Nicollet Bike Party

Transit + Bike Share = Freedom

All of a sudden: bikes everywhere. Bikes on bikes on bikes. Bikes on the beaches, bikes on the landing grounds, bikes in the fields and in the streets, bikes in the hills.

And, it has been a beautiful couple of months after a cold Minnesota winter, so of course as a team we are all trying to get our outdoors time in before it gets hot. But I’ve noticed a very clear trend in Minneapolis–there are far more people walking and biking than there were just a couple years ago. Nicollet Mall has groups of people walking around on random Sundays, without a sporting event or concert. People are outside, taking back the streets, biking around town, walking to the grocery store, Nice Riding home from work, busing to Twins games. Everything is going according to plan! It is beautiful.

Personally, while I biked a lot in high school (probably to rebel, see bottom of front page) I haven’t considered myself a huge cyclist since arriving at the University of Minnesota in 2008–I generally prefer walking and am a pretty avid transit user. But in 2013, I signed up for Nice Ride, and have used it extensively since. It’s a really great way to fill gaps in transit service and extend walksheds. Especially living right in the center of Minneapolis, Metro Transit and Nice Ride work together really well for me.

One Nerd’s Story

Thinking it would be fun to make a graph (I am not fun) I shot off emails to Metro Transit and Nice Ride to get a record of my transit and bike share trips for the time period I’ve had my current accounts with them.

Both have some data available on their websites–if you have a Metropass or Go-To card, you can check the past 60 days of usage here, and Nice Ride lists your whole trip history in your account, though their format is not great for putting it in a chart. Both organizations got back to me quickly with large Excel spreadsheets.

From July 1, 2012 to June 11, 2015, I rode on Metro Transit buses and trains 1,659 times–assuming every transfer was part of one whole trip, that’s good for 1,415 different trips. And then from May 4, 2013 to June 10, 2015, I rode Nice Ride bikes 267 times.

Some things about me to put the data (*shudders*) into perspective:

  • I’ve lived on Oak Grove Street in Loring Park and worked kitty corner from Minneapolis City Hall throughout the entire time period
  • My grocery store, The Wedge, is within walking distance
  • Until October 2014, I had a membership at the Downtown YWCA, and would often walk there after work and then home after, so there were a lot of what were effectively pedestrian commutes
  • Often I’ll Nice Ride to Lake Calhoun or the river to go for a run–if not for Nice Ride, I’d just run closer to home, so I removed those trips

My thought was that the graph would look pretty stable, with smiling chunks of Nice Ride trips in the middle during the summer months. I just counted transit trips rather than individual rides, because you don’t have to transfer with the bike share–seemed fair that way.

Magrino Transit & Nice Ride TripsDue to lots of one off things that happen in life, this does not look quite as conclusive as I was hoping! (Though it’s actually kind of cool scrolling through the spreadsheets and seeing specific things that you remember–the week I was in Chicago in February 2014, or the time I took Northstar and the Red Line for a post.)

However, it looks pretty clear that there is a dip in transit use in the summer, while Nice Ride bikes are out. In a typical summer week’s commute, I’ll sub in a Nice Ride for a bus ride two or three mornings depending on the weather. Biking from one side of downtown to the other is considerably faster than busing, and that extra tap of the snooze button is valuable.

The “Last Mile”

When traveling to and from destinations that aren’t in the center of the city, Nice Ride is especially helpful. Assuming they’re placed densely enough, bike shares are a great way to solve that “last mile” problem you’re often going to have with a transit system, especially one like ours. I would extend the last mile idea into the fourth dimension as well–you may often find yourself in a dense area that’s well-served by transit at peak hours, but may only run a bus every half hour on a Sunday or late at night during the week. Rather than wait 25 minutes at a bus stop at Lake and Lyndale, it’s easy and often faster to hop on a Nice Ride if you’re trying to meet people in the North Loop.

Green dots

Green dots = Bike share kiosks

A Part of the Landscape

The one thing I really like though, is that when taking Metro Transit and using Nice Ride, I kind of feel like I’m part of the city–part of the landscape, really. It’s hard to describe exactly, but when you’ve got that monthly transit pass and that yearly bike share subscription, you get to avoid a lot of thinking. You see a bus, you can hop on it. Running late to an appointment and you don’t want to wait for the bus? Hop on a Nice Ride. The kiosks are just there; the buses and trains just run. You’re part of that whole ecosystem.

You feel sort of cool swiping a Metropass at a train station within eyeshot of one-time users fiddling with the ticket vending machines. You feel cooler still undocking a Nice Ride bike from a kiosk within earshot (it’s a good beep) of suburbanites waiting for a cab, and then zipping away from Lake Street.

The system is very from perfect, but there is a certain freedom associated with the whole set up, which is why I and tens of thousands of Minnesotans use it everyday.

Nick Magrino

About Nick Magrino

Nick Magrino grew up all over the place but has lived in the Loring Park neighborhood of Minneapolis longer than anywhere else. He has a new cat, Sweater, and does not use hashtags at @nickmagrino. He is probably on a bus right now.