In the rapidly changing world of shared mobility options, there’s no such thing as business as usual. It was only two years ago that electric scooter share started shaking things up on city streets across the country. Here in Minnesota, homegrown Nice Ride bike share first transformed our trips around town nine years ago and the system has been evolving ever since. Now, as the 2019 bike share season wraps up in the Twin Cities, Nice Ride and its current parent company Lyft are again planning for the future. At a recent public forum, Move Minnesota staff joined other locals for a preview of potential changes to next year’s system:
A Big Boost for E-Bikes
Expect about 2,000 new e-bikes to hit Minneapolis streets in 2020. This is a serious expansion of Nice Ride’s pilot of 50 e-bikes in 2019. 2020 e-bikes will be a new model that promises improvements over the older generation bikes included in the pilot.
Those older 2019 e-bikes are out, and so are the blue dockless bikes. Many people had challenges with this year’s blue bikes, which were dependent on old technology that was unreliable, especially downtown.
The classic green bikes are staying but will be reduced to a fleet of about 1,000.
Nice Ride’s new e-bikes will have built-in locks that allow both for docking at a bike share station or locking to a regular bike rack. Either way, they will need to be locked to something appropriate. What is appropriate is up for debate and the City of Minneapolis is discussing this. Nice Ride is exploring helping to create bike racks to accommodate the thousands of bikes they will be adding to the city. All of Nice Ride’s bike share and bike share parking options will be available through one app.
This change comes after Nice Ride experienced significant issues with loss and theft of the blue dockless bikes this year. Some of those issues were related to problems with old technology and confusion about how and where people should return bikes, and confusion with multiple apps. Because of this Nice Ride opted not to enforce fines for unreturned bikes this year.
Nice Ride is also looking at options for rewarding people for bringing e-bikes to charging stations as having folks run around and change batteries isn’t a sustainable model.
Will Nice Ride Return to Saint Paul?
Nice Ride’s goal is to offer an integrated bike share experience across the Twin Cities. Their first priority is to work out a bike parking plan with the City of Minneapolis, where they are currently under contract to provide bike share options. But Saint Paul is in the mix for these 2020 planning conversations and Saint Paul staff have been involved in talks about how locking and docking could work in the city.
Nice Ride for All Equity Program Continues
In 2019, the Nice Ride for All program had higher enrollment than ever, and there is clearly a strong need to ensure bike share is an equitable option for people. The Nice Ride for All program will continue in 2020, at a likely cost of $5 per month with the option to opt out at any time. Next year, new technology will also allow people to use key fobs to check out shared bikes, improving access for folks without a smart phone. Nice Ride plans to continue outreach around equitable access through this fall in anticipation of their 2020 season.
To share your own feedback and hopes for Nice Ride’s future, take their survey. And stay tuned! Nice Ride hopes to share a draft service plan for feedback later in October or November.