Pedal power

Nice Ride bike rental is new to Minneapolis and allows anyone to rent a bike and return it to any of the 50 locations. The program could be coming to a city near you. (Brendan Sullivan/Minneapolis Star Tribune/MCT)

Not always a nice ride

But the program hasn't been perfect. In the first days after it got underway on June 10, some customers using debit cards overdrew their accounts because a hold was placed to cover the $250 security deposit.

Safety concerns have arisen, as well. The rental does not include helmets, and many riders are forgoing streets and bike lanes in favor of sidewalks crowded with pedestrians. Helmets aren't offered anywhere, Dossett said, because of hygiene issues and the inability to monitor the safety of a helmet that is on the streets all day.

A few local bike rental shops have blamed slumping business on Nice Ride, though other factors, like poor weather and the beleaguered economy, also have hurt rental numbers.

"I didn't just want to blame (Nice Ride) for business being slow, but two Sundays ago, it was just a gorgeous day out and we rented like eight bikes, which is not a lot," said Cody Anderson, manager at Calhoun Rental in Minneapolis.

"It was gut-wrenching. That was the first indication that they were affecting business."

Many first-time users also are confused by the pricing, mistakenly thinking it's completely free as long as they return the bike to a kiosk within 30 minutes of checking it out. Checking out any bike requires purchase of a subscription, though returning a bike within 30 minutes prevents trip fees, which are tacked onto the base price. Most figure it out quickly.

Vanlandingham rode around town with Erin Degutis and Emily O'Mahoney, also landscape architects visiting from out of town. She was so impressed that, in a couple of years, she might not need a bike of her own back home in Texas.

"I think I'm going to be passing the word in Dallas," she said.

Nice Ride prices: Rentals require a 24-hour ($5), monthly ($30) or annual subscription ($60) for as many trips as you'd like. To keep the bikes circulating and prevent users from taking them home, there are also trip fees: 0-30 minutes is free; 31-60 is $1.50, 61-90 is $3. Each additional 30 minutes is $6. So a one-time user on a one-hour ride would pay $6.50.

For more information, visit NiceRideMN.org.

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