Down cycle: Why Nice Ride can't add more stations this year

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Despite having funding for 17 new stations in place, Minnesota's popular Nice Ride bike-sharing service will not be expanding in 2014 because of the financial problems of a key vendor.

As the rental season opens and the distinctive lime green bikes return to metro roads, Streets.mn, a website focusing on land use and transportation, carried an interview with Anthony Ongaro, Nice Ride’s Director of Marketing. Ongaro explained that the bankruptcy of Bixi, the company that supplied the system's bicycles and stations did "prevent us from expanding with new stations and bikes for 2014, which was unfortunate because we did have the funding for 17 additional stations."

He added that once Nice Ride is able to purchase the additional stations, the system will "build on the existing network, not necessarily expanding outwards, but adding key connecting points to make the system more and more functional as we go."

The Business Journal added that Montreal-based Bixi filed for bankruptcy in January and that a Canadian court approved a deal for a Quebec businessman to buy the company earlier this month.

Last month, the Portland Mercury reported bike-friendly Portland, Oregon would be postponing the start of its bike-sharing system because of the supply shake-ups associated with the bankruptcy.

Ongaro said that since Nice Ride can't expand as it had planned, the system will shift its focus to "making the member experience even better" by expanding trip time to 60 minutes and adding a new 30-day subscription.

The bankruptcy will not cancel Nice Ride's plans to debut bike rentals in Bemidji this year, MPR reported. Executive Director Bill Dossett told the station places such as hotels, state parks and Bemidji State University will have for-rent rides – they will not be the lime green model, however.

The Streets blog noted that Denver and Toronto are among the cities that are operating year-round bike sharing, while Boston, New York and Chicago all operated some form of winter pilot this year. But Ongaro said that kind of a year-round service wouldn't make it in chilly Minnesota.

"We depend heavily on casual system usage (24-hour passes) to help fund our operations. When the weather goes south, the casual usage drops to practically none. In short, we’d be adding 3-5 months of operational costs without adding much revenue to help cover those costs."

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