Sharing the Surplus Through Nice Ride Minnesota: A Bike Sharing Community Program

In permaculture, we frequently talk about “sharing the surplus” with others, otherwise known as the concept of “fair share.” Typically, we think about applying this concept to actions such as sharing extra zucchini that we grew in our garden with a local community food bank, sharing our lawn mower when not in use with a next door neighbor, or giving away our extra seeds that we collected from our gardens last season at a seed swap.

These days, there are various other forms of resource sharing that are emerging in many countries around the world, such as home sharing when traveling (think “couch surfing” or Airbnb) that also have the potential could to fit a permaculture lifestyle. Such programs encourage us to reach out to others, share what we don’t need (at least not all of the time), experience new things, and reduce the costs associated with paying for such items or services.

In some communities, there are now even community car sharing programs and bicycle sharing programs. The car sharing programs typically require a membership with an associated monthly fee. In the case of bicycle sharing programs, people can rent bikes for short urban trips and “park” them at designated bike stations.

Where I live in the Twin Cities in Minnesota (that’s the Minneapolis-St. Paul Metro region for any non-U.S. residents reading this), we have a bike-sharing program called “Nice Ride,” which currently boasts over 1700 bikes in 190 stations, and they are available 24/7, when we aren’t experiencing the colder wintry time of the year, that is. You simply rent and pick up a bike at any station, and then return it to any station in the system. Bikes are checked out using credit or debit cards at pay stations, or by using an app on a smart phone. The app can also be used to navigate to and from the system’s bike stations.

Rental options for Nice Ride are as follows:

1. Renting for a single trip (the current rate is $4 per every half hour)

2. Renting via a 3-Day pass (this includes unlimited rides up to 30 minutes each. Rides longer than 30 minutes are charged per additional half hour).

3. Memberships: 30 day or 1 year memberships are available. This is the best option if you ride often. These options allow a ride session of 60 minutes at a time instead of just 30 minutes. Members are issued keys to allow them to easily lock and unlock bikes quickly without additional charges.

The process of returning bicycles:

If all of the bike spaces are taken at a particular station when returning a bike, you would enter the number on your issued rental key at the rental station, and you get another 15 minutes to get to another station to return it. Pay stations allow you to check the status of nearby stations to find an open one.

The bike-sharing program in my community runs from April-November. I live in a temperate climate where it gets very cold, snowy, and icy in the winter, so this program is essentially a seasonal one during the warmer months of the year.

It is recommended that you wear a helmet and follow other common sense bike riding safety tips while using the bikes in this program. For more info, please see this page from the Nice Ride website.

Why should you consider participating in a bicycle-sharing program like Nice Ride?

1. It is a super-fun activity on a work lunch break!

2. You don’t want to buy your own bike, but still thoroughly enjoy feeling the wind flow through your hair as you ride one.

3. You are visiting a new city and are dying for a bike ride to check out the local community, but the flight attendants on your flight refused to let you store your bike in an overhead compartment and so you had to leave it at home (bummer!).

4. You can go to many more places using a bike than on a bus or the subway, which are restricted to specific routes and roads.

5. Riding a bike helps you to relive some of your fond childhood memories.

6. You don’t have to pay for parking your car in expensive lots downtown anymore!

7. Riding a bike is much cheaper than paying the cost of running a car for short distances in the city.

8. Riding a bike is a great way to get exercise! Hey, your doctor recommended more physical activity anyway, right?

9. Reduce your carbon footprint if traveling short distances in the city. Be a carbon-cutting ninja!

10. Take a break, get outside, and get some exercise on stressful day. Just don’t ride too far away from all of those emails at work!

11. See your community up close and personal in a way that you couldn’t while driving in your car. Discover new restaurants, theater venues, parks, local shops, and quirky pets and wildlife that you likely would have missed while driving a car.

12. Avoid the environmental impacts of having and driving a car, such as generating air pollution.

What are some downsides to participating in a bicycle-sharing program like Nice Ride Minnesota?

1. It is more challenging to carry as many of your belongings with you on a bike than when traveling in a car, train, or bus.

2. Since it is challenging to ride a bicycle in cold and snowy winter conditions, many bicycle-sharing programs may not be available in the winter months in some cities.

3. Bike riders can be vulnerable to getting caught in bad weather such as thunderstorms or flash floods. Always check the weather first before heading out to rent a bike!

4. Fees can add up really fast if you are not a member and exceed the original rental time.

5. There may not be any convenient bicycle rental stations near you when you need them. Sadly, bicycle rental teleportation systems haven’t been invented yet (or have they?).

6. You are typically limited to 30 minute or 60 minute rentals. If longer rides are necessary, it is recommended that you check out a few local bike rental companies in the community.


Participating in bicycle sharing programs like this one is an excellent way to help support a car-free lifestyle and help to reduce your overall environmental footprint. It may be an ideal type of program for you if it suits your needs and if you live in a city and don’t want the maintenance and costs associated with owning a car but don’t always want to walk, run, skate board, or ride the bus, subway, or light rail everywhere.

However, since bike-sharing programs like this one may be limited to only certain times of the year due to weather constraints, you may at times need to resort to other forms of transportation such as the bus, light rail, or even a car sharing program, such as the Car2Go program that is present in many cities in the United States.

For more information about Nice Ride Minnesota, be sure to check out their website, or visit the Bike Share website to learn about other bike sharing programs around the United States and in other places around the world.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Articles

Back to top button