Nice Ride is the bike share system for the Minneapolis, MN area. Founded in 2010, it’s one of the nation’s most well-established and largest bike share systems.
Traveling Local chatted with spokesperson Claire Repp about Nice Ride, the way the system works, and how visitors can use it to get a whole new experience of Minneapolis – plus some cool insider tips!
Q: Tell us a little about the Nice Ride system.
A: Nice Ride is a bike share system for temporary short term rentals. It’s perfect for people coming in from out of town as well as people who need to use a bike to get around every day.
Nice Ride is one of the oldest bike share systems in the country. We were founded almost a decade ago. We have the great fortune to exist in Minneapolis which has some of the best biking infrastructures in the country.
Nice Ride itself has a lot of different rental options. We have a fleet of over 3,000 bikes that are parked at either 200+ dock stations or at one of our 300+ virtual parking hubs throughout the city. It’s a really easy to use, convenient and reliable form of transportation and a really fun way to get around town.
Q: What is something you wish more people knew about Nice Ride?
A: I don’t think many people know that Nice Ride is so attached to Minneapolis and so entrenched in the life of the city. We were one of the first bike share systems ever and have been in Minneapolis as a hometown bike share service for nearly a decade.
We have one of the broadest footprints of any bike share in the country when it comes to spread throughout the city of Minneapolis. The recent tools that we’ve been able to invest in like our app make it easier to use than ever. So if you’ve come into town before, we’re not the same system you knew then. We’re bigger and better and have better tools. At the same time, we really know Minneapolis and have great coverage in the city.
Q: What’s the most common question you get asked about bike share?
A: One is, “how long can I keep the bike?” Especially folks that aren’t very familiar with bike share. Bike share is built on the idea that you’re borrowing a bike for a short amount of time, so you’re sharing it with other people. Unlike a bike rental service where you might rent something for a whole day or a half-day, with a service like Nice Ride you’re renting a bike for a limited amount of time. There are different options to let you do multiple rides throughout the day, but it is predicated on the idea of short trips. You get around, stop for coffee, take a bike again, that sort of approach. The difference that people who haven’t used bike share don’t always realize is that the bike share systems are built so that you can take a bike for a short period of time – half an hour or an hour at a time.
For Nice Ride, we have a couple of different bikes on the street. The most common question I get asked is, “what’s the difference?” We have three different bikes right now and you can ride any of our bikes when you buy a pass.
We have our classic Nice Ride bikes which are green and are parked in our docked stations. These are great, wonderful, easy-to-use bikes that are part of our traditional system. They’re parked in any one of our 200 stations and there are almost 2,000 of them.
We also have our newer Nice Ride dockless bikes which are parked and unlocked at virtual hubs throughout the city via the Nice Ride app.
The last type of bike which is really exciting is that we have a small pilot of pedal-assist electric bikes that are also available in our traditional stations. There are only 60-70 of those on the fleet on a given day, but they’re great fun and a great product.
Q: How do visitors use Nice Ride?
A: There are a couple of different ways to use our system. I would say the very best way for someone to be able to navigate all components is through the Nice Ride app. The app is available through the App Store and Google Play store. It essentially will allow you to rent any of the bikes in our system, navigate to your nearest station or hub, plan a route, see how many bikes are in a given station, purchase passes and rentals, extend your time and that sort of thing.
It’s definitely the way I recommend for people to navigate the system. The first step would be for people to download the app.
From there you select your pass. We have a couple of options for folks who are just in town for the day. The one that I would highly recommend is our day pass which is essentially a $6 pass which allows you to do unlimited 30-minute rides in a 24 hour period. There’s no difference in cost between any of the bikes. The only other fee would be if, let’s say, for example, you wanted to keep the bike out for a little longer. If you wanted to keep it for an hour during one of your rides during the day there would be a $2 fee per additional half-hour that you have the bike out past that 30-minute window per ride.
It’s perfect for visitors who maybe want to ride along the river then stop and get some coffee, or take a ride over to the lakes area or the art museum and go in for a while and ride back later. Its a super flexible way to see the city because we have bikes and stations everywhere so you can grab one and go.
Once you’ve purchased that day pass, all you need to decide is if you’re going to take a traditional Nice Ride green bike or a dockless Nice Ride bike. You can unlock them both from your phone. The difference is for a green bike the app will give you a code that you punch into the dock to take the bike. It functions like most bike share systems throughout the country. If folks have any familiarity with Chicago or New York or San Francisco it’s a very similar mechanism. For the dockless bike, you scan a QR code, the same way you might for many applications on your smartphone, and it will unlock the bike for you automatically.
The app is my #1 recommendation. Another great option if you’re not comfortable with the smartphone or run out of data, with our traditional system you can walk up to any Nice Ride station and use a credit card to purchase a short term rental like a day pass from there. The only difference is that this method will give you access to only the green bikes.
Q: What’s a question you wish you got asked more about bike share?
A: I think a lot of people don’t necessarily know how to end their bike share ride. They can manage to get a bike but don’t understand how or where to put the bike back and that leads to confusion. I would say for our system the first thing you remember is the green bikes go in the stations and the blue bikes go in the virtual parking zones. With the green bikes, you just push the bikes right back into the station. With our dockless blue bikes, you don’t need to put them back in the station. You just put them into any virtual parking spot you see on the app and lock the back wheel. That’s the most common question we get to our customer service. The bikes can’t just be locked anywhere, so that’s something to be mindful of.
The biggest thing we hear from folks who aren’t familiar with bike share it’s not so much about using the bike share system itself, it’s about navigating the city. When you’re new to a place you don’t necessarily know all the great biking infrastructure available and it can be easy to get lost. I recommend checking out some of the resources from our partners or on our own “Explore” page on our website to help you navigate and find a good route you feel comfortable with.
Another thing I think folks don’t always realize is that they need to be respectful of pedestrians, especially if they’re not used to biking. Definitely use the bike lane, wear a helmet, look for other bikers, and look for cars. It’s a different level or awareness when you’re on a bike versus in a car.
Q: Do you think bike share is a good option for visitors?
A: One thing I encourage folks to think about when they’re visiting a city is, how do you really want to see the city? You can absolutely navigate Minneapolis hopping in and out of cars, but it’s just a very different way of seeing the city. Often times grabbing a bike share – like if you have a day pass and you’re trying to get to dinner or something like that – during peak times of the day biking is much faster. It’s faster and a much more pleasant experience overall, which I think its something tourists don’t always think about.
Minneapolis, in particular, has some of the best bike trails in the country – around 40 miles within the city. Along the river, the historic mill district, and around the lake – there are so many places that motorized vehicles just can’t go. I think that if you’re looking to experience all of the city and see the more natural wonders, bike share is a much better way to do that. It will allow you to really and truly navigate the city like a local and take advantage of the great resources that the city offers.
Q: What do you think is the best bike ride in Minneapolis?
A: We certainly have some great routes built out on our website. My personal favorite is riding along the river. For those who don’t know, Minneapolis is intersected by the Mississippi River. There are gorgeous trails on either side and we have stations galore. It’s totally dependent on how far you want to go, but I highly recommend riding the riverfront and mill district area starting from around Nicollete island around St. Anthony Main and Boom Island Park. There’s just a lot of great things to see that way and a lot of great things to learn.
On our website, we also partner with Ranger On Call. A lot of people don’t know that there is a national park that runs on the Mississippi River straight through Minneapolis on either side. Ranger On Call is an educational service offered by the National Park Service that has video and audio content for folks who are navigating their way through the city. I definitely recommend going down to the riverfront, riding leisurely, reading the information that’s provided and taking advantage of that national park right through the middle of Minneapolis.
Q: Where do you see the most Nice Ride users?
A: We see a lot around the university, but in terms of visitors to the city, we see a lot of Nice Riders around the Lake of the Isles/Maka Ska area, and uptown as well as that riverside route I just mentioned. Both of those areas are gorgeous and picturesque and totally navigable by bike and very approachable. Both of those areas are surrounded by excellent restaurants and activities. We have a very high concentration of stations and hubs and bikes there all the time so it’s very easy to use our system in those two different areas.
Q: What other tips do you have for using Nice Ride?
A: Definitely use the app. Treat the app as your guide in terms of searching for a station or trying to find the bike nearest you. It’s the very easiest way to do so.
Another thing I encourage people to remember is that our bikes are adjustable. They actually fit people who are 4’11” to 6’6″, so remember to adjust the seat properly so that you’re comfortable. We don’t want you to have a bad riding experience or feel unsafe or tippy because you forgot that the seat could go down. I don’t think that’s something folks are necessarily aware of.
One last thing I think folks may not know is that our bikes, versus general consumer bikes, do have fenders and shields on the wheels. That prevents it from kicking up mud at you. If you’re at all concerned if it’s a little rainy or has been, or if you’re riding on a trail, know that those protections exist on purpose so that you won’t get muddy in the process.
Recommended Resources for Using Nice Ride
- Nice Ride Website: https://www.niceridemn.com
- Nice Ride App: https://www.niceridemn.com/how-it-works/app
- Minneapolis By Bike: https://www.minneapolisbybike.com/
Guided tours on Nice Ride bikes throughout the city.
- Minneapolis Self-Guided Bike Tour: http://imtravelinglocal.com/2019/04/24/minneapolis-bicycle-tour/
A self-guided tour using Nice Ride bikes.
- Ranger on Call: https://rangeroncall.com/
Claire Repp is the Marketing Lead for the Nice Ride bike share service in Minneapolis, MN. Claire is a native Twin Cities resident and long-time Nice Rider dedicated to improving transportation for all!