Twin Cities Twinwheels

Bikes are a hassle for the well-funded; why invest in a bike when your car needs yet more expensive maintenance?  If you’re keeping the car, and yet pressed for cash, you’re certainly going to want to take care of it first, and your bicycle, if ever, second.  This is the situation my bike is in.  It’s certainly not ideal.

Professional bike maintenance is especially expensive in Grand Forks, where service and repairs are only offered by a single full-line shop.

So I went and used the Nice Ride Minnesota project in St. Paul to see if something like that could work elsewhere.

Advantages

Maintenance is handled on the backend, and the bikes are decent and well-maintained.  If there was a problem with a bike, you can signal it to the system.

Bikes and open docks (more about this later) are plentiful where the system exists.

It’s all weatherproof!  Even with all the electronics involved, it works in the rain.

As it happens, you can do better time on a Nice Ride Bike than a transit bus  — more than partially because you have to ride your bike in the street, and the bus can’t easily pass you..

Present System Limitations

Payment.  Quick and easy for credit card holders,  mixed results for debit cards and impossible for chip-and-PIN cards.  “Legal tender” — what’s that?

Pricing.  2.5 hour trip on Metro Transit:  $1.75.  Rush hour round trip:  $4.50.  Least you can pay for Nice Ride: $6.00  2.5 hour trip on Nice Rice: $22.50?!!

Narrow time limits.  A 30-minute ride policy is designed to keep you within a 15-minute ride of the dock network.

Limited dock network.  Dense in downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul, and thinly spread between. Totally absent from Bloomington and suburbs.

Limited transit integration.  Seems odd that Nice Ride isn’t at every Light Rail Station.  Intermodal should be a clear goal.

Limited ridership.  By my estimates Nice Ride has between 7000 and 20000 riders in an urban area of 3.3 million.   One a drizzly day in west Stl Paul, I saw a couple other bikes, but nobody on Nice Ride units.