Nice Ride Minnesota, the popular bike sharing program, returned to the streets Monday and with free rides for health care workers for a month.
Health care workers can register for a free membership that will allow them to take unlimited 60-minute rides Monday through May 6. They must register for the membership through their employer, said Kaitlyn Carl, a spokeswoman for Lyft, which operates Nice Ride.
Health care companies can e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to learn how to receive free memberships for their employees.
Others can use the bikes for $2 for single trips of up to 30 minutes. Day passes allowing unlimited rides in a 24-hour period go for $6, while a season membership costs $75, the same rates charged in 2019.
But as Lyft put about 300 of the green bikes out Monday with plans to deploy the rest of its fleet in the coming days, the company reminded users that the governor's stay-at-home order in effect until Friday limits travel to essential purposes and requires physical distancing, the practice of staying at least 6 feet from another person.
Carl said Lyft has "aggressively increased" cleaning and sanitizing protocols. High-contact surfaces such as handlebars, gear shifters, bells, seat clamps and the seat will be disinfected each time a bike arrives at the warehouse. Technicians and mechanics also will wipe down bikes as they conduct on-the-street repairs and bike checks, Carl said.
Vans used to transport bikes also are being disinfected each time a new driver takes them out, meaning they will get wiped down several times a day. Employees will be wearing gloves when handling bikes both in the depot and at high-traffic stations to minimize contact, Carl said.
Last year Nice Ride users logged more than 350,000 trips, so there is plenty of potential for germs to build up, even with a vigorous cleaning schedule. Asked if Nice Ride users should bring their own sanitizer or wipes, Carl suggested riders follow guidelines issued by the CDC and engage in frequent "hand hygiene" by washing hands with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
"It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes," the CDC said. "This is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads, but we are still learning more about this virus."
It's hard to forecast just how much use the system will see with many people still working at home and schools closed amid the coronavirus pandemic. But it's possible it will see a high demand as those wary of using mass transit now have another option. Both New York City and Philadelphia reported a surge in demand in recent months.
Nice Ride is still on track to unveil its fleet of pedal-assisted electric bikes later this season along with a new Nice Ride app.