The loss of a major sponsor for Minneapolis' bike share program Nice Ride has led to a call for the city to step in with stopgap funding until an alternative can be found.
It's been confirmed that after more than a decade, the contract with main sponsor Blue Cross Blue Shield will end in August 2023.
Lyft, which has operated Nice Ride since 2018 in Minneapolis, confirmed to the Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal that it is exploring "every avenue" to ensure the program's sustainable funding.
But Move Minnesota, a Twin Cities-based sustainable transportation advocacy group, has expressed concerns that the loss of BCBS sponsorship could leave the program $3 million in the whole.
In a statement issued Wednesday, the group claims that Nice Ride has a $1 million sponsorship credit for 2023, but that a further $2 million is needed "to be in a position to open next year."
That's why Move Minnesota is calling on Minneapolis City Council to provide $2 million in stopgap funding to ensure Nice Ride can continue to operate until a new sponsor can be found.
The program served 73,000 riders in 2021, who between them went on more than 500,000 rides, with many using the bikes to travel to restaurants and entertainment venues, or to run errands.
Move Minnesota also highlights the importance of the program to the 2,600 low-income residents who regularly use the service. Those on SNAP or other federal benefits can use the bikes for just $5-a-month, or e-bikes for 5 cents a minute.