Recently, I had the pleasure of spending a few days in Minneapolis, a real jewel of a city.
While certainly not at the top of most world-class city lists (though with a handful of downtown arenas and stadiums you’d think they’d be at the top of all the lists) it really made an impression on me. One thing I definitely came away with, however, was a lesson for Edmonton and other mid-size Canadaian cities: we can be bike cities, even with long winters.
Wandering around my first day I found a Nice Ride bike rental station around the corner from my hotel. This surprised me because, while I had heard Minneapolis was one of America’s best bike cities, I had wondered how they did it with a cold prairie winter. The answer is they just do it, winter doesn’t scare them.
There are plenty of parks and bike paths around the city. The Midtown Greenway was where I took my own Nice Ride. It was once a rail line so it provided a great trip through the heart of many central neighbourhoods. That it landed me at a small in-town lake district was a good bonus.
The thing that really captured my interest though was that the Nice Ride system was a cheap, accessible way for residents and tourists alike to ride. It was a couple of dollars to rent the bike for a short ride and if I checked in at the next Nice Ride station in 30 minutes the ride was free. And the stations are definitely close enough to make it a reality that a daily commuter could ride for free all year (though an annual pass is just $65). I used a credit card to purchase the rental, and Nice Ride then charged me whatever rate matches with the time I had the bike out.
The system operates April to November, which is why I think Edmonton could support a similar bike rental system. With 83 Avenue poised to become a bike street, 102 Avenue already designated as such, and great biking around the University of Alberta and river valley (and parks) I would love to see the City incorporate a bike rental into our transportation plans. Making it easy, quick, affordable, and normal to ride bikes around would encourage more people to ride, and more transportation planning on something other than potholes and commuter routes.
Maybe it’s a Make Something Edmonton project, or perhaps just a request to City transportation staff, but whatever happens it’s certainly been enough to get me talking about Minneapolis. And that’s got to say something about Nice Ride.