Nice Ride Minnesota will be back despite supplier’s struggles

  • Article by: MATT MCKINNEY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 24, 2014 - 11:05 PM

Use of tax dollars for bike sharing at heart of Canadian bankruptcy.

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Nice Ride bikes remain locked at the most used station in Minneapolis, the Peavey Plaza station.

Photo: Brendan Sullivan, Special To The Star Tribune

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The Nice Ride Minnesota bike-sharing program will survive the bankruptcy of its Montreal-based bicycle supplier, the program’s executive director said Wednesday.

The bankruptcy announcement spelled out a bleak financial picture for Public Bike Systems Co., which in 2009 launched Bixi, a bike-sharing program, and has since sold bike stations to more than a dozen other municipalities, including the Twin Cities.

“This does not impact our operations at all,” said Bill Dossett, executive director for Nice Ride Minnesota. All 170 stations will return in the spring, he said, as will the program’s 1,550 bikes.

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre said he still supports Bixi but no longer wants to use public dollars to help pay for bike sharing.

Dossett said he expects the company’s assets to end up in private hands and for the bike-sharing programs to continue.

“When Nice Ride started in 2010, this was an experimental concept,” Dossett said. “If we would have had to deal with something like this in 2010, it could have very much undermined the whole thing. Today it’s a completely different landscape. It’s not going away.”

Riders checked out the green Nice Ride bikes some 300,000 times last year, up from 275,000 times the year before, according to projections from the program’s latest annual report.

Nice Ride recorded operating revenue of $815,000 in the first half of 2013; it recorded $995,000 in revenue for all of 2012, according to the annual report. Two-thirds of the program’s operating costs are covered by rider subscriptions and fees; sponsorships from nonprofits that support Nice Ride’s mission pay the remaining third.

Tax dollars, including $580,000 in 2012, were used to buy bikes and more bike stations, said Dossett.

The bankruptcy might delay plans to install 17 new stations this spring, primarily along the Mississippi River corridor north of downtown Minneapolis. The expansion has been supported by the National Park Service, but the bankruptcy proceedings have disrupted the manufacture of the bikes and bike stations, said Dossett.

A separate pilot project in Bemidji will not be affected. That bike-sharing system will use off-the-shelf bicycles, not the distinctive green bikes or the solar-powered parking stations used in the metro area.

Matt McKinney • 612-217-1747

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