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Is bike-sharing coming to Rochester?

The Rochester Park and Rec Department has been in discussions with the bike sharing and rental program for possible partnership in the now-empty Silver Lake Firestation No. 2. The bikes shown here are lined up in South Minneapolis when they debuted their program a few years ago.

A new occupant for the city of Rochester's now-empty Fire Station No. 2 property at Silver Lake could shake up the way the city's residents get around.

Rochester Park and Recreation Department staff announced at a Tuesday meeting they had been in discussions with Nice Ride Minnesota , a nonprofit bike-sharing and bike rental company founded in the Twin Cities. Nice Ride could be an anchor partner at the fire station property, said Paul Widman, Rochester park and recreation director.

"This has become a goal of (Destination Medical Center) and of many other stakeholders and groups in town to provide programs such as bike share, (and) the fire station became a site of interest because of its location on the trail system and its fairly easy access to downtown," Widman said.

Nice Ride has preliminary plans to place bike rental locations at the Rochester Convention and Visitors Bureau information kiosk in Peace Plaza, at People's Food Co-op and at the fire station, said Anthony Desnick, director of Nice Ride's greater Minnesota strategies.

The Rochester Board of Park Commissioners gave its consensus approval for Parks and Recreation staff to continue discussions with Nice Ride, but the project to place the bike-sharing program in Rochester is far from final. The next phase of discussions will include renovating the fire station property, envisioning a partnership with Nice Ride and providing other community programming at the fire station, Widman said.


"We would still have the vision of having many groups access that facility and provide programs," Widman said. "That's the direction we received from council when they turned the building over to Parks (and Recreation) and we want to stay consistent with that."

As a nonprofit organization, Nice Ride would seek funding for its operating costs through partnerships with local government and through state grants. The organization has discussed commitments for funding with the city of Rochester, DMC, the Rochester Convention and Visitors Bureau and the state of Minnesota through its Statewide Health Improvement Program, Desnick said.

Discussions with Rochester began last year and have been hampered by downtown Rochester's lack of bicycling infrastructure, Desnick said.

"When Rochester first approached us and asked us to come down here in 2014, we came back and met with several members of the city council and people who were members of the DMC at that time and kind of concluded that we didn't want to come to Rochester until you knew what you wanted to be as a city," Desnick said. "That had a lot to do with the fact that there isn't a lot of infrastructure for safe biking in and around downtown."

In addition to providing bike share in Rochester, Nice Ride would seek to partner with local bicycling advocates We Bike Rochester to become a catalyst for changing Rochester's cycling infrastructure and participation.

"It's wrapped with a lot of outreach and encouragement to get people on bikes," Desnick said.

To manage programming for the rest of the space at Fire Station No. 2, the Parks and Recreation Department is looking to another group: Leadership Greater Rochester , a branch of the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce.

Jennifer Simpson, a member of this year's Leadership Greater Rochester class, said the group had conducted a needs assessment and found the city lacked public meeting spaces and recreational facilities.


"We're trying to create, or re-create, that historical space," Simpson said. "Ultimately, our goal is to make a real meaningful community impact with our project."

While Leadership Greater Rochester operates in yearly classes of participants, the group would create a sustainability plan for the public use of Fire Station No. 2 and transfer authority over the space back to the Parks and Recreation Department, Simpson said.

The park board gave its consensus for staff to continue planning with Leadership Greater Rochester.

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