Bike-sharing hits Minneapolis streets

Borrow a bike with the swipe of a card

Nice Ride Minnesota has taken the reins on a full-blown bike-sharing program set to hit the streets of Minneapolis in June. Subscribers can look forward to borrowing a bike from any kiosk with the swipe of a card.

“The idea behind bike share is to make it easy for anyone to walk out of their office or classroom and use a bike for short trips in the city,” said Bill Dossett, Executive Director of Nice Ride Minnesota. “A bike share system must be easy to use, rugged, and reliable.  The BIXI system was designed from the ground up with these goals in mind.”

Public Bike System Company (PBSC) will supply the bikes and kiosks to Minneapolis for the Nice Ride Minnesota’s bike-sharing program. PBSC is well-known for developing the bike-sharing program in Montreal called BIXI. The BIXI system was launched last May and is being purchased by cities throughout the world, according to Dossett.

“The Montreal Board of Trade made the decision in 2007 to make a major investment to build a new bike-share system from the ground up, learning from the successes and challenges of the pioneering systems in Paris and Barcelona,” Dossett said. “Public Bike System Company and the BIXI system are the result of that investment.”

Minneapolis will be the first US city to implement a large scale bike-sharing program. The idea is mimicked from successful bike-sharing program’s established in many European countries. Dossett noted that on a smaller scale, Washington DC has implemented a pilot program and there are several college campus programs that have started a bike-sharing program as well.

The proposed Nice Ride bike design

“To get started with bike share, a City must have made an investment in bicycle infrastructure and have leadership in City Hall,” Dossett said.

“We have the bicycle infrastructure because advocates like the Midtown Greenway Coalition have been working for years. We have the leadership because Mayor R.T. Rybak believes active transportation is great for people and great for cities.”

Nice Ride Minnesota is a new non-profit organisation that was created for the purpose of owning and operating a bike share system in the Twin Cities of St Paul and Minneapolis. The initiative that led to its creation was started by Mayor Rybak and it received early support from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota.

It will phase in the bike-sharing program beginning with 80 kiosks in downtown Minneapolis and on the University of Minnesota Twin Cities Campus along with nearby commercial districts. The plan includes purchasing 1,000 bikes by the end of the year.

“All of the bikes are the same,” Dossett said. “I'm 6'2" and my wife is 5'2” and the bikes fit us both. The primary funding sources for this purchase come from a Bike Walk Twin Cities grant and a Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota sponsorship using proceeds from its historic settlement with tobacco companies.”

A recent press release outlined the BIXI system of bike-sharing whereby annual subscriber can take a bike from any kiosk with the swipe of a card and return it to any kiosk by simply pushing it into a dock, which locks automatically. Subscribers sign a user agreement online and the system keeps track of who has each bike at all times.

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