Raise Your Voice on the Future of Bike Share in Minneapolis

Bike share is both a business and a public good. In Minneapolis, the City gives someone in the business of bike share permission to operate through a contract. In exchange, they must provide services to Minneapolis residents and visitors. This contract is how the City outlines the public goods bike share operators must provide.

Right now in Minneapolis, the City contracts with Nice Ride Minnesota, a local nonprofit, to provide bike share. These are the green pedal bikes and black ebikes you can rent around the city for part of the year. Nice Ride, in turn, sub-contracts with Lyft to operate our bike share. 

The current bike share contract in Minneapolis was originally supposed to end on August 1, 2021. Right now, the City plans to extend this contract through the end of the 2021 bike share season (typically November) and begin procurement for a new contract in early fall of this year. With a new bike share contract starting soon, we have an opportunity to tell the City what we want to see in bike share moving forward. 

This spring I noticed I hadn’t seen any engagement opportunities from the City, Nice Ride, or Lyft asking the community what they would like the future of bike share in Minneapolis to be like. Given that the contract was set to renew in August, I was concerned. 

I know that the best ideas come from the community. So, I decided to create my own (just me!), independent survey to gather thoughts and ideas (why not!). 

As of writing this post, I understand the City plans to do their own survey to get feedback on bike share, as well as host a public meeting likely in the next month. I do not have more information about these opportunities at this time. 

My Survey

I received 204 responses between April 5th and April 18th, which are included in this spreadsheet. These are the responses I used to create the charts and themes in the data shared below. In addition to posting to social media to get survey responses, I also shared the survey with local organizations, particularly bike organizations that serve people of color. 

Once I had the results, I complied them in a google doc I shared publicly on my social media with people who shared their email in the survey, and with the City of Minneapolis, Nice Ride Minnesota, and Lyft.

My hope was that the survey could be a step toward meaningful community engagement on the future of bike share in Minneapolis. I did not view this project as a replacement or substitute for the City of Minneapolis doing engagement around and providing transparency for the upcoming contract renewal, especially in underserved communities. My intention was that this project is ‘better than nothing,’ though I acknowledge that the survey had and has the potential to do harm. 

High-level Results & What I Think

To me, the big takeaway from the survey is that the people surveyed like bike share and want to see more of what’s working. People want more stations, more station density, more bikes, more service in underserved communities, and especially more ebikes. You can check out more detailed survey results below.

To me, increasing bike share service would be more than just giving people what they want. It is an obvious way to help the city reach our goals for getting people out of cars- something we need to do to reach our climate goals. 

In the Transportation Action Plan, a ten year policy guidance document, the City says they want six out of every ten trips people take in Minneapolis to be taken by biking, walking, or transit by the year 2030. As of 2019, only about three out of every ten trips happen this way. We have a lot of work to do.

To help us reach this goal, I think the City should do two things with their bike share contract:  

  1. Require bike share providers to provide more access in currently underserved areas. 
  2. Provide even a small amount of funding to help bike share providers get this done. 

More equitable bike distribution

Right now, large portions of Minneapolis have poor bike share service. Unsurprisingly, these underserved areas include North Minneapolis, where stations are scarce. This has been a challenge with Nice Ride the entire time it has been in operation- over a decade. While Nice Ride has a program where folks can get a year-long membership for only $5, this does little good as a transportation option when bikes are not reliably available where people need them. 

But it doesn’t have to be this way. The City of Minneapolis does electric scooter share differently. Contracts with scooter providers have a section requiring the company to distribute a certain number of scooters to Areas of Concentrated Poverty where 50% or more of the residents are people of color (ACP50s), including many areas in North Minneapolis. The City does this because they know that if left unregulated, scooter companies would distribute scooters in the areas where they are most likely to make a profit- typically downtown, uptown, and around the lakes.

Despite requiring scooters to have some kind of equitable distribution requirement, none exists for bike share. I think this needs to change. 

City funding for bike share

To be generous to Nice Ride and their sub-contractor, Lyft, bike share bikes are a bit more costly and logistically challenging to distribute than scooters. The bikes are heavy. The stations are expensive. And even for the ‘lock it or dock it’ ebikes, bike parking needs to be available for staff to drop off a bike. 

On top of these challenges, bike share, like scooter share, operates at a large deficit. Right now, the City of Minneapolis does not offer any operating money for bike share. Memberships and service fees don’t cover the cost of operating the bike share system, so Lyft fills in the rest along with some funding from local partners like the Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota. 

This is not a sustainable way to fund a public good that provides as many benefits as bike share does. While the City of Minneapolis will likely not fill in this deficit all themselves, they could start with a modest contribution to get the gears turning and help provide more equitable distribution of bike share bikes and stations. 

Raise your voice

I have faith that all of the staff at the City and potential bike share partners are smart, knowledgeable about current trends in the industry, and want to do something good. In fact, I know many of them and they are great people who care deeply about our city. What I’m not confident about is whether they will do their absolute best work in a busy, challenging year without residents saying this is a priority.  

I encourage you to stay tuned for the City’s survey and public engagement opportunities on the future of bike share. I also included some information below on how you can tell local leaders what you think directly, along with complete survey results to help inform your thoughts. 

I hope you’ll share what you have to say. Bike share is a critical part of our transportation system and your voice is too important to miss! 

Detailed Survey Results 

The following are results and themes pulled from the 204 responses to the survey I created. 

Raw data, minus submitted emails, is available here. At this link you can also find how I coded and sorted the data. I acknowledge that other people would have done this differently and my own thoughts and experiences impacted how the results and themes show up. My goal is not to be completely unbiased- this is not possible- but to be as transparent as possible. 

There are lots of really great ideas in the raw data! In my opinion, many of the best specific ideas are not necessarily reflected in what is shared below. I encourage folks to check it out if you’re interested. 

Quantitative Responses

Qualitative Responses

What do you like about bike share in Minneapolis? 

Of the people surveyed, they most like: 

  • The station number & locations works well for them (58)
  • Bike share is convenient (38)
  • Ebikes (27)
  • Don’t worry about parking & the security of their bike or car (22)
  • Easy to use (22)
  • Spontaneity / flexibility (19)
  • Good for one way trips (20)
  • Good for visitors (16)
  • Affordable to them (12)
  • Gets more people biking (10)

What changes should be made to bike share in Minneapolis?

Of the people surveyed, they would most like to change: 

  • More stations, more bikes, or more density (40)
  • More service in currently underserved areas (36)
  • More ebikes (22)
  • Year-round service (11) or longer season (11)
  • More dockless bikes and/or dockless bikes that can be locked anywhere (20)
  • Bring back service to St. Paul (17), expand to suburbs (7)
  • Lower price (16)
  • Changes to the bikes: bikes for shorter riders (9), lighter bikes (7), bikes for taller riders (4), better basket (5), or cargo bikes (2)
  • Use for longer than 30 minutes (9)
  • A provider that is invested in the local community (7)

How could the city build a more equitable bike share system into their contract? Here equity could mean geographic distribution, providing access to underserved communities, or something else.

Of the people surveyed, here are the most popular ideas they had for making bike share more equitable. Please consider the available demographic data (see below) when reviewing these recommendations. 

  • Improve geographic distribution (84)
  • Provide lower fare options or free fares (60)
  • More outreach to underserved people (8), ask underserved communities where to start (7)
  • Different sized bikes (9)
  • Service in St. Paul (9)
  • Quality bike infrastructure in all parts of the city (9)
  • Partner / integrate with Metro Transit (9)
  • Give people bikes (like Neighborhood program or something else) (7)
  • Provide education (6)
  • Year-round access (5) 
  • Don’t require a smart phone for access (could mean key fobs) (5)
  • Cash option (5)

What do you want to know about the City’s bike share decision-making process?

Of people surveyed, here’s what they would most like to know about the contract renewal process: 

  • How is the contract negotiated (21)
  • Don’t want to know a lot or anything, just want it to be good (18)
  • What is the focus/goal of the contract? (16)
  • How will or has the public been engaged? (12)
  • How is station placement determined? (8)
  • How much does the City pay bike share providers? Do they pay them? (5)
  • How many vendors are bidding? Who are they? (5)
  • How does our contract compare to other cities? (4)
  • Does the bike share system turn a profit? What do the profits fund? (3)
  • Be transparent (3)
  • What is the timeline? (3)
  • Is there a partnership with St. Paul or other cities? (3)

Demographic Data

Links to Information about Nice Ride Minnesota

Nice Ride Minnesota is the current bike share system available in Minneapolis. Nice Ride Minnesota is the name of a nonprofit that currently holds the bike share contract with the City. They subcontract with Lyft to provide bike share in Minneapolis. 

Here are a few places you can find more information about how the system currently works:

Advocacy Tips

One way you can have an impact on the future of bike share in Minneapolis is by telling City of Minneapolis staff what you think directly. 

The staff member I recommend contacting is Danielle Elikns, the city’s Mobility Manager:

Danielle Elkins
Mobility Manger, City of Minneapolis

When you email the City, here’s what I recommend:

  • Briefly introduce yourself. Share what neighborhood you live in and why you care about bike share. 
  • Share your recommendations for the future of bike share. If you’d like, you can use the data above for inspiration. You can even link it in your email if you want! 
  • Share what you’d like to know from the City about this process. 

If you’d like, you can also copy your Minneapolis City Council member on the email. Click here to find out who represents you using your address.

Ward 1: Kevin Reich, kevin.reich@minneapolismn.gov, (612) 673-2201

Ward 2: Cam Gordon, cam.gordon@minneapolismn.gov, (612) 673-2202

Ward 3: Steve Fletcher, steve.fletcher@minneapolismn.gov, (612) 673-2203

Ward 4: Phillipe Cunningham, phillipe.cunningham@minneapolismn.gov, (612) 673-2204

Ward 5: Jeremiah Ellison, jeremiah.ellison@minneapolismn.gov, (612) 673-2205

Ward 6: Jamal Osman, jamal.osman@minneapolismn.gov, (612) 673-2206 

Ward 7: Lisa Goodman, lisa.goodman@minneapolismn.gov, (612) 673-2207

Ward 8: Andrea Jenkins, andrea.jenkins@minneapolismn.gov, (612) 673-2208

Ward 9: Alondra Cano, alondra.cano@minneapolismn.gov, (612) 673-2209

Ward 10: Lisa Bender, lisa.bender@minneapolismn.gov, (612) 673-2210

Ward 11: Jeremy Schroeder, jeremy.schroeder@minneapolismn.gov, (612) 673-2211

Ward 12: Andrew Johnson, andrew.johnson@minneapolismn.gov, (612) 673-2212

Ward 13: Linea Palmisano, linea.palmisano@minneapolismn.gov, (612) 673-2213

Who put this together, anyway?

My name is Emily Wade (she/her). I’m a year-round bike and walk commuter. I’ve been a Nice Ride user since 2014 and have participated in local bike advocacy since that time. I am white, 29, and live in the Stevens Square neighborhood. I see this bike share contract as a way we can move Minneapolis forward in reaching our climate, equity, and transportation goals. I am not affiliated with any organization and I’m not being compensated in any way to do this advocacy. 

You can contact me with any feedback, or just to talk, at emilyrachelwade@gmail.com.

About Emily Wade

Emily (she/her) fell for the Twin Cities while learning to ride a bike as a college sophomore in St. Paul. From the very beginning, her bike gave her a sense of freedom and independence that led her to friends, adventures, and a love of urban spaces. Emily lives car-free in Minneapolis and spends her spare time hanging with her cats, walking to get her groceries, and volunteering past her capacity.