The bike-sharing program first dangled in front of Twin cities residents at the time of the Republican National Convention in 2008 now is planned to start in June.
The Minneapolis portion, which Mayor R.T. Rybak originally hoped to launch last spring, got a key approval by the City Council on Friday.
But St. Paul, which once wanted to establish a similar permanent bike-sharing program, is a non-starter.
Plans call for the Minneapolis program to start with up to 80 kiosks, dispensing up to 1,000 bikes. It will operate in a way that planners say will deter the bike thefts that have plagued some earlier sharing programs. Kiosks will be concentrated mostly in downtown, Uptown and at the University of Minnesota. The city will join some 130 bike-sharing programs globally.
People can pay $60 ($50 for students) for an annual key card, or use a credit card. The system is designed to promote short rides, according to Bill Dossett, who runs the nonprofit Nice Ride Minnesota, which is putting the program in place.
People who pay by the ride will face an escalating hourly charge the longer they keep the bike. But a daily $5 fee covers up to 30 minutes if the bike is turned in at a kiosk, and any subsequent rides of up to 30 minutes for 24 hours.
People who don't return bikes will get a phone call first, but eventually would see the cost of the bike on their credit card bill under terms they must agree to before renting.
The kiosk system is solar-powered and uses wireless technology to connect kiosks. The bikes are designed for short trips, with heavier step-through frames, lights run off hub generators, front racks, adjustable seats, fenders and chain guards.
"It's an enormously important project," Rybak said. He said it's designed to entice people who won't commute by bike but might hop on one to go across downtown for lunch or a meeting, reducing congestion.
The Minneapolis program will consume $1.75 million of the $22 million provided through federal legislation to finance pilot projects to increase non-motorized transportation in Minneapolis and adjoining communities. That prompted some debate last year about whether too much was going to a single program.
The bike-sharing program arose from a temporary bike-sharing arrangement provided by a donor during the Republican National Convention in 2008. Rybak said then he wanted to make sharing bikes permanent. "It's a leap from there to having an organization that funders and city trust to operate and keep the business going," said Sandra Colvin Roy, who chairs the council committee that oversees transportation.
The council insisted on that type of structure from Nice Ride Minnesota before approving on Friday a contract for bike sharing. Council members don't want the city left holding the bag if the program fails. Besides the federal grant, the program will be financed by the fees paid by bikers and by $1 million in tobacco settlement funds through Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota. The program also is lining up business sponsors of individual kiosks.
In other action Friday, the City Council also renamed a ballpark-area section of 3rd Avenue N. as Twins Way.
Steve Brandt • 612-673-4438