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Nice Ride pulls bikes off Rochester streets

Almost two years after 200 orange rental bicycles were introduced, the bikes have been pulled from Rochester’s streets as the nonprofit Nice Ride negotiates its future as part of a national, private ride-share firm.

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Volunteers show off the new Nice Ride bikes when the program was announced in August.
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It looks like it is the end of the bike lane for Nice Ride in the Med City and elsewhere.

Almost two years after 200 orange rental bicycles were introduced, the bikes have been pulled from Rochester’s streets as the nonprofit Nice Ride negotiates its future as part of a national, private ride-share firm.

Nice Ride is finalizing contracts with New York City-based Motivate to take over serving Minneapolis and absorbing the assets of the nonprofit organization, explained Nice Ride Executive Director Bill Dossett.

As that is happening, bicycles that were available for rent at two downtown Rochester locations have been put into storage with the intention of eventually being passed on to a local organization.

"All of the bikes that Nice Ride of Minnesota owns that have been in Rochester are still there and they will stay there. It is our intent that those bikes will be donated to another nonprofit or some other entity that can use them," said Dossett.

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He said the Destination Medical Center Economic Development Agency is scheduling a meeting for Nice Ride and others to discuss the future of the bicycles.

When asked about the usage of the Rochester bikes in the last two years, Dossett acknowledged that they were not really in much demand.

The bikes have not been used a ton … though that was kind of what we expected," he said.

However, it wasn’t the use or lack of use that derailed Rochester’s bike program.

The bike sharing industry, like many others, was disrupted in recent years by technology. While Rochester was actually a staffed rental operation, Nice Ride’s basic concept in Minneapolis was to set up self-check and return of bicycles through onsite computerized stations or "docks."

Systems introduced by private companies that use a smart phone app to lock and unlock bikes as well as track them made docks obsolete. The success of dockless bike sharing has created a boom and has attracted big investments by companies like Uber.

"What that meant for us as a nonprofit was that we could not continue to survive without making some big changes," Dossett said.

What does all of this mean for Rochester, which has seen bike fans trying to promote their use in recent years?

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The city of Rochester needs to figure out how they want to encourage or regulate this new huge opportunity for privately funded bike sharing," said Nice Ride’s executive director.

"Rochester has a huge opportunity to work with a Motivate or a Jump or somebody else to get really great bike sharing there."

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