Mpls to launch bike-share system

Nice Ride Minnesota will have 65 stations and 700 bicycles for rent across the city.

by Danielle Nordine

One of the nationâÄôs first bicycle-sharing programs will kick off in Minneapolis on Thursday as part of the annual Bike Walk Week. Nice Ride Minnesota, the nonprofit organization running the bike-share system, will bring 700 bicycles to 65 solar-powered kiosks around the city, including at least 10 on the University of Minnesota campus. Bicyclists can pay a $5 rental fee for a single day of use, $30 for 30 days or a $60 annual fee âÄî $50 for students. After the initial cost, the first 30 minutes of the ride is free, but riders are charged an additional fee for each half-hour after that. The programâÄôs goal is to promote short, local trips and allow more people to use the system, Jake Quarstad, outreach manager for Nice Ride Minnesota, said. But if users need a bicycle for a longer trip, theyâÄôre encouraged to âÄúcheat the systemâÄù by stopping at a nearby kiosk to put the bicycle in, scan their card and take it back out, Quarstad said. Doing so resets the system and allows them another half-hour with the bicycle. Subscribers receive a key to check out bicycles while one-time users must use a credit card at one of the kiosks. Eventually, the system will include applications for smartphones and an interactive map on the website that will show available bicycles and empty slots for returning bicycles at each kiosk, Quarstad said. The program does not supply helmets, and riders are not required to wear them. Nice Ride Minnesota will service the bicycles daily and will have trucks driving around the city throughout the day redistributing bicycles among kiosks, he said. Since they are not drilled into the ground, the kiosks can be moved in the winter or to high-traffic locations, he said. MinneapolisâÄô bike-share system is based on MontrealâÄôs Bixi program, and Nice Ride Minnesota used the same bicycle and kiosk supplier. The kickoff of the bike-share program comes as part of this yearâÄôs Bike Walk Week, an annual event promoting alternate forms of transportation besides driving. On Thursday, about 150 riders, mostly sponsors and local officials, are expected to bike from the Minneapolis Central Library to Peavy Plaza. At the end of the ride, there will be a ribbon-cutting ceremony led by Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, Pat Geraghty, CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, the programâÄôs largest private sponsor, and Jennifer Munt, president of Transit for Livable Communities, a nonprofit organization that distributed the federal funding to create Nice Ride Minnesota. âÄúMinneapolis is a great bike city âĦ but we needed a strategy to get people who arenâÄôt as committed to bikes to ride,âÄù Rybak said. âÄúWe want people who are going from one side of the town to the other to see the bike as an alternative to hopping in a car.âÄù TLC was designated by Congress to distribute $21.5 million in federal funding for the Non-Motorized Transportation Pilot Project, a 2005 program designed to increase biking and walking and decrease driving. The $3.2 million bike-share program received more than half of its funding from TLC, $1 million from BCBS of Minnesota and the remainder from the city of Minneapolis and local businesses. Rybak said the program will have multiple benefits, including improving usersâÄô health, helping the environment and increasing driversâÄô awareness of bicyclists on the roads. The system could be especially helpful to University students, Rybak said, and connect them to the rest of the city and to the St. Paul campus. Nice Ride Minnesota will add kiosks throughout the summer, Quarstad said, and it plans to eventually expand the system to include most of Minneapolis and St. Paul. âÄúThe University, downtown and uptown share a lot of people and a lot of common activities âÄî and too often thatâÄôs meant people hop in the car and go from one place to the other,âÄù Rybak said. âÄúI think they should hop on a bike, and this makes that more feasible.âÄù