This article is in response to concerns raised by patriot and WSJ editorial board member Dorothy Rabinowitz regarding bike sharing’s autocratic and un-American roots.
Stubble: What are the insidious objectives of the Nice Ride program in the Twin Cities?
Anthony: To enhance the quality of our urban life by providing a convenient, easy-to-use bike sharing program that will provide residents and visitors a healthy, fun, different way to get around town.
Stubble: Can you describe how the Nice Ride program developed from just an idea to the organization that it is today? How totalitarian and autocratic was it?
Anthony: It was a careful process to create the relationships that were able to bring the bike sharing project together. A bit on our history here:
Nice Ride Minnesota was formed through the Twin Cities Bike Share Project, an initiative started by Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and the City of Lakes Nordic Ski Foundation in July 2008. The Project evaluated bike share systems through an RFP and developed a non-profit business plan based on a combination of public and private funding. Bike/Walk Twin Cities (a program of Transit for Livable Communities funded through the Federal Highway Administration) announced its financial support in March of 2009, responding to a major funding commitment by the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Center for Prevention.
Nice Ride held its first board meeting in April of 2009 and received non-profit status the following June. Funding for Phase 1 of the bike share system was secured by the end of 2009 and a staff was quickly assembled. In early 2010, we selected Public Bike System Co. (developers of the Montreal Bixi bike share system) to supply our bike share equipment. We formed relationships with two local businesses, Freewheel Bike Shop andSieco Construction, to help us assemble and install the bike share equipment.
Stubble: Why would anyone want a program like this — is it because we too fat?
Anthony: Minneapolis for the 3rd year running, was just named the healthiest city in the country, so no – it’s not because we’re too fat. While there is a directly correlation to health and accessibility to physical activities – people want bike share because it creates a livable urban environment that people enjoy. Never having to worry about a damaged bike, a bike being stolen, or even having to bring a bike with you, because you know there will be a Nice Ride station near your destination – are all reasons why people love it.
Stubble: Why was green chosen a the Nice Ride color and how many of your cycles begrime the Twin Cities?
Anthony: We chose green because it was important that the bikes be a reminder that there are other ways to get around instead of a car. We wanted them to be visible, and put a lot of effort into the design. As of this year, we are up to over 1500 bicycles and we find that having such a prominent bike share system (3rd largest in the country) is a source of pride for Twin Cities residents.
Stubble: Obvious choices of Paris and London aside, who do you think Minneapolis residents are trying to be more like with their bike share program?
Anthony: Since Minneapolis was really the pioneer in bringing this form of Bike share to the United States, we like to think that residents are trying to be simply a more convenient, healthier version of themselves.
Stubble: Has there ever been an issue with Nice Ride racks blocking fire trucks or other emergency vehicles?
Anthony: We have had no reported incidents of this occurring. We acquire permitting for all of our stations, and make sure there would be no such blockages.
Stubble: How would you describe the influence of the bicycle lobby in the Twin Cities? Is it all-powerful and as ideology-maddened as Rabinowitz explains?
Anthony: In a sense, it is a constant push for the cycling community to make sure we are considered in construction and public decision making. Though I think a world where the ‘bike lobby’ took precedent over others would be a safer, healthier world – the reality is that there couldn’t be a farther statement from the truth.
Stubble: What are the future plans of the Nice Ride organization in ruining the Twin Cities?
Anthony: At this time, having expanded with 24 new stations this year – we’re looking to optimize placement of current stations, in addition to exploring other cities within Minnesota where having a bike sharing program might make sense. We are constantly working on getting out the message of how bike sharing works, and how normal people use our system on a regular basis.
Anthony Ongaro is the Marketing Director for Nice Ride Minnesota and a suspiciously nice man.
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