I took my first Nice Ride last week. I had ridden a bicycle before, and I had used bike rental before (though not one of the modern automated systems), and I had used transportation vehicle “sharing” before (see e.g. ZipCar and Car2Go with mixed results), but I had not put all those things together. I finally figured since I am supervising research on this, I should actually become a member and test the system first person. [Not that this is a requirement, a medical researcher need not infect herself with a disease to study it, fortunately bike sharing is likely to be less lethal].
After signing up online. My subscription key came quickly in the mail. My first ride worked technically well. I inserted my key, and got a bike, and rode (helmet-less) from all of Coffman Union to McNamara on the University of Minnesota campus (1 km), riding on the mostly car-less Washington Avenue Bicycle Mall most of the distance, and then found the station to return the bike to, and pushed it in, and saw a green light, and left. Check out was simpler than Car2Go.
For me personally, the functional markets of NiceRide seem limited at the moment, (see map … sadly without actual bicycle trails marked) there isn’t a station too near my house, nor just outside my office. This particular ride did not save me any time, but hey, it got me a blog post. Perhaps NiceRide will slightly shorten a trip to Dinkytown or WestBank. City-wide there are lots of Origin-Destination pairs where NiceRide would be useful.
As part of a research project (Nice Stations: An Exploration of Nice Ride Bike Share Accessibility and Station Choice) published earlier this year, Jessica Schoner and I systematically analyzed the accessibility differential created by NiceRide vs. Walking. We write.
Bike-share stations provided an increase in accessibility to jobs relative to walking at medium and high time thresholds. For short thresholds (e.g., 5 to 10 minutes), the cost of walking to a station to retrieve a bike consumed too much of the travel time budget, resulting in fewer jobs being accessible by Nice Ride than by walking directly. At 15 minutes, using Nice Ride provides access to 1.7 times as many jobs as walking on average in blocks that are within a 15-minute walk to a station. The peak advantage occurs at 30 minutes, where bike-share provides access to 221% more jobs than walking.
The Figure shows where bike-share has the strongest advantage at the 40-minute threshold. Yellow and brown areas indicate higher job accessibility by bike-share than walking, and pink areas indicate the reverse. In downtown Minneapolis and immediately surrounding neighborhoods, bike-share improves job accessibility, but the areas are dense enough that walking still provides access to a large number of jobs. The dark brown ring shows the boundary where the utility of walking declines and bike-share remains high. Much of this area is lower density with fewer jobs, and it is too far from downtown for pedestrians reach it within the threshold. Bike-share’s higher travel speeds continue to enable people with access to a station to reach major job centers in and near downtown. Although downtown St. Paul also has a high concentration of jobs, the distribution of stations at the end of the 2011 season did not extend far enough to provide a benefit over walking.