Minneapolis to launch nation's largest bike-sharing program

bike share kiosks
Minneapolis' bike share kiosks will be similar to the ones used in Montreal, seen in this July photo.
Courtesy of Bill Dossett, Nice Ride Minnesota

Minneapolis will launch the first large-scale bicycle sharing system in the country next year, designed to improve public health and increase transportation options.

Nice Ride Minnesota, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit, will place 1,000 bikes in 80 locked self-service kiosks throughout the city, starting in May 2010. One of the kiosks is on display at the Minnesota State Fair.

The non-profit modeled the program on similar initiatives in Paris, Montreal, and Barcelona. Some American cities have experimented with smaller-scale programs, including Washington D.C. and Tucson, Ariz.

Bill Dossett, executive director of Nice Ride Minnesota, said he hopes the program will transform the urban landscape by encouraging people to reduce their dependence on cars.

"When you start building things for pedestrians and cyclists, you really start sending a powerful message that this is not a place that people just want to drive through, but also a place where people want to be," Dossett said.

Users will pay $5 a day or $60 a year to access the bikes. Participants who sign up for a year-long account will receive a key card for unlimited access to the kiosks. Daily users can use a credit card directly at a kiosk, and will receive a code to access the bicycles for 24 hours. Nice Ride Minnesota designed the program for short trips, in order to keep the bikes in circulation. Cyclists who use a bike for more than 30 minutes will be charged an additional fee for each half hour. Program officials have not yet determined the fee amount.

As a result, program organizers hope that each bike will be used for as many as 15 trips a day.

Franken rides
Sen. Al Franken rides a bike at a sponsorship ceremony for Nice Ride Minnesota on Sept. 2, 2009.
Photo/Kris Clewell

The kiosks will be placed throughout the downtown area, the University of Minnesota campus, and nearby commercial districts, including Uptown, South Nicollet Ave., Midtown, Seward, Dinkytown, Cedar Riverside, and the Warehouse district.

Bike Walk Twin Cities, a federally-funded initiative to increase biking and walking and reduce driving, provided $1.75 million in one-time funding for the program. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota will provide an additional $1 million in funding over five years.

"We're excited to be a part of this innovative program that makes it easier for Minnesotans to be active in their daily lives," said Blue Cross president and CEO Patrick Geraghty. "With two-thirds of Minnesotans overweight or obese, we need creative solutions such as Nice Ride to put the brakes on this trend."

Dossett said he also expects the health impact will be significant. "Right now we separate our lives so much because we sit at a computer all day, and then we sit in traffic, and then we go to the gym," he said. "And that's not a very good way to keep ourselves healthy. If we can find a way to integrate this into our daily routine, it's better for everyone."

Program organizers hope to expand the program to St. Paul within the next several years.

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