If you thought you saw an abundance of people rolling by on flashy green Nice Ride bicycles Saturday, you weren't imagining things.

As of 8:30 p.m., the nation's fourth-largest bike-sharing program broke its own record for the number of rides taken in a 24-hour period. The organization's previous record of 4,486 rides — defined as each time a bicycle is checked out and then returned to a station — was set last July. By mid-evening Saturday, recorded ridership had surpassed that number by several hundred.

Nice Ride MN officials hope to record 5,000 rides across the system of 170 stations during its #NicestDayEver campaign. "One of the best ways to encourage people to ride is to see a lot of other bikes," said marketing director Anthony Ongaro.

This year, the Minneapolis Foundation partnered with Nice Ride MN to celebrate the foundation's centennial by giving away about 300 free 24-hour passes at six Minneapolis stations from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday. The foundation has vowed to donate $1 to the nonprofit Free Bikes 4 Kidz for every ride taken anywhere in the city on Saturday by midnight, Ongaro said.

The foundation will use the money to cover costs of refurbishing used bikes, which will then be given to children in December.

Ridership has increased by about 35 percent since this time last year, Ongaro said, and 20 new stations will be added in July.

Although roughly 70 percent of Nice Ride's annual members have their own bikes, they continue renting because of the convenience.

"For those people, Nice Ride is all about spontaneity," he said. "It means being able to seize the moment and grab a bike whenever you need it, anywhere in town where there's a Nice Ride station, which is just about everywhere."

Liz Sawyer • 612-673-4648