Saturday, June 26, 2010

NoMi Needs Nice Rides!

Post and photo by the Hawthorne Hawkman

Not too long ago, Nice Ride Minnesota began a new bicycle-sharing program in Minneapolis. Almost immediately after the program was rolled out, people realized that there were no stations in NoMi - nothing north of Highway 55.

Having north Minneapolis miss out on such an exciting new amenity generated quite a few comments on the Minneapolis Issues Forum and Nice Ride's own Facebook page. The response from Nice Ride was that, basically, there were quite a few neighborhoods that don't have a kiosk, and they had to place stations close enough to each other to make the program work with the limited funds they have to start.

That seemed to make a lot of sense to me. I was okay with their response and strategy, I really was. That is, until...

...last night. While some friends and I were at Good Sports after helping trees find happy new owners, a woman came by riding one of the bikes from a Nice Ride kiosk.

First off, here's basically how the program works: You pay a subscription fee ($60 for a year makes the most sense) and then you pay additional fees depending on how long you have the bike away from the kiosk. Since the first half hour is free, Nice Ride claims that the kiosks are set up to be close enough to each other that riders can get from one kiosk to another without paying fees.

(Also, FYI - a $250 security deposit charge is placed on whatever card is used to check the bike out. So don't use your debit card unless you can afford to wait over a week for your bank to reverse the charge.)

So here we have a young woman who got on a Nice Ride bike, took it to a neighborhood that supposedly was too far away to merit a station, stayed for a few hours, and was brave enough to sing karaoke, give Mike Levey a hug, and then bike back home in the dark. This tells me that there's a market for Nice Ride kiosks in my neighborhood.

When Minneapolis was voted the #1 bicycling city in America, I posited that NoMi was missing out on some of the bicycling benefits that the rest of the city has. My thoughts at that time were largely directed at seemingly trivial aspects of biking. But this is much larger of an issue.

We're probably going to have bike lanes along Emerson and Fremont
. With more and more people using bikes to get around, we should be looking into a bike shop as well. Bicycling is an increasingly important aspect of our city's infrastructure, and north Minneapolis deserves to reap the benefits of such amenities just like any other neighborhood.


Anonymous said...

Ha those "Nice Rides" would become stolen rides in about 10 minutes if they put a Kiosk in NOMI.

M. Clinton said...

I must have missed the discussion on the MPLS Issues Forum. I think you were giving them an "out" way too easily by buying the line that other neighborhoods don't have them. North MPLS is not a "neighborhood," per se but a large geographic area, within close proximity to downtown, and a commercial corridor. With over 50 stations placed around the city, it is inexcusable that at least was not placed on West Broadway if for nothing else than to "test" the market demand. I feel this is a clear example of the Northside simply getting the shaft.

The Hawthorne Hawkman said...

Anon 5:12, I wondered about that very thing at first too. But after seeing the kiosks, that is not a concern. These bikes are pretty well secured, and the kiosk would be in a very public area where the amount of time and effort it'd take to steal one wouldn't be worth the risk of getting caught.

M. Clinton, the reason I found Nice Rides' argument acceptable at first was because NoMi wasn't the only large geographic area that missed out. Heck, the whole southwest portion of the city missed out too, and we've got several kiosks that are kind of close.

The Issues Forum thread is linked on this JNS post, but its title is "Nice Ride Biles." Either somebody made a typo when starting the thread and nobody corrected it, or somebody's being so clever that I'm missing the pun.

Johnny Northside! said...

To the anonymous (troll) at 5:12.


The bikes are too distinctive to be stolen. Anybody who tried to make one of these Nice Ride bikes their own would find out in a hurry that doesn't work.

Anonymous said...

Do people in NOMI even have credit cards that allow a $250 charge? I thought everyone lost or walked away from their home.

Johnny Northside! said...

Stupid troll. Being stupid.

oZ said...

I'm not sure North Minneapolis was excluded for any reason except for money. The furthest Northeast that those go is in the St. Anthony Main area where there is a considerable amount of foot traffic and activity, but if you go into wider "northeast", they are nowhere to be found. Same with South Minneapolis. If you look on the map, the furthest it goes is E Lake St, so it can capture the uptown traffic, and it goes into North Loop to capture... I have no idea.

Fact is, they have a nice little blob, and they plan on expanding. Make your desires known so they head up there, but don't think it was just people 'screwing NoMi over'. :)

veg*nation said...

one minor clarification to the point below about the $250 deposit: this deposit is only incurred for 24-hour subscriptions, not for the 30-day or 365-day subscriptions (at least according to the Nice Ride website i think this does make a big difference in the usability of the system!

"(Also, FYI - a $250 security deposit charge is placed on whatever card is used to check the bike out. So don't use your debit card unless you can afford to wait over a week for your bank to reverse the charge.)"

Folwell Fox said...

I think the guy's business plan is ok. If you had limited startup funds placing them downtown and in well traveled (popular) business districts first was the smart thing to do. It's a great way to visit those areas, plus it gives the program the needed exposure. The program is geared to the casual rider and short distance commuter. I'm sure he knows that there are already serious bike commuters in N, S, NE, SE, SW, and Uptown. He's gearing this towards the people who can't pack their bikes with them, or who just want a short lark. Also, don't forget that this guy is operating a startup business, probably by the skin of his teeth. And as not to confuse philanthropy with business there was probably a good financial reason why he didn't put a kiosk on W. Broadway, would you? If so, why not try a similar plan it might make you rich! I simply give him credit for what he's done so far and hope it works so he can expand it.

M. Clinton said...

@ Hawkman - In response to the SW neighborhoods, I would argue that they are not in close proximity to downtown. But they are as far south as Lake Street, which is comparable in distance to downtown as NoMi. I used to live one block off of Lake Street and now I live in Hawthorne. I've mapquested and found that it is exactly the same distance to walk into downtown from my house in Hawthorne as it was from my house in Central. So if we are comparing distances from downtown and proximity to other kiosks, SW MPLS is not comparable to West Broadway. It would be more like comparing Camden.

Anonymous said...

0. Redeemer Center for Life should be launching a bike shop pretty soon here on Glenwood.

1. I think as a resident of North Minneapolis I wouldn't have minded not being included in the first phase if Nice Ride MN would have stuck with their initial plan around a small cluster in Downtown, Uptown and U of MN, but as they extended into Seward with a few kiosks, then into NE with a few kiosks, it kind of makes you wonder why they didn't extend into North with a few kiosks, especially down from Target Field into the Harrison neighborhood.

2. Being singularly excluded (North Minneapolis is the only city planning sector w/o a kiosk) is unacceptable, especially from an initiative with lots of public support.

3. There was little community engagement in North Minneapolis to determine feasibility of the kiosks. Their prime form of engagement was connecting with Bike Shops, well North Minneapolis doesn't have any bike shops and they didn't reach out to anyone else.

4. If there is limited funding, why is it okay for North Minneapolis to be the part of the city left waiting for more funding. Why couldn't they have chosen to put the 2 NE kiosks on Glenwood Ave. N. ?

5. This isn't about equality. It's about equity. More nonprofit organizations and public leaders should approach their work with a better racial equity lens.

6. I think this issue is also just a symptom of the need for a larger bike plan and transportation in north Minneapolis.

7. And finally.. I read earlier this month Mike Opat, Hennepin County Commissioner say this about North Minneapolis, "The people of North Minneapolis don't get much, because they don't ask for much". Well, as a resident of north Minneapolis that was all the catalyst I need to get my butt in gear and start asking for the things I want in my community.

8. And really finally.. too often people associate "asking hard questions" with "complaining". I, and others, who are upset about this are not complaining.

I love the idea of Nice Ride MN and support it, just want to make sure the right questions are being asked to the right people to ensure that North Minneapolis is being equitably considered and viewed when decisions are being made.

Anonymous said...

a bunch of us over North have already been working on this and talking to folks from nice ride and TLC and the city. There definitely was zero equity lens used here. N.Mpls was the only planning sector in the network to be excluded. We've had one sit down meeting already, we had brandt williams there and he did a piece on MPR. Their board is feeling pressure and are having a special board meeting on 7/6 to address the issue. If you care, i would advocate for people to put notes on their facebook page, email their director and call the mayor. We're not asking for a full network expansion, simply that they would extend the DT network into North just like they extended the network into NE and Seward. Then in Phase 2, let's work together to do stronger community engagement and better include North in the network expansion.

M. Clinton said...

Wow - Annonymous, thanks for the information. i especially appreciated what you said about "asking the hard questions" vs. "complaining."

There was a rather obtuse comment from Steve Brandt on the MPLS Issues Forum suggesting that those concerned should have been more involved in the process back in December. I took this to suggest he is painting those concerned about this to basically be reactionary "complainers." To some degree he has a point; however, when something smacking of inequity occurs, are we just supposed to "know our place" that we shouldn't have an opinion in the matter unless we were involved from the beginning? That is not how I see the world.

Considering all of the ways NoMi is continually the second class sector of the city, I find it ironic that whenever NoMi residents speak up, there always seems to be someone from a "better" part of the city suggesting we should just shut up and sit down. After all - as Northsiders, we should know our place, right?. I was particularly disappointed to see this attitude coming from Mr. Brandt. I feel we have a very legitimate basis for asking the "tough questions" on this one.

I can assure you that I have ALWAYS been very actively engaged with my community. I even annually participate in the bike counts and communicate with Shawn Murphy about ideas / concerns that I have had (and always received very thoughtful and intelligent responses)

This winter alot of stuff probably fell off of my radar as I was working to rehab and owner occupy a blighted condemned house in NoMi (and the effort was worth it as it is now the best house of the block). Not everyone can reasonably stay on top of every issue going on in the city - especially not even those yet "rolled out" but in planning phases. But we do elect representatives.

The "tough question" I would like to ask is why Council Members or neighborhood organizations did not realize this disparity in treatment between NoMi neighborhoods and other neighborhoods with equal proximity to downtown? Were they even aware of NoMi's exclusion?

Anonymous said...

one sad fact was that the people at nice ride told us that they never heard from barb johnson or don samuels about their plan. crazy.

M. Clinton said...

Do you know if they heard from Diane Hofestead? She is our council person in Hawthorne AND has a board seat on the Minneapolis Riverfront Development Corporation. I can't imagine with kiosks in the Mill District and St. Anthony Main and with the bike paths along the Mississippi and Stone Arch bridge that this initiative would not have been known or discussed among those promoting development of the riverfront as an amenity. Or am I wrong?

Anonymous said...

I think Diane Hofestad is too busy running off staffers and hiring new ones to notice any proposed bike sharing program. Let this be a lesson to the voters in this area. The more baggage your reps have the less attention your critical issues receive.

The Hawthorne Hawkman said...

The issue is picking up some steam. Here's another Minneapolis Issues Forum thread.

And a piece on Minnesota Public Radio.

Even Insight News weighed in on this, calling it Bicycle apartheid.