A bunch of St. Paul colleges are about to get a fresh batch of green bikes.

The bike-sharing organization Nice Ride is about to build new stations at Hamline University, the University of St. Thomas, Concordia University and Macalester College. It's part of a $2 million summer expansion that will bring the Minneapolis-based program across the river.

Heather Linville, a soon-to-be senior at Concordia, knew about Nice Ride through friends who live in downtown Minneapolis. Last summer, they'd rent the bikes and ride to dinner, or just take a "random ride." She can't wait to do the same in St. Paul.

"It's a cool way to get all your friends together," she said. "It's a cheap excuse for everybody to try something new."

The bikes are made for those short trips, said Bill Dossett, executive director of Nice Ride Minnesota. Dossett said the program's biggest user was a University of Minnesota graduate student who rode from one docking station to another across the river -- several times a day.

Campuses are a clear target for the stations, Dossett said.

Riders pay through daily, monthly or yearly subscriptions and for trips longer than 30 minutes. Besides those fees, the stations are also funded by corporate sponsorships and federal dollars. Macalester's station will be paid for partly by $30,000 from the college's High Winds Fund. It will be up and running this month.

"It's the most successful bike-share program in the country," said Brian Longley, Macalester's director of media services. "We wanted a piece of that."

Longley, a longtime bike commuter, recognizes that Nice Ride isn't aimed at "committed bikers" like him. He wants to see how visitors to campus use the bikes. Or students who take classes on other private college campuses. Or faculty who want to leave for lunch but not lose their coveted parking spot.

"What I could imagine is that colleagues who don't normally ride to work might say, 'Let's go down to Dixie's for lunch,'" he said.

Jenna Ross • 612-673-7168