Sponsors Sold on Health, Economic Benefits of Minneapolis Bike-Share

Don’t count out Boston just yet, but it looks like Minneapolis may be the first American city out of the gate with a public bicycle system of 1,000 bikes or more. Last week, the non-profit Nice Ride Minnesota selected the Public Bike System Company (the same firm behind Montreal’s Bixi) to install its system, which is slated to feature 1,000 bicycles at about 75 stations when the first phase wraps up later this year.

nice_ride_kiosk.jpgThe first phase of Minneapolis’s bike-share system will consist of about 1,000 bikes at 75 kiosks. Image: Nice Ride Minnesota.

Boston’s bike-share will also launch this year with a fleet of about 1,000 bicycles, reports NPR’s Andrea Bernstein. With Denver planning to get a 600-bike system up and running in April, and Washington, DC working out some kinks in the plan to expand its SmartBike pilot, 2010 is shaping up to be a momentous year for bike-share in American cities.

The multi-city horse race is fun to track, but Nice Ride director Bill Dossett downplayed the competition. "My view is that if all of us weren’t doing this, then none of us would be," he said.

As each of these cities figures out how to make bike-share work, one of the interesting things to watch is how they get people excited about the idea of public bikes. For Nice Ride, the name of the game is public health and economic development. The project has attracted a broad range of support, with major chunks of funding coming courtesy of health insurer BlueCross BlueShield and contributions from local businesses.

A $1.75 million federal grant will cover much of the initial cost, with $1 million from BlueCross providing most of the remainder. "BlueCross BlueShield is all about fighting obesity right now," said Dossett. "They’re interested in
anything that encourages physical activity."

Small
businesses in Minneapolis’s downtown retail area are bullish on bike-share, he added, "because it’s an economic
development tool. It gets people to come out to lunch from office
towers a mile away."

Subscriptions ($60 per year, $5 per day) will cover 80 percent of the cost of running Nice Ride, with contributions from local businesses — who can pay to sponsor individual bike-share kiosks — taking care of the rest. Other bike-share systems, including Washington’s SmartBike and Paris’s Velib, rely heavily on contracts with major outdoor advertising firms, which have proven problematic on more than one occasion.

After Nice Ride’s first season, which runs through November (the kiosks will be removed during the winter), Dossett hopes to expand beyond the downtown core and the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus. "Our plan is to expand into new neighborhoods through
partnerships with local businesses," he said. "We hope to be doing those kind of
constantly."

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

STREETFILMS

Major Bike Mojo in Minneapolis

|
In a surprising choice, the May edition of Bicycling Magazine named Minneapolis America’s best city for biking. The city still trails Portland, Oregon in the percentage of commuters who bike to work (4.3 percent to 5.9 percent, respectively, according to the most recent American Community Survey), but Minneapolis has been gaining momentum. Next month, Minneapolis […]

Big Companies Bringing Bike-Share to Small Cities

|
As metropolises like New York and Philadelphia consider the benefits of bike sharing, and with Washington DC already off and riding, smaller cities are getting in on the action as well, often through the initiative of major local employers. Last year, health care giant Humana started a bike-share for employees at its Louisville, Kentucky headquarters. […]
STREETSBLOG USA

A Promising Start for Minneapolis Bike-Sharing

|
The early data is in on one of the country’s pioneering bike-sharing systems, and it brings some encouraging news. Minneapolis’s Nice Ride, which launched this summer, topped 100,000 trips in its first five months. Crash rates and vandalism were very low. Perhaps most interesting was the effect on driving, reports The Bike-Sharing Blog. Nice Ride […]
STREETSBLOG USA

Portland Back on Top in Bicycling Magazine’s City Rankings

|
Minneapolis versus Portland: This is shaping up to be quite a rivalry. Today, Pacific coast sustainability standard bearer Portland topped Midwestern standout Minneapolis in Bicycling Magazine’s bike-friendly city rankings, bi-annual source of bragging rights or shame, depending on your locale. The top-two results were a reversal of the 2010 rankings. Bicycling Magazine did not explain what […]