Minneapolis’ new shared wheel economy: bikes, scooters, e-bikes, dockless hubs

Officials urge riders to stay off sidewalks and wear helmets 

scooter-share user
Minneapolis officials are reminding bike- and scooter-share users to wear helmets when they ride. File photo

Minneapolis officials say safety is a priority, as rentable bikes and electric scooters continue to expand throughout the city, including into Southwest Minneapolis.

The city is reminding users not to ride on sidewalks and is encouraging them to wear helmets, as Nice Ride Minnesota prepares to launch its bike-sharing system by April 22. It is also looking closely at how the various scooter-share companies approach safety as it evaluates their bids to provide the service in 2019, advanced mobility manager Josh Johnson said.

“We really want to make sure that we’re moving forward with companies that align with our goals,” Johnson said.

Nice Ride will launch about 3,300 pedal-powered bikes by April 22, according to a spokeswoman, and it also plans on piloting an electric-bike program this year. The system plans on adding an additional 47 docking stations around Minneapolis, including stations near Bde Maka Ska and Lake Harriet. It also plans on installing additional dockless hubs near the lakes.

Minneapolis hasn’t yet selected its scooter providers for 2019, but it plans on allowing between two and four companies to distribute up to 2,000 vehicles. The city is requiring providers to place at least 30 percent of scooters in areas of concentrated poverty, including North Minneapolis and Cedar-Riverside, Johnson said. The vendors can place the remaining scooters as they see fit, though no more than 40 percent can be placed in downtown and surrounding neighborhoods.

Johnson said in early April that he hoped to see scooters on the streets within the next “month or so.”

Under Minnesota law, electric-assisted bikes are allowed to reach a top speed of 20 mph; motorized foot scooters can’t exceed 15 mph. Riders under 18 must wear helmets, and riding on the sidewalk is not permitted.

Johnson said the city is looking to create on-street parking zones and make infrastructure improvements to support a comfortable ride. Many scooter-share users are not bikers, Johnson said, so the city is also working to ensure users learn good riding behavior.

“If more people see others using it in a safe and appropriate way, it builds on itself,” he said.

He said the city has worked with Hennepin Healthcare to gather data on scooter-related injuries.

City Council President Lisa Bender said the city is implementing pedestrian- and bike-safety improvements by building out its network of protected bike lanes and through road-reconstruction projects.

In her ward, which includes much of Uptown east of Bde Maka Ska, there are plans to extend the protected bike lane on Blaisdell Avenue through the Whittier neighborhood. She also noted improvements to the pedestrian realm that were part of the city’s recent reconstruction of Hennepin Avenue through Uptown.

Bender said the city’s upcoming Transportation Action and Vision Zero plans will help Minneapolis make additional progress when it comes to bike, scooter and pedestrian safety.