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Bike rental program opens for business in Minneapolis

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Checking out a bike kiosk
Friends Mark Hawkins, right, and Sherri Juenemann stopped to check out one of the new Nice Ride bicycle kiosks near the Birchwood Cafe in Minneapolis Wednesday, June 9, 2010. Nice Ride is the largest bike sharing program in the country, and allows riders to pick up, use, and drop off bicycles throughout Minneapolis for a user fee.
MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson

One of the country's largest urban bike rental programs opens for business Thursday in Minneapolis. At Nice Ride Minnesota two-wheelers are available for rent at 65 locations.  

Nice Ride Minnesota Executive director Bill Dossett says customers who make short trips will be likely users of the bike rental business.

For instance, one set of customers targeted by the nonprofit enterprise is the downtown Minneapolis office worker.

Dossett said many workers arrive downtown by transit. Instead of going to a nearby meeting by bus or train they can rent a bike for $5 or for a yearly subscription of $60. 

People who drive and park their cars but don't want to move them to go to a meeting are also potential customers, he said.

"Another group that we've seen in other cities that really use bike share are students. So, you've got all those students at the University [of Minnesota], at Augsburg and other colleges around downtown," Dossett said. "You've got a lot of them use public transportation and having the bike as additional tool they can use with the bus is really a great asset to them.

Dossett said theft of the Nice Ride Minnesota bikes will be deterred by having a credit card record of the transaction. 

"Whenever someone checks out one of our bikes we've got a credit card assigned to their account," he said. "So it's a subscription-based program and the credit card gives you the accountability you need to operate a bike share system."

An even larger bike sharing program growing out of an existing one opens in Washington, D.C. soon. Other U.S. cities have similar but smaller operations. Bike rental is also common in European cities.

Dossett said less-dense suburbs, where residents travel longer distances, are not likely markets for a bike share program.

"An area that you're dependent on a highway obviously isn't going to work. It's more of a high density thing," he said. "It'll follow transit lines. We definitely want to go to St. Paul, and we're going to want to follow light rail and bus lines to other pockets in the city that have that high density and mixed use."

Dossett said the program goes dormant and rental bicycles won't be available during winter months from approximately mid-November to mid-April.

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