Earlier this month, users of Nice Ride Minnesota received a painful reminder of winter’s onset: an email announcing the end of the popular bike-sharing program’s 2011 season.
Here in Minnesota, it appears, bike sharing is a seasonal phenomenon. Like baseball and walking outside without a parka and three scarves.
It’s not that Twin Cities bike commuters are afraid of a little snow (those who do it claim winter biking is not really that hard). But many of Nice Ride’s location permits require the removal of its bike-rental stations “from streets and sidewalks before significant snowfall occurs to accommodate snow plowing.” There’s also the concern that exposure to corrosive road salt would shorten equipment lifespan and void manufacturer warranties.
So instead of braving the elements, the nonprofit’s fleet of neon-green bikes will spend the next five months hibernating in a local warehouse space. Ditto for its scores of bike-rental stations that—who knew?—are designed to be stackable.
So if this is the end of Nice Ride’s second season, how did they do? Detailed stats won’t be available until the completion of user surveys, which are still in progress. But I think there’s enough data to conclude that Nice Ride succeeded in avoiding the sophomore slump.
- Minnesotans and visitors took 217,530 trips in 2011, more than double the season before.
- The program expanded into north Minneapolis and west St. Paul along the I-94 and University Avenue corridor.
- Zero bikes were lost or stolen.
Nice Ride was also recently honored (warning: geek alert) by Metro Transit and the region’s four Transportation Management Organizations as winner of the 2011 Outstanding Transportation Demand Management Organization award.
And to top it all off, the nonprofit’s employee team won the Midtown Greenway Coalition’s 2011 Greenway Challenge, proving that it’s possible to ride 30+ miles on a Nice Ride bike. (Personal statistics, available online to Nice Ride annual subscribers, show that I averaged a more modest 1.2 miles per trip over 41 trips during the season.)
But the truth is that the success of bike sharing isn’t limited to Minnesota. While the Twin Cities can currently boast the largest system in the United States, it’s dwarfed by Montreal’s Bixi system and may soon be overtaken by the Capital Bikeshare system in Washington DC—to say nothing of Chicago and New York City, both of which have bike-share plans in the works.
So enjoy your hibernation, Nice Ride. We’ll see you again in April, after the ice has melted and the road salt has washed away.
Photo: Nice Ride Minnesota