Growing Nice Ride to Support Alternative Transportation Options

crowdsource-logoNote: This post is part of the Ride crowdsource conversation, a series of crowdsourced looks at how to expand or improve Nice Ride planning. Check out the rest here.

As a long-time bicycle commuter and cycling enthusiast, I have enjoyed the benefits of cycling, sometimes over substantial distances, as a substitute for other forms of transportation. For me, cycling is an integral part of my daily transportation needs. In 2012, I carpooled from Saint Paul to Minneapolis and took a Nice Ride bicycle out to participate in the Surly Trail Loppet. As the westernmost station was on Glenwood at Morgan Avenue, there was a bit of a walk to reach the start of the race at Wirth Park (and the same for the return trip).

Turning the clock forward to 2015, I attended a business event in Saint Louis Park this fall, getting fairly close via Metro Transit (train and bus) to my destination. On the way back I enjoyed a substantial walk to Wirth Park. As the Nice Ride system had expanded, there was now a station at Wirth Beach (currently the westernmost edge of the system). Having that station available was critical to my decision to use the bicycle option for the return trip. Once on the bicycle, I took advantage of the superb weather to complete my round trip to Saint Paul using the Nice Ride system. Along the way, I visited the Minneapolis Central Library and stopped for some shopping. Having the option of cycling back rendered my trip to the western suburbs more enjoyable and healthier.

I have not maintained a car for several years (rare for someone in the mid-50s age range), but the efficacy, efficiency, and ease of use of the Nice Ride system has made this possible. From my perspective, the wider the reach of the system, the greater the benefits.

But my usage is somewhat atypical, based on the data available from the Nice Ride system. Riders fall mostly into either a commuter or recreational rider category, with consistent and distinct patterns for each. As I am a bicycle commuter (and have been, more or less, since 1989), the regularity of my routine puts me on my own bike on most days. But where my commitments render round-trip bicycling problematic (usually due to timing or the need to appear in business attire and not sweating) Nice Ride fills the gap by providing a one-way transportation option without requiring the effort of getting my bike to the event. These one-way rides, when combined with other modes of transportation (mass transit, car-sharing, car-pooling, walking) make doing without a personal automobile possible and provides a painless means of enjoying both exercise and the outdoors.

To expand the existing system, creating synergies between bicycle-friendly natural attractions and cyclist destinations are the primary way to cement consistent ridership. The existing Nice Ride system has no station between Lake Nokomis and Linden Hills. This provides a disincentive for bicycling along much of Minnehaha Parkway. Even more compelling, there is no station within a mile and a half of 50th and France. This denies an opportunity for travel between two distinct destinations (north to Linden Hills and east to Lake Nokomis/Minnehaha Park) for populations who are open to frequent travel by bicycle. As an added incentive, increased sales at local shops derived from bicyclists will refute the misperception that bicycle lanes are bad for business.

A priority for expanding the Nice Ride system should focus on areas that serve bicycle-friendly people, traveling to popular businesses, along routes that are pleasant to ride. The 50th and France district and Minnehaha Parkway are two such areas and deserve consideration.


Michael Lewis enjoying an ice cream cone while on a Nice Ride Bike

The author providing a hands-on demonstration of mixing easy-to-access alternative transportation with fun. (Photo: St. Paul Smart Trips – Future of Fourth)

4 thoughts on “Growing Nice Ride to Support Alternative Transportation Options

  1. Walker AngellWalker Angell

    I think the bulk of the OV-Fiets bikeshare system in The Netherlands is used for transit extension. The interoperability of trains/buses with bikeshare for the final mile has been a great success.

    I wonder how the Summit-Univ, Summit Hill, Cathedral Hill, Mac-Groveland neighborhoods would compare to 50th & France? Unfortunately these have very few stations and many are in poor locations. As well, many key destinations like along Grand Ave or Selby between Western & Dale aren’t friendly for most people to ride. How safe and comfortable is the 50th & France area for average people to ride?

  2. Eric

    I like it. Couldn’t agree more about 50th and even 44th and France both being big wins for the Nice Ride system. The gap in stations east and SE of Harriet are well documented. The France corners (44th and 50th both) are natural extensions from the SW Calhoun station and the 43rd/upton station. Adding stations at both of those corners would work both ways.

    For the neighborhoods it puts two population centers where biking is normal/common onto the system. Members could easily commute in 1 trip to downtown on the trails. Commuting from this area to downtown is already reasonably common. Non members easily could get to the popular lakes stations and uptown.

    For the existing Nice Ride system/users it adds two proximate and pleasant destinations. 44th/France gets a lot of current destination bike traffic, with France 44/Hello Pizza/Linden Hills Co-Op/Turtle Bread pulling a fair amount of bike customers. At 50th/France in addition to the dining/drink options and pharmacy, it adds a Lunds to the SW part of the system.

    1. Dave DuJour

      I agree about the 44th/France needs. I just think France has so much traffic and feels relatively narrow that it’s not a good fit for biking. I’ve seen people do it, but I’ve never felt it very safe.

  3. Dave DuJour

    Living relatively near 50th & France, and visiting there at least once a week, I’d say it doesn’t feel safe to ride through with 2 lanes of traffic each way and on street parking on both sides. France does have some turning lanes, but 50th doesn’t.

    I drive there, park at one of the many large ramps, and don’t always feel safe as a pedestrian crossing the street. It’s very much designed for cars to travel through and a lot of people to sometimes park-and-walk around. But crossing the streets isn’t very friendly at the two mid-street crosswalks.

    That said, I would _love_ to see Nice Ride extend to the area. If some of the on street parking was removed to make a bike lane, that would make 50th much more bike friendly. There isn’t a good direct connection between the 50th & France area and Minnehaha Parkway, except along 50th.
    I’m not sure how to make France more bike-friendly. South of 50th it’s a stroad, with a 45mph limit as it approaches Highway 62. (It might legally be 35mph, but it very much feels like 45+.) North of 50th is somewhat less stroady, but still a lot of traffic all the way to Excelsior.

    I just don’t think Nice Ride will extend there anytime soon. 50th & France is in Edina, so that’s another local government to work with. But the southwest Minneapolis/Edina area could use some love.

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