BEMIDJI -- Bicyclists on bright orange bikes will be on the road Sunday afternoon to welcome a group of riders to Bemidji for the kickoff of a new outdoor asset to the city.
Minnesota Nice Ride, a bike rental program sponsored by the Blue Cross Blue Shield, will be having its grand opening Sunday afternoon. The Nice Ride program offers residents and tourists a chance to rent a bright orange bike for either a hour, a day or a week.
The lightweight bicycles comes with a front basket for storing items, a rear storage rack, a bike lock and a headlight powered by the front wheel. The bikes was specifically designed for Bemidji and can be used for anything from short trips to the grocery store to longer rides of more than 10 miles.
According to Melinda Neville, the manager of Nice Ride Bemidji, 45 bikes at three different locations will be available to rent starting Sunday with a fourth location at Bemidji State Park coming in July. Approximately, 200 bikes are scheduled to be in the Bemidji fleet in the near future. Bemidji is the third city in the state of Minnesota to receive a Nice Ride program after St. Paul and Minneapolis.
"Right now, Bemidji is the only outstate Minnesota city that has Nice Ride," Neville said.
In order to rent a bike, a customer must first create an account online and link their account to a credit or debit card. If someone is unable to create an online account, a staff member at one of the four locations in Bemidji can create one. Anyone older than 18 is free to rent a bike and 16-17 year olds must have have a parent or guardian sign a waiver before renting.
Prices for a rental range from $6 for an hour to $20 for four hours. Daily and weekly rentals will also be available for rent with a $12 coupon available for Bemidji residents .
Neville said Nice Ride sponsored riders from Big Lake will be riding 200 miles to Bemidji for the opening ceremony on Sunday afternoon.
"We're looking for riders to get on our orange bikes and ride three miles to meet the bike to Bemidji group on the edge of town," Neville said.
Matthew Dyrdahl, one of the Bike to Bemidji riders, said he was happy when he heard the bike rental program was expanding to Bemidji.
"When I heard Nice Ride was expanding to Bemidji, I was really excited," Dyrdahl said.
Dyrdahl is a former Bemidji resident and he used to work at the Headwaters Regional Development Commission before moving to Minneapolis. He recently sold his car in favor of riding his bike to work there and said now when he travels to Bemidji for work he won't have to bring his bike from home onto the bus with him.
"It'll be easy to go car free in Bemidji," he said.
Tony Desnick, director of Greater Minnesota Strategies for Nice Ride, said the ability to go carless in Bemidji is what drew the organization to the city.
"We did sort of a litmus test," Desnick said. "We asked could a group of people come to your town on a three-day weekend and not use their car and still have a good time?"
Desnick said Bemidji is very bike friendly and hopes the program will be as successful as it has been in the Twin Cities.
"The bottom line is you guys are a bike place."
If you go
What: Nice Ride Bemidji grand opening
Where: Paul and Babe statues, downtown Bemidji
When: 2:30 p.m.,Sunday. Bemidji Mayor Rita Albrecht will host a ceremonial rally, along with representatives from Nice Ride Minnesota, Blue Cross Blue Shield MN, BSU and local civic officials.
Learn more: For more information on Nice Ride Bemidji visit http://bemidji.niceridemn.org/. To register for the three-mile free welcome ride taking place at 1 p.m. Sunday, email email@example.com.