Bemidji State University will be offering an estimated 100 bicycles for rent as a key hub in Bemidji’s Nice Ride bicycle rental program. Nice Ride is expected to launch a city-wide program featuring nearly 200 rental bikes beginning in the spring of 2014.
Nice Ride launched in Minneapolis in June 2010 and now provides a total of 170 stations and 1,550 bicycles in the Twin Cities. The program processed more than 54,400 24-hour subscriptions and a total of 274,500 rentals in 2012, and projects a 25-percent growth in subscriptions and more than 10 percent growth in total rentals for 2013.
Nice Ride’s planned 2014 expansion into Bemidji will serve as a test bed for expanding its vision to greater Minnesota.
“Cities, towns and employers across Minnesota are calling, asking for Nice Ride in their community,” said Bill Dossett, executive director of Nice Ride Minnesota. “Many are reinvesting in walkable main streets, adding bike lanes and building connections to regional bike trails. They want to be active living destinations. Our vision is to be a catalyst.”
According to Mark Morrissey, director of Bemidji State’s Outdoor Program Center, Nice Ride settled on Bemidji for its expansion efforts after visiting a variety of potential sites around the state.
“Nice Ride representatives toured around to different cities to find out where this might work,” he said. “They wanted to test this someplace where there isn’t an existing public transportation infrastructure and where there isn’t a large population. We have a lot of pieces to the puzzle.”
Morrissey said Nice Ride plans to host approximately 100 Vanmoof model 6 bikes (pictured; photo courtesy Vanmoof) at Bemidji State’s Outdoor Program Center boathouse in Bemidji’s Diamond Point Park as one of five bike stations in the city.
“It is a sensible location,” Morrissey said. “People just tend to land there when they get into Bemidji and start looking for things to do in the area. So that will be a big hit.”
While the ability to support bike tourism will be a key component of the university’s Nice Ride participation, the program also will bolster a series of steadily-growing efforts to provide bicycles for student use on campus.
Morrissey points to anecdotal evidence that bike usage on campus has exploded in recent years, a trend he expects to continue.
“Over the last five years, for sure, I have seen a lot more bike use on campus,” he said. “It used to be you would see a few bikes on campus, but now it seems every space on the bike racks are loaded.”
Bemidji State’s Sustainability Office and Outdoor Program Center started a rental program called Bucky’s Bikes about four years ago. The program now has around 30 high-quality used bikes, which students can rent on a per-semester basis.
“It seems like we have bottomless demand for bikes,” Morrissey said. “We started slow with a few bikes that we would rent, and then we added more and more over time. For a lot of our students, this is their car; they use these bikes to get around all over the place.”
Erika Bailey-Johnson, BSU Sustainability Coordinator, said the Nice Ride program is a good fit with the university’s existing sustainability efforts.
“This program fits so well with many of our goals — to pollute less, sustain our resources, and support the wellness piece of sustainability that we are starting to put more emphasis on,” she said. “I think it’s awesome that programs like this can help our students make the choice to ride bikes from one side of campus to another instead of driving a car.”
Bailey-Johnson hopes Nice Ride can set the stage for further integration of the campus into the city of Bemidji’s existing bike culture by making it easier than ever for BSU students to access bicycles.
“I am so excited that Nice Ride picked Bemidji,” she said. “This will be an opportunity for more of our students to have access to bikes.
“Maybe at some point in the future, when a student signs up for their dorm room, they’ll have an option right on their registration forms to sign up and rent a Nice Ride bike for the semester, and that will be a standard feature of our campus.”
Morrissey points to the tremendous success of BSU’s existing bicycle programs as a good sign for the future of the Nice Ride initiative in the community.
“We know it will work, because we are doing it already,” he said.
• Mark Morrissey, assistant director of campus recreation, Outdoor Program Center director; (218) 755-3900