Nice Ride Docked Manual Media Photo

Nice Ride Leaves St. Paul as Market for Scooters Heats Up

Nice Ride August 2018 Media Photo 1

In 2019, Nice Ride is focusing on Minneapolis. Photo: Nice Ride, August 22, 2018.

On April 2, Nice Ride sent an email to members announcing the start of the riding season April 15 (now April 22, Earth Day, due to weather). In the email, the transportation network nonprofit shared that it was leaving the St. Paul market after nearly a decade on the streets of the capital city.

Nice Ride Member Email

Nice Ride email sent to members on Tuesday, April 2, 2019.

St. Paul is No Longer in Our Service Area

Nice Ride is hopeful we can service St. Paul again in the future, but for the 2019 riding season we’re focusing on improving and expanding our service in Minneapolis.

Nice Ride email from April 2, 2019, 12:07 PM

Local residents have experienced first-hand the competitive market. “I’ve seen way more scooters than Nice Rides,” said Jerod Greenisen, a resident of downtown St. Paul.

Resident anecdotes are not unfounded. The market for electric scooters is heating up.

Minneapolis Public Works Scooter Map 2018

In 2018, Minneapolis scooters mostly started and ended trips in Downtown and the University area. Map: City of Minneapolis

What Minneapolis learned from its 2018 scooter pilot

Minneapolis legalized network scooters for a first pilot from July 10 to November 30, 2018. During the 144-day pilot, over 225,000 trips were taken with an average trip being 1.34 miles and just under 19 minutes long. At a price of $1 to start and 15 cents per minute, that’s an average revenue per trip of $3.85, right between the cost of Metro Transit ($2.50 during rush) and the base fare for a taxi ($5). For those interested whether people were speeding on their electric scooters, the average speed was 4.3 mph.

The accounting of scooters has been called into question, and for Minneapolis, it would take on average 143 trips to recoup the cost of the $551 scooters, not counting the cost of recharging or replacing batteries. Neither Bird nor Lime are public companies, so we don’t have much data on financials.

Minneapolis Public Works facts from 2018 scooter pilot:

  • 225,543 total trips
  • 1,566 trips per day (on average)
  • 302,326 total miles ridden
  • 70,578 total hours ridden
  • 92.7% of city streets and off-street bike trails ridden on

Learn more about the 2018 pilot program.

Minneapolis has a data-sharing agreement with the scooter network operators, and with this, the city has collected significant aggregated, anonymized data about trips in the city. For 2019, city leaders are planning on using these data to keep operators true to equity goals of expanding accessibility in neighborhoods near Downtown and the University like Near North and Cedar-Riverside, where many trips were ending, but where operator contractors would take scooters in the night and relocate them with charged batteries to hot spots in other areas.

Minneapolis Public Works Scooter Charts 2018

Trips and total trip distance peaked October 18. Total trip duration peaked on August 19. Charts: City of Minneapolis

Up to 4,000 scooters in 2019

Both Minneapolis and St. Paul are increasing their allowances for electric scooters to 2,000 for each city. St. Paul had an application process for up to four vendors to operate under the cap, with an application deadline of Friday, April 5. As of April 4, no vendors had applied, according to St. Paul Transportation Planner/Engineer Reuben Collins, who manages the city’s contracts with vendors.

“When Nice Ride hit the market 10 years ago, they were the only vendors around,” said Collins. “Nice Ride was extremely ground-breaking.”

The market has changed as docked bikes competed with an influx of dockless options, and more recently scooters. “We saw a bubble, with all sorts of dockless bike vendors getting into the marketplace and then exiting just as fast as they appeared,” said Collins. “What all the vendors have discovered is that there is greater level of usage in the scooter business, so they have all transitioned over to scooters. There is really just a handful left in the bike-share market.”

A spokesperson for Nice Ride provided the following statement when asked why the nonprofit left the St. Paul market.

Nice Ride Minnesota is committed to providing bike share to the Twin Cities region over the long-term.

Since the beginning, we have taken a joint approach with the City of Minneapolis, the University of Minnesota, and community members to identify common goals and discuss how we can best serve residents as bike share continues to evolve. While the cities have gone down different paths for shared mobility operators and Nice Ride won’t be in St. Paul this riding season, we are continuing the conversation with partners there and excited by the idea that the City of St. Paul may join us in our collaborative process.

In the immediate future, we are focused on installing stations for the upcoming season, bringing in new dockless parking hubs, launching ebikes, and expanding the equity program across Minneapolis as we have committed to do for the community.

As of April 4, seven companies had responded to the City of Minneapolis’ request for quote (RFQ). Just like St. Paul, Minneapolis will choose up to four vendors to operate in the city under the 2,000-scooter cap.

Nice Ride operating only bike-share in Minneapolis

With the market shifting toward electric scooters, Nice Ride has a monopoly on bike-share in Minneapolis. This follows Lyft’s similar monopolization of the Chicago bike-share market. According to a city of Minneapolis spokesperson, “No other dockless manual or dockless electric bike network providers have approached the City about starting service.”

Nice Ride Ebike Media Photo

The new black electric-assist bikes that can go up to approximately 15 mph. Photo: Nice Ride

With this monopoly, Nice Ride is not limited to the 2,000-scooter cap that constrains other network operators. This is true for Nice Ride’s green docked bikes, its blue dockless bikes and the new black electric bikes that will be docked at existing stations.

Nice Ride will start April 22 (Earth Day) with 3,300 bikes total in Minneapolis, including 1,800 green docked bikes and 1,500 blue dockless bikes. Nice Ride will then bring on a pilot of 500 electric bikes and switch them out for green docked bikes on a one-for-one basis, according to a Nice Ride spokesperson.

Lyft Scooter Website

Will Lyft scooters replace Nice Ride? Photo: Lyft

The future of riding

The trend in transportation on the roads — from bikes to scooters and even to cars — is going electric. The future is yet unwritten, however, as to whether bikes and scooters can live in harmony. One can imagine the humble bike as a workhorse for grocery shoppers, while the scooter becomes the mainstay for the quick trip of 1.34 miles. But big investor money and a new IPO are riding on the future being rented. Which operator becomes a monopoly is for the citizen to decide.

Nice Ride starts up again Monday, April 22, on Earth Day!

Note from Nice Ride spokesperson about move in start date:

Due to this snowy weather – the blue dockless and green classic bikes will be back on the streets by Monday, April 22 (Earth Day) at latest.

As such, Nice Ride’s pre-season flash sale has been extended through April 22. Riders can save $10 with the code NiceRide2019.

In case you were curious, it takes 25 workers more than 80 hours to prep, move, install and connect Nice Ride’s 200 stations. Each station weighs nearly 4000 lbs. Only then Nice Ride can deploy the 3000+ bike fleet and get riding. Watch the station deployment in action here.

Did you crash an electric scooter in 2018? Do you prefer a bike (with new, larger basket!) or a scooter (fast!)? Share your stories and your insights in the comments.

Conrad Zbikowski

About Conrad Zbikowski

Downtown Minneapolis resident covering local issues including parks, transportation, zoning, and development.