Nice Ride adding keys

Key kiosks aiming to make the bike sharing service easier to use will hit campus in April.

Jessie Bekker

A first-of-its-kind key kiosk system could soon make Nice Ride bicycles a more convenient transportation choice than before.

Nice Ride stations on the University of Minnesota campus and across the Twin Cities will get new key-dispensing kiosks come April, an appeal to users looking to evade the current five-digit code system for checking out bikes. Students say the key system will streamline the service, provided they can stomach a small extra fee.

The Twin Cities’ bike-share program, which rents public bikes for short commutes, began in 2010 and has since been most popular at its Coffman Union location, Nice Ride Marketing Director Anthony Ongaro said.

Currently, Nice Ride offers a $6 pass for 24 hours and a $15 pass for 30 days of access, both of which require the biker to insert a credit card and retrieve a five-digit code every 30 minutes to avoid additional usage fees. Bikers can also purchase a one-year membership online for $65, which allows for 60 minutes of riding time and includes a key sent in the mail.

The change in spring will allow pass-holders to instantaneously receive a key at the kiosk that users keep, Ongaro said, for an extra $3 fee. Riders can insert the key into a receptor next to any bike and go, he said, avoiding the kiosk completely.

While the keys will be optional, he said, they’ll be faster for checking out a bike than the five-digit codes.

Mechanical engineering freshman Erika Beek said she thinks the keys are a good idea because the added time it takes to punch in a code might discourage students from using the bikes.

“It seems really convenient,” she said.

Steve Sanders, alternative transportation manager for the University’s Parking and Transportation Services, said Nice Ride plays a prominent role in many students’ commutes.

“People can couple their Nice Ride trips with transit trips,” he said.

So far, one key kiosk is in place outside Minneapolis’ Hyatt Regency on Nicollet Mall, Ongaro said. Kiosks will continue to pop up around the Twin Cities starting in April, he said, including one at the Coffman station.

Ongaro also said this technology is the first in the world for bike-share systems, which include Nice Ride and a similar program in Seattle.

Health economics doctoral student Coleman Drake said he has used a Nice Ride key since he purchased a membership online, adding that he enjoys the convenience of avoiding the kiosk each time he needs a bike.

“[There’s] less time involved in swiping when you do it like that, so it just makes the transaction easier,” he said.

Still, Drake said he feels students will have to get over the additional $3 price change before the key kiosk can take off on campus.

“I think [the key] makes the experience easier, but I don’t think it changes the initial cost barrier people have,” he said. “Initially, I don’t think it’s going to have that big of an impact.”

Sanders said Nice Ride is working well for members of the University community because they don’t need to worry about maintenance and other day-to-day issues that come with owning a bike.

“For getting around campus, you can’t beat it,” Sanders said.