I first used a community bicycle sharing system while vacationing in Valencia, Spain years ago. My wife and I had seen the stations all around town and finally decided to give it a try about halfway through our trip and we were so glad we did! We saw so much more of the city and found that we could actually get places faster on the bikes than by using the city’s bus or light rail service. A couple of years after that trip, the Nice Ride service came to Minneapolis, and Saint Paul soon followed. Last summer I signed up for their monthly usage plan and I definitely got my money’s worth.
Urban communities all across the country are offering these kinds of bike sharing/membership/rental services. If you’ve seen the bikes around but never used them, I encourage you to give it a try. Here’s how the Nice Ride system in the Twin Cities works:
One-Day Rental: You can rent a bicycle for one day for $6. That allows you to ride the bike from one station to any other station, and as long as you deposit the bike into another station within 30 minutes, there are no additional charges. Of course, it’s important to plan your trip so that you can get to a bicycle station along your route in that amount of time or else those charges will apply and they are kind of steep – an extra $3 per 30 minutes. If you haven’t made it to your final destination yet, that’s fine, you can just deposit the bike at any station along the way and then take it right back out to continue your journey.
Month-to-Month Membership: For $15 per month, you can use the bikes the same way as for the daily rental, except there’s an added bonus – you get to keep the bike out for a full hour between station check-ins. This will normally allow you to make it all the way to your final destination without having to stop and check in along the way. The monthly rental runs on a rolling 30-day cycle, and you won’t be charged for the next month until you access the system again. So if you’ll be away for an extended period of time, you don’t have to pay for something you’re not using.
1-Year Membership: Because of the winter weather here, the annual membership is actually more of a seasonal one, because the bikes are only out from April to November, but that still makes them available for over 200 days per year. At $55 per year for students and $65 for everyone else, that makes the 1-year membership the best daily value.
While rates and details vary from city to city, this is generally how most bike sharing systems work everywhere. If you’re not sure about forking over any money to try it out, look for promotions at summertime events. Often, you’ll be able to get a coupon for a free day, or even for a free one-month subscription.