There was snow on the ground, but a few who attended the most recent Nice Ride expansion focus group Dec. 14-focused on avid cyclists-arrived by bicycle or talked about their winter gear as they dined on chicken, eggplant, rice noodles and Chinese broccoli, home-cooked Asian cuisine by Myong Hee Kim.
After the warmup, they viewed information on cardio-vascular disease risks seen in North Minneapolis’ population, and how Nice Ride, a bicycle sharing program, works.
They gave their opinions on a Nice Ride commercial. “The commercial is clear,” the dozen agreed. More diversity and local identity in the commercial would be good, the participants, mostly African-American, said in various ways. “Put some chubby people in there.” “Use local scenes.” “What they see should remind them of who and where they are.”
Other questions guided a dialog about getting people to use Nice Ride on the North Side, and logical locations for stations that will be added in spring. Nice Ride Executive Director Bill Dossett was on hand to provide statistics on current use patterns.
The Nice Ride website shows the most popular proposed locations for new Nice Ride stations are:
- 42nd & Lyndale
- North Memorial
- Penn & Lowry
- Fremont & Lowry
- 26th & Aldrich
- Penn & Broadway
- North Commons
- Plymouth & Fremont
- Penn & Cedar Lake Road
- Glenwood & Logan
- Lyndale & Broadway (Cub)
There is money now for eight additional North Minneapolis stations. Community Design Group is doing location analysis on all top choice locations citywide.
The first public meeting was held in October, and six focus groups were held with other market segments. The second community-wide meeting will be held on Wednesday, Jan. 19, 6 p.m. at Urban Research and Outreach/Engagement Center (UROC), 2001 Plymouth Ave. N. The meeting is being held to provide feedback on suggestions residents made at the first meeting and at the focus groups.
Nice Ride on the North Side is sponsored by the Minneapolis Department of Health and Family Support. It is made possible by funding from the federal Department of Health and Human Services as part of the Communities Putting Prevention to Work Initiative of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
In the introductions, many of the bike riders said they are members of the Major Taylor Bicycling Club of Minnesota. Though one of the founding members is Anthony Taylor, the name goes back much further than that, to the first African American world champion cyclist in 1899, Major Taylor. The club started North Side rides last year, had some success, and will reintroduce the rides in good weather, probably Thursday nights after work, leaving from UROC, the University of Minnesota’s Urban Research/Engagement Outreach Center at Plymouth and Penn.
The health video showed data from the 2006 SHAPE study (a Hennepin County inventory of various health indicators) showing that there is a higher than average risk of cardiovascular disease in the Near North and Camden areas. Borrowing the military phrase “too fat to fight”-75 percent of those in the fighting age group are too fat. Two thirds of adults are overweight or obese. Physical inactivity is the main reason, and even one to two days a week with some kind of cardiovascular activity would help.
Biking: all ages can do it, even seniors. Swapping the bike for the car keeps pollution out of the air. Nice Ride is funded in large part by Blue Cross Blue Shield.
Nice Ride encourages riders to use the rental bikes, which are heavier than the average consumer bike, and bright green, to be used on short trips, taken from one rack at the start and returned to another rack at the end. There’s a basic day charge or annual charge option. To avoid extra charges, the bike has to be returned within a half hour each time one is checked out. Some downtown locations, for example, are three blocks apart, Dossett said.
He provided statistics on subscribers surveyed in August 2010, a couple months after the program started: Most annual subscribers’ trips are under 20 minutes, and 80 percent of trips are for “transportation, not leisure.” Of the $5 (day) subscribers, about a third incur extra trip fees. “Most who use it do have their own bicycles,” Dossett said, and see it as a convenience to avoid having to lock up their own bike or worry about it being stolen.
Major Taylor club president Louis Moore said the half hour limit would not be feasible on the North Side, from the perception standpoint. “There are a lot of novices,” he said. An idea emerged about promoting the bike use as what you do when you go from the Northside to downtown for a night on the town, or to the University of Minnesota East Bank for a meeting. A few thought it might work if the stations are situated such that a person could travel to North Side meetings (UROC, for example, is a popular meeting location and has a station).
One said bike use would not reflect well on her, professionally, with her clients. Another said that for “toting kids, or serious groceries,” primary needs of many who don’t have cars, the Nice Ride bikes wouldn’t work.
“There are some underlying assumptions” about why a person is using a bike, that they can’t afford a car, one participant said. Dossett said particularly in high density areas, centers of transit, people are choosing not to use cars. Moore said, “biking is getting cool.” Others said “but not on the North Side.”
They brainstormed a while about starting to get early teens interested in bikes as transportation, so that when they reach 16, the age when they can use Nice Ride, they’ll want to use it. Participants agreed that in general, new potential users need a “tour guide” to take them through checking out their first bike so they get over the hump and see how easy it is.
Paying the Nice Ride fees requires a credit card. Some debit cards can be used, but it takes a while to return the deposit that’s held, to the card balance. Is this a barrier? Somewhat, the participants said. The discussion morphed into ideas about tying a Nice Ride subscription to a bus transit card. Ariah Fine said it’s “highly likely that the user is someone who is now walking.” At $60 for a year subscription, “make that easier and make it obvious the cost savings.” Dacia Durham said she got her Nice Ride subscription at half-off through her work, a great incentive, “and I would continue it at regular rate.”
Is computer use (lack of a computer) a barrier? Yes, but not as much as you think, said Moore. “The Bike/Walk Center could have a computer.” Monthly and annual subscriptions can only be purchased online.
Taylor suggested “reverse engineering” to figure out where do people live, who would go downtown to work, and target the kind of rides that are most feasible.
As the meeting wrapped up, they recapped, and returned to the basic theme of the Nice Ride commercial. “It’s a visual, they have to see it.” Taylor said “there is a weird subtle thing, people of color on bikes.” He’s heard it said, “that’s for white people.”
Moore said people ask him, teasing, “you still ride that bike”?
It was pointed out that during the recent Carter work days in Hawthorne, they moved around by bike; conditions were so dense it would be difficult by car.