Nice Ride Minnesota is planning a big rollout of electric bikes for rent in Minneapolis come this spring.
The Minneapolis-based nonprofit organization, which pioneered bike-sharing in the Twin Cities, already rolled out dockless (nonelectric) bikes last fall in a partnership with a firm now owned by Lyft.
Nice Ride said Thursday it expects to have more than 600 bike hubs for dockless blue bikes, docked green bikes and e-bikes located throughout the city this year.
“This is super exciting,” said Bill Dossett, executive director of Nice Ride. Adding electric bikes to Nice Ride’s existing fleet “is a trend that could open bike-sharing to lots more people.”
The bikes give cyclists a motorized boost as they pedal. Nice Ride will roll out 500 electric bikes in April, with the goal of adding 1,300 more throughout the summer. Nice Ride’s traditional green docked bikes will ultimately be replaced by electric bikes.
E-bike distribution and parking hub placement will be prioritized for the Phillips, Cedar-Riverside and north Minneapolis neighborhoods, part of what Nice Ride calls its “commitment to equity and access.” Nice Ride said it will launch a reduced-fare membership program to help make bike sharing more accessible to cyclists from low-income backgrounds.
Nice Ride’s annual membership will continue to cost $75, with monthly memberships available for $18. A single ride will be $2 and a day pass, $6. E-bike rentals have a $1 “unlock fee,” which can be waived for those with a reduced-fare membership.
Other cities, including San Francisco, Dallas, New York and Montreal, have found that e-bikes attract two times more customers on a daily basis than traditional cycles.
At the same time, Nice Ride will roll out 1,500 dockless bikes at hubs throughout Minneapolis — virtual parking spaces for bikes, which cyclists find using a smartphone app. Dockless bikes must be left at one of these designated spots.
Many cities have had issues with dockless bikes being abandoned in inopportune places, a phenomenon that wasn’t an issue when dockless bikes were introduced to the Nice Ride fleet last fall, Dossett said. A bigger challenge was creating virtual parking hubs, essentially taped-off areas of sidewalk, with last fall’s unexpectedly wet weather, he added.
Nice Ride had partnered with a company called Motivate to roll out dockless bikes. Motivate was purchased by ride-sharing giant Lyft in November. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota will continue to serve as a sponsor of Nice Ride’s bike-sharing program.
Janelle Waldock, vice president of community health and health equity at Blue Cross and Blue Shield, said in a statement the electric bikes are “another great innovation at Nice Ride to help more people, especially those who may have been daunted by riding a regular bike, to be able to experience the joys and benefits of biking.”
St. Paul and Golden Valley went in a different direction, striking up agreements with Lime for dockless bike-sharing.