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Nice Ride Bemidji is no more, but locals putting bikes to use

Bikes for the Nice Ride Bemidji summer bike-sharing program. (Pioneer file photo)

BEMIDJI—Nice Ride Minnesota has ended its run in Bemidji, but the program is living on in other ways.

In 2014, the nonprofit bike-sharing program based in the Twin Cities started a pilot project in Bemidji to introduce the concept to Greater Minnesota. The Bemidji program allowed residents and tourists a chance to rent an orange bike for either an hour, a day or a week.

"We were trying to figure out how to take bike share, which had only been in larger, urban areas, and experiment with it in a smaller city," said Bill Dossett, executive director of Nice Ride Minnesota. "We picked Bemidji as the place to do that, and the model we chose was having staffed rental locations."

While Bemidjians began renting bikes for the summer months in 2014 as part of Nice Ride Bemidji, the program in the Twin Cities had been in place since 2010. Over the years, it had heavily relied on grant funding from the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota and other partners.

However, recently, the Nice Ride Minnesota program was acquired by Motivate, the largest bike-share operator in North America. Soon after Motivate acquired Nice Ride, the Brooklyn-based company was itself bought out by car-ride share company Lyft. Despite all of the recent moves, though, the name of the program is remaining, with the Twin Cities operation now called Nice Ride Motivate Minnesota.

As for the program in Bemidji, Dossett said the pilot program turned out well, thanks to the locals who worked on the project. And although it has been officially shut down by Nice Ride MN, the hard-to-miss orange bikes of Nice Ride Bemidji are still around town, now just donated.

"I'd really thank Diane Pittman, who's been amazing in taking the resources we brought there, which was basically the fleet of bikes and operating capacity, and getting really creative with how to make them work for the people in Bemidji."

Additionally, despite Nice Ride coming to an end locally, Dossett said the bike-share concept is living on in the area.

"The university staff have been finding ways to use the fleet at BSU," Dossett said. "Also, staff at Lake Bemidji State Park have also found a way to make it work for them. That fleet is still there and it will last a few more years. Those groups are continuing to find good, positive ways to use them and doing the same things they've been doing."