Nice Ride bicycles out earlier due to warm weather

Minneapolis charter
Nice Ride rental station
Jennifer Simonson | MPR News 2013

The warm spring weather has Nice Ride Minnesota getting ready to put bicycles out weeks earlier than last year.

The Twin Cities bike-sharing service is also bulking up its bright green fleet, adding more docking stations and streamlining payment options.

Workers plan to begin installing stations on city streets starting Wednesday, said marketing director Anthony Ongaro. The target is to have bikes available to check out by April 1, about three weeks earlier than they were able to turn the system on last year due to weather.

"We've learned that if we try to push that with two feet of snow pack on the ground, it makes placing the stations incredibly difficult," Ongaro said.

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The other big change coming to the service is a simplified fee structure. Previously, the charges escalated each half hour the bike was out after the initial free period. Now, the charge will be a straight $3 for each additional half hour.

All the changes are designed to make the bike-share system more welcoming to those who haven't used it before.

"If you want to become a member, you can go online and do that, you get some benefits from that," Ongaro said. "But really we're just encouraging people to just walk up to a station with a debit or credit card and follow the prompts — we're making this process as easy as possible to take out a bike and enjoy the weather."

The service is also adding 20 stations in mid-summer to fill out their map, although the exact locations haven't been released yet. The green bike fleet will increase by 200 to 1,700.

The nonprofit is also more than doubling the number of orange bikes given out in its neighborhood bike program, which lends out bikes to residents of north Minneapolis, Frogtown and the east side of St. Paul.

There were 405,000 rides last year on Nice Ride, making it the fourth largest bike-share in the country, and the nonprofit is shooting for an 18 percent increase in 2015.