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The orange Nice Ride bicycles have been in Bemidji since June 22, with more than 600 rides taken, officials said. Bemidj’s bike sharing program is the first non-metro location for Nice Ride Minnesota. Bikes are available to rent at several locations around town, and will be available starting late next week at Lake Bemidji State Park. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

Nice Ride running smoothly: More than 600 rides taken; more bikes coming next week

News Bemidji,Minnesota 56619 http://www.bemidjipioneer.com/sites/default/files/styles/square_300/public/fieldimages/2/0809/080914.n.bp.niceride-raw.jpg?itok=QsqNgO3N
Bemidji Pioneer
Nice Ride running smoothly: More than 600 rides taken; more bikes coming next week
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

BEMIDJI -- It's been mostly a smooth ride for the Nice Ride Bemidji bicycle share program since its kick-off on June 22.

The bright orange bikes have been out and about for the past seven weeks. With rental locations stationed at the tourist information center by Paul and Babe, the Hampton Inn and Suites, and at the Outdoor Program Center by BSU, it's not hard to find a bike.

And next week, it should be even easier to spot a Nice Ride near you when a fourth rental site at Lake Bemidji State Park will open.

"When the fourth location at the state park is complete, we will have 200 Nice Ride bikes in Bemidji," Melinda Neville said, manager of Nice Ride Bemidji. "We are just finalizing the logistics, and it should be up and running very soon."

Nice Ride Bemidji has had some trouble making their software interface accessible to all users, but Neville said they are working to improve the site.

"Bemidji is the only community outside the metropolitan area that offers Nice Ride, so this is really our first shot at working with a smaller community. We're making it up as we go," Neville said. "We are innovating every day to improve and make our bikes accessible and easy to rent."

Overall, the bike program has had few problems. Besides periodical adjustments and repairs, there has been no major damage to the bikes. The bikes are built to last, and with more than 600 rides already taken this summer, there has been only one flat tire.

"People tend to really enjoy the bikes and take care of them. We've had three customers lose keys, but all three eventually found them and returned them," Neville said. "So we haven't even lost a key yet, let alone anything more serious."

Prices for bike rentals start at $6 per hour, $20 for four hours, $25 for a day, and $80 for a week. However, if you are a resident of the Bemidji area, you can ride two hours for free Monday through Thursday with their $12 discount. To receive the unlimited coupon, send an email request to bemidji@niceridemn.org.

Many people in the community have taken advantage of the discounted rides already. In July alone, more than 200 rides were free,while only 37 rides were paid rentals..

"Our focus right now is to get local people to use our bikes to get to lunch, ride them to the park, the grocery store, or use them to get to work," Neville said. "The tourists are great, but these bike are for Bemidji."

Neville said Bemidji residents have responded well to the bike share with plenty of enthusiasm and support for Nice Ride.

And with college at BSU starting soon, the bikes are expected to get even more use. A total of 100 of the 200 orange bicycles are stationed on campus in hopes students and faculty will give Nice Ride a try and opt to ditch their cars for a change.

"Our singular goal is to get more people out peddling, and we're providing people with the opportunity to do so," Neville said.

The bike share is still in its infancy, but so far the program has had a positive effect on the community, she said.

"We've had 620 rides as of today (Wednesday) since starting in June, I would call that a success."

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