Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak will be among the dignataries who will speak during a kick off celebration to mark the expansion of Nice Ride Minnesota into city parks and the addition of several stations throughout the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area.

Festivities begin at 11 a.m. Thursday at Fort Snelling Visitors Center and includea bike ride along with  remarks by Nice Ride Executive Director Bill Dossett, Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin, Minneapolis Park Board President John Erwin and Dave Spalding of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, one of the main financial sponsors of the bike sharing program.

With the addition of 24 new stations for the 2013 riding season, Nice Ride will have 170 locations in Minneapolis and St. Paul where people can check out the shiny green bicycles. The new stations will be primarily along the Mississippi River from Webber Park in north Minneapolis down to Fort Snelling and Minnehaha Park's Coldwater Spring Unit.

A few stations also are being installed along Lake Street and Hiawatha Avenue to improve transit options in that highly populated area.

The National Park Service is a big driver of this year's expansion, contributing $630,000 to get the additional bikes on the streets and provide options for people to explore Minneapolis' city parks.

"We're thrilled to have more Nice Ride location in and near our parks to provide easy asscess and enjoyment of our wonderful park system," Erwin said.

As part of Thursday's kick off, the public will be allowed to ride from Fort Snelling to Coldwater Springs on a Nice Ride bike, or they can bring their own. Helmets will be provided for the ride, which will be led by National Park Service rangers.

Nice Ride officials say all of its 1,550 green two-wheelers and the new stations should be operating by Saturday.



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