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Nice Ride excited to come to Bemidji: Details, such as rental costs, yet to be determined

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BEMIDJI — It is because Bemidji already is a bicycle-friendly community that a Minneapolis-based nonprofit plans to expand here.

Tony Desnick, director of greater Minnesota strategies for Nice Ride Minnesota, said Friday the nonprofit selected Bemidji as a city to expand into because it feels the community is a good fit for the organization.

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"We recognize Bemidji as a (bicycle-friendly) place," he said. "It’s a place that tourists can come to for a long weekend, not use their car, and still have a good experience."

Nice Ride Minnesota promotes bicycle sharing by making bicycles available for rental throughout town.

The plans for a Bemidji rollout are still being finalized but Nice Ride officials this week confirmed it plans to introduce its bike-sharing process to Bemidji beginning in May.

As many as 200 bikes could be made available in the community, with 100 dedicated to complement existing bike-rental services on the Bemidji State University campus.

Bemidji bikes would be made available for rental at staffed locations, such as the Lake Bemidji State Park and Sanford Center, at identical, identifiable bike racks. Customers would obtain a key to allow them to unlock a U-lock at each bike.

As for the costs, Desnick said the Bemidji model will be developed along with local stakeholders in a system unique of its existing services offered in Minneapolis.

There, subscribers pay annual subscriptions plus additional fees when their renters use the bikes for longer than 30 minutes.

In Bemidji, Desnick said, the plan will likely consist of hourlong or weekend rental rates, reflective of the local market rate, to accommodate out-of-town visitors who want to explore the community by bicycle instead of vehicle.

"We hope to come to Bemidji with a bike program that will enhance Bemidji’s (image) as a bicycle-friendly community," he said.

Indeed, the community last summer received a bronze-level Bicycle Friendly Community ranking by the League of American Bicyclists.

Desnick said Nice Ride is considering along with Bemidji the potential of expanding its services to Rochester next spring as well, but a feasibility study there has not yet been completed.

"We didn’t feel (that such a study) was necessary (in Bemidji), in part because the city is so well-poised as a bike-friendly community," he said.

Further, he said, the study would examine whether quality places to eat and stay were easily accessible by bicycle, and with the Paul Bunyan Trail running right through town, "Bemidji has all that," he noted.

"My wife and I came to the state park last month and left our cars at the state park," Desnick said. "We used our bicycles and had a great time."

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