The Cities Blog

Nice Ride MN gets an upgrade

The popular bicycle sharing service Nice Ride Minnesota is rolling out the first automatic key dispenser in the world. It's installed on Nicollet Mall, outside the Hyatt Hotel.

"The benefit of a key is that you don't have to go up to the touchscreen at all. You can walk straight up to a bike, insert the key and ride away in seconds," said executive director Bill Dossett.

Keys have been available before. But Nice Ride MN members typically had to join online and wait for a key in the mail. Members already benefit from a 60-minute use period, double the nonmember time limit for taking out a bike.

But the new technology means you can also become a member online and pick up a key at the new kiosk, Dossett said. He hopes an expansion of the key option will make bike transportation even easier for tourists and other casual users.

"You're going to see this same technology rolling out in Seattle next month, and I believe you'll see it around the world after that," said Dossett.

The new terminals are built by 8D Technology, the company that originally built part of the bike share system.

The announcement comes almost a year after Nice Ride MN noted a "material breach" with equipment supplier PBSC of Montreal. PBSC filed for bankruptcy months later, but the effect on Nice Ride at the time was said to be minimal.

Dossett said this first-ever key kiosk is an important milestone, showing that at least some of the founding makers are ready to continue developing what is proving to be a successful system.

How successful? Nice Ride trips are up 40 percent so far this year over 2013, with the same number of stations and bikes as last year. Nice Ride is hoping to get 20 of the new instant-key stations up and running. "We don't know exactly when they're coming, so I can't guarantee that we'll get more out this year, but I hope we will," Dossett said.

Minnesota's Nice Ride season is scheduled to run through Nov. 2 this year. Founded in 2010, it has offered 1,500 bikes at 170 stations this year.

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