Minneapolis shared bike and scooter program launches for 2023
MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - A little more than a month ago, Minneapolis residents were venting frustration over the end of the city’s well-known bike-share program — but now, they have new options to consider.
On Thursday, the city launches its 2023 shared bike and scooter program with licensing agreements established with Lime, Veo and Spin. While all three vendors will have scooters, Lime and Veo will offer e-bikes, or bikes that offer riders a bit of an assisted boost via electricity, helping to fill the void left by the departure of the popular Nice Ride program.
The city press release announcing the launch notes Lime will have "Class 1 e-bikes," which are pedal-assist bikes, meaning the motor provides assistance when the bike is actively being pedaled. Velo will have "Class 2 e-bikes," which have both pedal assist and a throttle, similar to scooters, meaning riders don’t need to be pedal to move forward.
"I'm thrilled a rental bike option will still be available, as last-mile options were severely lacking with the demise of Nice Ride," Minneapolis resident Cole Miska told FOX 9.
Convenience with a price
However, the shift was seen by many residents on social media as a "bit of a mixed bag." The private companies provide an element of convenience — whereas Nice Ride bikes had to be left at one of the nonprofit’s docking stations, the e-bikes from Lime and Velo will operate just like shared scooters in that riders can leave them where their trip ends (at an appropriate/legal place, like a bike rack or a signpost that is not a stop or bus sign), according to the city press release.
"I look forward to the bike share returning especially the freedom to go dockless. Reducing the friction in taking active transportation will induce ridership," resident Tim Marino said.
However, the step toward increased privatization (Nice Ride is a nonprofit) will also bring higher base prices for some users, and now having full access to the program will require residents to download three apps as opposed to one.
On Nice Ride, e-bike riders paid $2.50 to unlock and $0.27 per minute, but annual members paid $0.18 per minute, with no unlocking free. The cost to ride with Veo and Lime is $1 to unlock and $0.39 per minute on all vehicles.
"Happy to have options back in the city, but the lack of a flat membership rate and historically high fees don’t make these services as viable of an everyday commute option as @NiceRideMN (and @DivvyBikes in Chicago, @CitiBikeNYC in NYC).," Rhett Carlson wrote on Twitter.
"There is a big need for reliable on-demand bikes, scooters, and so on — I was a Nice Ride subscriber for 10 years myself — but the devil is in the pricing and service area. I am cautiously pessimistic that any private companies can be successful in this space long-term," Bennett Hartz, a resident of the Whittier neighborhood, told FOX 9.
The city does have programs to help lower prices. The city’s press release notes the city’s agreement with the companies requires them to keep at least 38% of their scooters designated "Equity Distribution Areas" in north and south Minneapolis. The companies are also required to have low-income pricing programs for qualified residents. The city provides sign-up instructions on its website.
LeAaron Foley, Director of Government Relations at Lime, highlighted the company's emphasis on equity.
"We know the keys to success in Minneapolis are safety and equity, which is why we’ll continue our proactive safety outreach and ensure shared vehicles are available to all riders, regardless of zip code or income," Foley said in a statement.
Several residents told FOX 9 they would prefer if the program were entirely city-run.
"I believe in an e-bike share program that is publicly funded, not pay-per-use. City and local governments should be considering the benefits that free-to-use e-bike shares would bring to our transportation system." Minneapolis resident Joran Bar said. "In fact, I believe in free-to-use bus and rail, as well — anything that eliminates single-passenger car travel should be a top priority for public funding and support."
"I do wonder whether it would be cheaper (for the city, for users, for residents) to implement a municipal program, rather than rely only on a mishmash of private companies to fill a critical need. It's a question the city should investigate," Nick Harper said.
Brian C. Martinson was thinking bigger:
The city has more information about the bike-share program here, and information on the scooter program is here.