St. Paul, Minneapolis mayors hit the road for Nice Ride


Nice Ride officially moved into St Paul today, as St Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak bucked heavy winds to ride Nice Bikes east across the Franklin Avenue Bridge and along University Avenue. (Slide show below.)

“It is about dang time that it has come to the city of St. Paul,” said Mayor Coleman in a press conference held at Dunn Brothers on University Avenue along the Central Corridor line.  “This isn’t just about green transportation – although that is certainly a piece of it – it’s about making sure that the Central Corridor is part of a multi-modal system.”  Mayor Rybak gave a shout out to Minneapolitans to take their Nice Rides into St Paul and patronize businesses along University Avenue that are struggling during Central Corridor construction.

A bike sharing program designed to increase mobility choices and encourage walking, biking, and use of public transportation, nonprofit Nice Ride Minnesota launched a year ago with 700 bikes at 65 locations in Minneapolis.  The organization boasts 100,000 bike trips taken in its first season and more than 2,500 1-year subscribers at this time. 

Funding for the initial $3 million capital cost included  $1.75 million from the federal Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Program administered by Bike Walk Twin Cities  and Transit for Livable Communities (TLC), $1 million of tobacco settlement proceeds from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota (Blue Cross), and $250,000 from the City of Minneapolis Convention Center fund.

Nice Ride field technicians set up eight new stations last week, four of them in St Paul along the Central Corridor route.  According to Field Manager Josh Sweet, the stations are powered by a solar mast and 2 car batteries, and can be assembled in a day, weather permitting.  Nice Ride Executive Director Bill Dossett estimates the average cost of one kiosk to be $45,000, including the station, bikes, and assembly.

The expansion into St Paul is part of Nice Ride’s Phase 2 Plan, which envisions 130 new stations at a capital cost of $5,844,848 according to a Draft Report for Phase 2 Planning issued in December.  Funding has been secured for 500 bikes at 40 stations: 20 in St Paul and 20 more in Minneapolis.  Phase 2 funders include Central Corridor Funders Collaborative for $250,000, Macalester College High Winds Fund for $30,000, Blue Cross for an additional $715,000 and TLC for an additional $1 million of federal pilot project funds.  Additional funds are being sought to complete the plan.

Locations for additional kiosks were selected through a planning and public engagement process. 

Community Design Group was hired to lead the process and to develop expansion criteria.  According to the Draft Report the criteria includes Proximity Factors (being close to housing, retail and commercial density, entertainment districts and recreational areas), Redistributive/Environmental Justice Factors to provide better access to transportation and mobility choices in under-served communities, and Site-Specific Factors  that would take advantage of potential partners (for example, sites along the Mississippi River located on National Parks Service land).

Eight stations were added in north Minneapolis this spring, through Nice Ride on the North Side, sponsored by the Minneapolis Department of Health and Family Support with funding from the 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.

Nice Ride subscribers may subscribe for a month ($30) or a year ($60) and receive a key to access any available bike at any kiosk.  Trips of less than 30 minutes are free to subscribers. Additional charges apply to longer trips, but riders are encouraged to check into a kiosk and take another bike for another short ride.  A 24 hour subscription is also available for $5.

Coverage of issues and events that affect Central Corridor neighborhoods and communities is funded in part by a grant from Central Corridor Collaborative.