Bike-Sharing in the Twin Cities

A recent StarTribune article stated that the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul are hoping to try out a bike-sharing pilot program. The article states:

Humana, a Fortune 500 health insurer, announced it was providing 1,000 bicycles to the cities for community use during the Sept. 1-4 [Republican Party] convention, and then leaving 70 “legacy” bikes behind for what it hopes will become a permanent program.
For the four-day initiative, dubbed Freewheelin, 10 solar-powered kiosks will be installed across the Twin Cities. Bikes could be picked up at a kiosk and then returned to the same one or to another after being used.
Use of a bike is free, but people must register with a credit card online to guard against thefts.
After the convention, Humana plans to donate the kiosks, too.

I’ve never used a bike-share program (I’m not very well-traveled), but it has always seemed like a great idea. The article leaves a few questions unanswered, however. First, how do you convince a Republican to ride a bicycle? No easy task. (ha ha, just kidding…sort of).

But really, where will the kiosks be located? I presume half in downtown Mpls, and half in downtown St. Paul. It is unlikely that people are going to begin cycling between the two downtowns – or those that do probably prefer their own bicycles… So I wonder if the program will end up being essentially two separate bike-share programs?

Also, do the bikes come with locks so that you can lock the bike somewhere when you get there? If not, you won’t really be able to use the bikes unless there happens to be a kiosk near where you’re trying to go. If you’re going someplace without a kiosk, you’ll need a lock.

I wonder about theft/vandalism as well. In other bike-sharing programs, I’ve heard that the bicycles are completely proprietary – none of the parts use industry standard dimentions or threads to discourage people from stealing parts off them. And I wonder who will maintain the bicycles? I assume a contract will be awarded to one of the local bike shops.

Mostly, I hope the bikes are sweet RETRO bikes, like the Schwinn Coffee. I’d totally ride the Coffee.

1 comment to Bike-Sharing in the Twin Cities

  • I agree that this looks like a great idea, but it will come down to some details. I wonder how long you can keep it before they decide to charge you? I think its a little lame you have to have a credit card to check one out, but I guess they have to at least try to keep track of them. It could be really nice to be able to ride the train downtown and then ride bikes to wherever you want to go downtown and then the train home.