  You’ll use these buttons to access the bike. 

 

Kate Wolford:  [01:01] Nice Ride came to Minneapolis last year and it has far exceeded everybody’s expectations.  You can go out at lunchtime, hop on a bike, go across the river to a deli, getting to my meetings downtown without having to park.  It is a phenomenal easy to use system and the McKnight Foundation now has helped expand it to North Minneapolis and through a collaborative funders we’re also taking it to the central corridor, crossing into St. Paul.

 

R.T. Rybak:  [01:26] The location of the Nice Ride bikes was primarily based on where they could be successful, but we also had some businesses that really wanted them and now that they’re successful, everybody wants them.  Birchwood was a leader and they’ll be a leader in everything and so they really wanted to do it right. 

 

Tracy Singleton:  [01:41] I was super excited to have the opportunity to have a Nice Ride kiosk at the café.  It makes it that much more open to the street, it makes it that much more noticeable for people that are driving by, it’s more pleasant for people who are sitting outside because they don’t have cars pulling up and car exhaust in their face when they’re trying to enjoy a really nice meal.  I know it’s helped business.  I’ll be outside and I’ll see a couple of people pull up on a Nice Ride and I’m like so where did you guys bike from?  And often times they bike from downtown and a concierge at a hotel is if they’re from out of town has said, hey, why don’t you take a nice little ride up the river, I know a great little spot to stop and have lunch.

 

Bill Dossett:  [02:13] This bicycle has an upright position.  It’s got room for a bag, a cargo space on the front of the bike.  It’s got lights that are always on.  But it’s not going to be a fast bike.  This is to make you comfortable going on that one mile, two mile, three mile trip.

 

Jay Walljasper:  [02:29] You don’t have to worry about it being stolen.  You don’t have to worry about where you’re going to park it. You don’t have to worry about if it’s raining when you come home.  So it just gives people one more option to get around that isn’t getting in the car. 

 

Tracy Singleton:  [02:40] A lot of people in the neighbourhood use it.  I’ve used it when I’ve had appointments downtown.  I know some of my employees have as well. 

 

R.T. Rybak:  [02:45] You got to go big or go home.  You can’t put a few around.  You’re hopping on that bike, it’s like a trapeze person, you’re not going to swing on that trapeze unless you know there’s another one to grab.  You know you’re not going to hop on that bike and go across town unless you know there’s a place to go. 

 

[music] 

Bill Dossett:  [03:07] The highlights for us, one is the bikes are getting used, so we had 100,000 trips last year starting in June.  This year through, I guess we’re into the second week of July, we’ve had over 80,000 trips taken on the bicycles.  There were a lot of people that thought all these bikes would be damaged or stolen, it just has not happened.  So in our first year we only lost one bicycle, and our total cost for theft and vandalism were only about $5,000, and that’s for a system that was out on the street all season long. 

 

R.T. Rybak:  [03:36] Ours is up.  Washington’s is really taking off, they threw out their old system and brought in this new one, Denver’s is doing well, Boston’s about to launch.  The upside is it’s going to be easier to make the case to people.   

[music] 

Transcription Sponsored by: Transcript Divas Transcription Services

Clarence Eckerson, Jr. has been making fantastical transportation media in NYC since the late 1990s. He's never had a driver's license and never will.

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  • john harshbarger jr.

    Great to see these bike share systems expanding! Here in Omaha, NE we just got a small b-cycle system with a bout 60 bikes and there are already plans on expanding it all over the city. Even though I have my own bicycle and ride it daily no matter the weather, I would use one for small trips downtown to save some wear on my bicycle.

  • Lisa Sladkus

    LOVE LOVE LOVE Nice Ride. Thanks for featuring such a fabulous cycling city!  Noticed how happy all those folks seemed on their bikes?  Not a surprise.

  • http://www.greenidea.eu Green_Idea_Factory

    People seem happy, yes. I very much like the trapeze metaphor. 

    Not so many individuals with helmets, but lots are wearing helmets in groups. Clarence, are those fully-helmeted groups going by just random groups using the system or are they part of some activity which is the reason you visited at this time?

  • Clarence Eckerson JUNIOR

    There are three shots or so of groups on a tour I was a part of for a short while.  Those were probably the "helmets in groups".  See next week for totally random shots of helmeted and non-helmeted riders in D.C.!

  • http://www.greenidea.eu Green_Idea_Factory

    (See Clarence's response first)

    Hmm... Clarence, wish you had made that clear. 

    Helmet shots can only be so random with Capitalbikeshare in D.C., as the user contract limits the liability of the operator (Alta Bike Share) if an injury is caused by lack of a wearing a helmet. Helmets are not required for cycling in D.C. for people who old enough to use Capitalbikeshare. 

    Do people who use the subway etc. have to sign something saying that they will, e.g., wear proper shoes? 

    The thing is that Capitalbikeshare is designed to function as public transport, plus it also gets public money. Hopefully when this stuff is being created for the NYC bike share contract that lawyery-helmet cr-p will not be included, and shame on Alta and D.C. authorities for letting it be part of the system in D.C. (Other systems in the U.S. such as B-Cycle in Denver seem to have no similar provisos.)

  • Share Alike

    Bikeshare rules everywhere!

  • Rlaymandc

    the waiver of liability is standard in Bixi systems.  E.g., Montreal.  As a potential bike share provider myself, I can't imagine not including the waiver.

  • http://www.greenidea.eu Green_Idea_Factory

    @f0f8dceda7bac31901f03bc88f6625a7:disqus : As operator of a private transportation service, I can see why you would feel you should do that, but you'd just be shooting yourself in the foot. Do a Google for helmets + Alta bikeshare + Melbourne. Also, why doesn't B-Cycle do this?
    If Alta Bike Share explicitly and prominently told people about the liability issues - instead of just making them check a box saying you pledge being safe and putting the rest in fine print - they might see fewer cyclists or more complaints. 

    My concern is for the most part cycle activists in NYC seem to resent any critical opinions, even constructive ones. This might be more of their public face but still the public should not be misled. Bike share in NYC will start in Manhattan, just like everything else does. (I am reminded of a photo Clarence shared today on Facebook of him sitting on a broken down or even dangerous bench on a shopping street in Queens). Will anyone criticize this? When all the new bike share users start riding against the traffic, will everyone blame them or mention the inherently bad design of the one-way avenues in Manhattan? Will TA say anything about helmets in user contracts since they push them in a patronizing way in the Biking Rules project? Would Janette Sadik-Khan actually recommend more public constructive criticism from her allies?

  • Rlaymandc

    I don't get your point at all.  The waiver says that if you get injured it's your fault, whether or not you're wearing a helmet.  Insurance isn't cheap.  I don't know what's going on with Capital Bikeshare as I don't run it, but DC Government is buying a bunch of helmets for distribution.  I don't know what their plans are.  I'd just not bring it up if it were me.  Of course, I know what's going on (virtually nothing) with the system in Melbourne.

    I do wear a helmet, and frankly I think people should.  I didn't for a long time, until I got hit by a car and while my bike was totaled (although it doesn't take much to do that--just bend the fork) my head was ok.  Since my brain is pretty special, I wear a helmet.  The issue is that wearing a helmet isn't about you as much as it is about the cars.  If it helps, even potentially, it seems smart to wear one.  But it's about the relative speed of traffic, in the core of many center cities, traffic isn't that fast, and bicycle sharing bicyclists aren't likely to ride on faster streets (it's a bike kind of oriented to streets of 20-30mph).  I ride in various places, where there can be higher speed traffic.

    So it seems contradictory for me to not recommend a helmet in the context of bike sharing.  But, because the trips are short and you develop a critical mass of riders, I think you get the Denmark-Netherlands effect of greater safety and helmets aren't necessary.

    WRT riding the wrong way, whatever, you can only do so much.  Note that because of the number of deaths with the Velib system initially, most of the RFPs in North America have questions about risk management and crisis communications and contingency plans.

  • http://profiles.google.com/toddedelman1 Todd Edelman

    @f0f8dceda7bac31901f03bc88f6625a7:disqus - OK. The problem here - and the reason I mentioned the proper shoes on the subway thing earlier on - is that we are talking about "bike share" and not individual, self-powered, motor-optional public transport, which generally means bicycles. Bike share is a conceptual ghetto in the world of mobility and only a few operators have it as a truly or partially-integrated part of the public transport mix in a city, region or country. Call it public transport, have it get subsidized in the same way as collective modes, operate it govt-owned or not and get rid of the lawyery nonsense, OR make all MetroCard users sign a safety pledge!! (I know that the NYMTA is not listening or has its own problems, but I have to remain optimistic.)

    Regarding various personal and public pressures and feelings about helmets, I wish you would just keep recommendations to yourself, but anyway you strongly imply that people who do not wear helmets do not feel that their heads are special, or that they do not seem smart (Right? I am just separating the yolks from the whites in your text.) But you say - I suppose in an official process - that you would just not mention it, which I like. So my recommendation - since you asked - is to just be clear that it is a personal and private choice unless of course it is required by some (stupid) state or city regulation. There a million things you do personally which will also be left out of any contract you may be involved in.

    Finally, on infrastructure, the "critical mass" happens because of infrastructure. While there are lots of people around cycling on the same street at the same time, it does feel safer, but only infrastructure (e.g. separation or stuff to make vehicles go slow and also smartly designed intersections) keeps people feeling safe at all times. Also, regarding only doing so much, the Avenues in Manhattan were all two-way until near the middle or end of the first half of the 20th century -- and I think all the crosstown streets were two-way as well. So the grid has been subverted and no one is doing anything about this, and implementation of e.g. surface collective public transport such as dedicated buses and lanes on the East Side will only make it more difficult to make them all two-way again.

  • Rlaymandc

    I don't know what it's like to ride in Britain.  I do know what it's like to ride in the US.  The issue is one of where.  And speaking of Britain, I don't think you're too conscious of how litigious the US legal system is, or you wouldn't be so cavalier about the waivers.  Anyway, as far as "infrastructure" goes, in North America, this is only the third season for Bixi in Montreal.  It has taken 40 years for both the Dutch and the Danes to get uptake high again for bicycling.  While it doesn't have to take 40 years, we have issues you don't have (percentage of car ownership, steeply cheaper gasoline, massive subsidies of the road network, free or virtually free parking in cities, etc.) that make the initial phases of change somewhat difficult.

    FWIW, wrt helmets, I ride in mixed traffic high speed situations, so I wear one.  That's my choice.  I don't feel obligated to tell people they should wear them.  But I do explain why I do, because it's not about me, it's about the drivers.  I have no problems with people not wearing helmets in city centers, especially in places where they have 30/50kph programs.

  • Joe R.

    I'm impressed by the ~$5000 costs for theft and vandalism per year of operation.  Hopefully NYC will see the same thing when bike share comes our way.  I'm really surprised bike share bikes don't use airless tires.  They've become as good as pneumatics, last far longer, and avoid the maintenance headaches.  Multispeed hubs, such as the Shimano Nexus, make sense instead of a derailleurs for similar reasons.  Great idea using hub brakes on the Nice Ride bikes.  Saves a ton of maintenance, plus allows stopping in all weather conditions.  Perfect bike share bike in my opinion then would use 26" airless tires (26" size offers the greatest selection of airless tire options), hub brakes, 7 or 8 speed hub, and a basic bike computer (sealed in a protective enclosure to prevent theft) so the user can track distances/speeds.  Add in any GPS tracking if desired (and GPS can also double for the aforementioned speed/distance function if desired).

  • Clarence Eckerson

    Not only is the $5,000 (and only one lost bike) impressive.  But they had allocated for up to 10x that, which will now result in savings for the program.  Of course other programs should assume some vandalism and not start operating like there will be almost none, but it does show that many cities that were direly prediciting heavy losses for lost bikes, etc have not come to fruition.

  • Jeffmorris21

    Awesome and soft running bicycles!

  • morrisg

    Of the 100,000 rides the first year, I would be interested in knowing how many of them occurred during the snow months, call that October through March.  This would give a better idea of the number for peak use during the sunny months.

  • http://twitter.com/Jonfonya Eva D Gigi

    Great exercise inspirations are desperately needed in the Mid-West - Kudos