…the guy on the Nice Ride bike yelled at me as he rode past me walking down the sidewalk near my apartment. I only had a split second to wonder if the guy was bragging or just proud that his city had the organizing power and progressive spirit to pull together a system that’s simultaneously environmentally friendly, egalitarian and fun before the guy emitted a follow-up yell, “Your shirt!” Oh yeah – there was a nice girl who works for Nice Ride on the sidewalk with a prize wheel a few weeks before, and I’d spun a shirt – which, being comfortable and stylish, quickly became a favorite of mine.
Funny thing is, this was the second time that day someone had yelled “Nice Ride!” at me – the first was from the lips of a shirtless young cyclist behind me as I prepared to curse the old fat man who was driving through in Hennepin’s green lane, until he came across a bus at a stop and decided to hold up the cyclists who were legally riding in the lane so he could pass the bus. In fact – and I’ve heard this from other regular Nice Riders – it’s not uncommon for people to yell “Nice Ride” as you cruise by on those green flashing cushiony bikes. People really seem psyched about the Nice Ride.
I gotta admit, though, that I’m getting a little less psyched. Yesterday was also the second time I’ve arrived at a station to discover an empty corral, which in this sprawling city means a 5-10 minute walk to the next station, and further on the Northside or in St Paul. Last summer I also rode Nice Ride regularly, and never had a problem. Maybe it was just bad luck, or maybe the Nice Ride is surging in popularity or maybe – and I think this is most likely – they’re just expanding a bit beyond their capacity lately.
It looks like more bikes are on the way, but it would have been wise to wait until they were here before adding all these new stations. Based on the numbers from Nice Ride, the original 65 stations were stocked with 700 bikes. With the stations added this week, there are 95 stations stocked by 800 bikes (apparently only one bike was lost last year, so I’m assuming few were lost this year), 30% fewer bikes per station. When the 500 new bikes come in and the 2011 expansion is finished, the ratio will be much closer to the opening, with 116 stations stocked by 1200 bikes. At that point I’ll be more likely to shout “Nice Ride” back to the bros.