Minneapolis took a gamble when it opted to install the nationâÄôs largest bicycle-sharing program. Programs like it have met with varying degrees of success and frustration elsewhere, so it was far from a sure thing. But with ridership goals exceeded after the close of its first season of service, weâÄôre in a position to say that the Nice Ride program has been a resounding success.
The University of Minnesota, which was home to several of this yearâÄôs 65 bike stations, certainly played a role in that success, though the nonprofit program brings together an impressive coalition of public and private, local and federal supporters. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota, which just pledged an additional $1.5 million to next yearâÄôs expansion, is prominent among them. That expansion may reach all the way to St. Paul âÄî a move that makes sense given the Twin CitiesâÄô otherwise seamlessly integrated transit system.
Nice RideâÄôs success story is an exemplar of the kind of innovative, collaborative, sustainable transit our cities need in the 21st century. Though it was made possible by sophisticated technologies, there is something elegant, even old-fashioned about the way this program has managed to turn bicycles into a community asset.
Unfortunately, such assets are at risk in the current economic climate. The Metropolitan Council has scaled back its Twin Cities transit plans as funding dwindles and the new Republican mood in Minnesota is decidedly anti-transit.
Innovation like Nice Ride âÄî to say nothing of the broader push toward a Minnesota transit system with a lighter environmental footprint âÄî mustnâÄôt become casualties of the budget crisis. We look forward to seeing what Nice Ride can inspire in the future.