Minnesota 2020 has spoken kindly of the Nice Ride bicycle program in Minneapolis. Across scores of stations, Twin Citians can rent a bicycle to ride to a destination and leave said bike at a Nice Ride rack close to his/her stop. According to my own anecdotal evidence, the program is exceedingly popular. I have noted nearly depleted docking stations at many corners, and the distinctive yellow-green bikes can often be seen breezing up and down the major corridors of Minneapolis. A look at the Nice Ride website touts its success: 25,000 trips in just 40 days. It is of course fantastic news that so many Minnesotans are interested in using an alternate means of going about their business, and the numbers are certainly impressive, but I wanted to take the Nice Ride for a test drive and deliver a personal account.
I chose a recent Thursday to rent a bicycle and ride around. I parked my car on the south end of Uptown and walked the few blocks to a rental station. As it happens, I probably chose to park as far as I possibly could from any Nice Ride station. I only had to walk two or three blocks to get a bike, but as I found on my ride, a lazier person can find a station every couple of blocks along a busy street, especially in Uptown and downtown Minneapolis. The process of renting the bike is straightforward. You insert your credit card into the machine, you get the unlock code, and you take a bike out of the dock. Adjust the seat, and you’re good to go.
I spent time roving around backstreets, jaunted around Lake Calhoun, and made my way down the Green Way over to the Midtown Market for a snack. The pea-green bikes attract a lot of attention. It prompted discussion among passers-by about the program. I had several, “Hey, nice ride!” comments as I passed nylon-clad commuters. Fellow bicyclists seemed genuinely pleased to see the program up and running.
I kept my bike longer than most would, and the charges reflected it. For an afternoon of bicycling, I paid $12, including the mandatory $5 24-hour subscription fee. A fee of $7 is probably too costly for every day use (though a rental under thirty minutes is free). I forgot my credit card at home, and so I was forced to use my check card. Nice Ride places a hold of $250 on your account to make sure it gets the bike back, though the hold disappears after several days. This is the one downside of the program; I couldn’t access that cash for about a week after the ride. That I chose the wrong card is my own fault, but it is an issue for other riders to be aware of.
The success of the program will be getting more people on bikes who would otherwise not be so inclined to go out and give cycling a spin. Nice Ride bikes are available twenty-four hours a day, and they’re geared toward short, quick trips. For that convenience, the customer pays a premium. It is well worth it if you use the a Nice Ride bike infrequently, but in the long run it is more economical to purchase one’s own bicycle. And that’s sort of the point. Nice Ride will succeed because it is a Fischer-Price program: it is not an end unto itself; it’s is a great first step toward changing urban travel for the better.