Bike Share in Duluth-Superior?

Discussion is getting underway today about setting up a bike share system here in the Twin Ports, modeled after the Nice Ride MN nonprofit in the Cities. In case you missed it, check out this article in the DNT.

The basic idea behind the Nice Ride system is to provide affordable access to bicycles for short trips inside the city, as an alternative to taking the bus or driving a car.

It’s not the same as a free “yellow bike” setup where bikes can be picked up and left around anywhere (and vandalized or stolen).  The system in the Twin Cities is already paying for itself  through a combination of user fees and sponsorships.

An initial informational meeting on Friday afternoon is aimed at getting policy folks,  local nonprofits and potential organizational sponsors on board (which is why it’s scheduled mid-day during the work week), but a strong level of public interest is what will really move this idea forward.

Comments on the Area Voices site in response to the DNT article are trending strongly negative.  Is the bike share idea really a nonstarter for Duluth-Superior?  Feel free to make your thoughts known here if you can’t attend the meeting.



about 13 years ago

Hmm... I don't think this would work in Duluth-Superior.

It works in Minneapolis because it is a relatively flat area, with a high population density, better climate for bike riding and already had a huge network of bike paths.

Duluth is hilly, which already eliminates the Nice Ride style bikes as they are single-speed and heavy.  It also has 1/12th (give or take) the population of the Twin Cities area and no real bike paths short of the Lakewalk and Munger trail.

I can see it on a small scale, perhaps at both ends of the Lakewalk. But something along the lines of the Nice Ride system in Duluth would be a huge waste of money.


about 13 years ago

Well, if it were neighborhood localized it might work well. Yeah, you might not hop on one of these to get from Pizza Luce to Woodland. But, around downtown? Downtown to Park Point and back? UMD to St. Scholastica, or Mt. Royal? Western part of Duluth along Superior and Grand? 
And if the bikes are compatible with the bike racks on the buses then it expands the range significantly. 

I think the actual biggest problems will be the relative short season for biking, 7 months optimistically in a good year, and a lack of bike-based infrastructure. But, at least with the second, you have to start somewhere and it well may be worth it. 

Personally I am already thinking of finding a cheap Huffy to use during next Homegrown, but if one of these systems was in place I'd think about that as well.


about 13 years ago

Is there any topic that could possibly run in the DNT that doesn't bring out commenters saying stupid shit like "pinko" and "commie"?

And can anyone tell me why I read those comments? It always makes me mad.


about 13 years ago

It's endemic to all news site comment sections. Not even necessarily folks from the region posting. When I was following the Cascade Mural project (because I am on the DPAC) there where commentators popping up from St. Cloud and Brainerd and other points south and west. I mean WTF?

Bad Cat!

about 13 years ago

I know - they're just idiots over there!
There was a news story about a senior prom done by a nursing home (re-creating a prom for the old folks with music from their era). I commented that it was a cute idea and I hope that something like it would be around when I was old - four thumbs down within an hour.


about 13 years ago

Aren't comments on Area Voices strongly negative about almost everything? I hope no policy maker takes that stuff as a snapshot of local opinion.

As far as bike sharing, I'm all for helping folks get out of their cars, but I think it won't work as well here as it does in the Cities in part because there is not yet a culture of accepting bikes as vehicles in Duluth. Roads aren't designed to accommodate bikes, and there's a sizable minority of hostile drivers. 

I bike all summer and fall for fitness, but I don't bike commute and don't bike downtown because it's hilly and unfriendly to bikes.


about 13 years ago

What we need is a better capacity on buses to hang bikes to get by the hill issue; like some way to hang at least six.

Personally, if I'm not in the mood for climbing the hill, I just walk the bike up and ride down later.


about 13 years ago

Duluth has to be one of the most difficult American cities to ride in due the narrow and busy streets and roadways, minimal cycling infrastructure, climate and topography.  Some of this we simply must accept.

The Bike Share idea is heading in the right direction but if it gets implemented anywhere other than the eastern Lakewalk to the western Munger it will be tough.  

I bike commute 6 miles round-trip to work March - November and more when the routes are 'safe'.  The cold and snow do not bother me as much as the drivers out there.  I have witnessed an innate hostility from many motorists toward my cycling presence on the road which make it even more difficult than it already is or has to be.  I believe this city requires an entirely new approach to bike travel, commuting and 'culture' within it's limits.  

A friend relayed this story to me: he overheard a city engineer speaking with another about the idea of including a 'bike lane' along Woodland Avenue near Mt. Royal and UMD during it's recent repair and redesign.  They both laughed at the idea.  That pisses me off.  Not everyone in that area drives a damn car.  

Honestly, in the future I see fewer motorists out there and more cyclists around town, and now is the time to address some of these needs of the future.  Implement active plans by concerned/involved citizens who ride and live here and not leave the choices to the decider's who drive.  Let's get that started!  Count me in.


about 13 years ago

I would say that anybody that wants to ride a bike in Duluth already owns one. Bike sharing is a great idea where a bunch of people live in high rise apartments and they don't want to lug bikes into their apartments every night. That isn't Duluth.

I also agree that Duluth is not a bike friendly environment topographically, culturally, or from an infrastructure standpoint. I bike commute to downtown year round and it is, quite frankly, a hassle.

For instance the only bike rack for the tech village is in the back corner of the parking garage where you will die from exhaust fumes faster than you can unlock your bike and get out of there. Why? I was told "aesthetic reasons." If you lock you bike to the fence near the skywalk door, you get a nasty note stuck on it from the City. If the City doesn't like the look of a bike rack, I don't know how a whole system of bike sharing will work (and yeah, I know they put their "artsy" racks in downtown a year or so ago, but they are all in pretty useless places).


about 13 years ago

Speaking only to the issue of topography: San Francisco has a huge bike culture and has elevation changes of ~900 feet from place-to-place around the city. Wikipedia tells me that Duluth's elevation change from the waterfront to the airport is a very comparable 825 feet.

Buck Skinner

about 13 years ago

I've never seen the denizens of a city balance the beam in one breath  betwixt full frontal progressive, to ass naked backwards quite so gracefully as here in Duluth, it surely boggles the goggles. Back and forth, back and forth.   They already have those four pack family dolly carts for rent on Coney Island, isn't that enough?   It isn't a bike friendly city anyway. One time at night, a gang of youthful thugs, having just sauced themselves at the Reef, tried to run me down on my bike while I was going uphill, then returned, stopped and honked at me. I put a giant scratch in their door with my handle, then they gave chase and I got away, but not easily.  In hindsight, I should have broke their door window with my bike lock and beat them silly where they sat for their indolence and decrepitude.  So while I do not view this place as bicycle friendly, I would offer that it is snowmobile and automobile friendly, if you enjoy those activities, and you are a native of this area, which will surely endear you in the hearts and minds of other locals.  How about  Renta-Beel?  Or maybe even Rent-a-Muscle Car? Or Rent-a-Giant-Truck? I think those could go over like Just-Add-Water Koala Bears.

The Big E

about 13 years ago

Echoing bluenewt, I wouldn't take counsel from the strong contingent of knuckledraggers among the Area Voices commentators.  That said, I don't think this is a great plan for Duluth.  Most people who might think about riding already have a bike [1]--what's needed is to get them out the door doing it more frequently.  

There, I think the need is to deal with the more solvable environmental challenges Elden mentioned--changing the weather and the topography are out, but there are plenty of things we as a city could do.  In Bozeman, MT, the downtown area is so clotted with parked bikes in the summer that the city installed big bike racks in several street parking spaces. Although we probably don't need that much capacity right now, we could certainly use to add more plain old utilitarian public racks here.  I'm very enthused to see the news about the Lakewalk and Munger Trail extensions, but we also need to think about doing more to facilitate cycling downtown--not least because in the summer the Lakewalk between 21st and Canal Park (and especially west of Leif Erikson Park) is often too crowded to ride on safely.  

[1] To aid those who don't have a bike and might struggle to afford a solid one, I think a small public and/or charity program rehabbing donated or garbage-picked bikes might work well, especially if it included a DIY component (both to aid people in maintaining a new-to-them bike and to discourage people seeking to exploit the system.


about 13 years ago

@ Big E: re: [1]: the bike cave in the Dorothy Day House on Jefferson does just that.

The Big E

about 13 years ago

I read something a little cryptic here about the Bike Cave back in the spring--it sounds like a great idea, which might (or, admittedly, might not) benefit from a little more publicity.


about 13 years ago

There used to be a couple of HTBC/Per Hansen type tall bikes that frequented the area, but I haven't seen them in a while. I do pass by there pretty frequently and it's a lot more organized than it used to be, but I'm not sure how active it is.

A former housemate and I pieced together about thirty throwaways over the course of a winter in 1996 when I lived in Columbia Heights ... it's not difficult, is far from costly in terms of everything save time.

Barrett Chase

about 13 years ago

No matter which side you fall on -- bicyclist or driver -- realize that there are plenty of people in the other camp who will always judge you by the worst of your ilk. For any kind of productive conversation on this topic, it's important to acknowledge that not everyone out behaves like a belligerent and/or clueless idiot, and that there are lots of people who both drive and bike.

The Big E

about 13 years ago

That is a very important point, Barrett.


about 13 years ago

In other cities that have this sort of option, the bicycles are intended mainly for transportation on short trips. They could work great for people who work downtown and need to get from place to place during the day. There are situations when a bicycle might be more practical than driving and parking a car.

At the same time, the city, and on some streets the county, will have to consider adding bicycle friendly facilities such as bike lanes. In Minnesota it is illegal to ride a bike on sidewalks in business districts. On street, cyclists must obey all traffic rules. (I know, sometimes they don't and that is just wrong, wrong, wrong.) Riding a bike will only be acceptable if it is easier than driving a car and if riders feel safe.

As others have written, most people who ride for recreation already have a bike and probably wouldn't pay the fee for this option. For those of us who commute into downtown for work, it could be a fine choice to get to meetings and lunch if the racks are placed properly.


about 13 years ago

People doubted a bike-share program could work in Minneapolis because it hadn't been done in the United States yet and we weren't European enough. But niceride has been successful in Minneapolis and I use it frequently even though I often commute on my own bike. 

A limited bike-share system would work well in Duluth. Duluth would benefit from a system with a few kiosks in Canal Park, on Park Point, and along Superior Street, Grand Ave, and London Road. 

I just don't know how Duluth could implement a citywide bike share though.  As someone pointed out, the bikes are very heavy and would be fun to ride downhill and pretty tough uphill. Bikes would need to be transported back up hill frequently if UMD and the mall had kiosks.


about 13 years ago

I love this.  If it starts small like mentioned in the Downtown - Canal Park - Lakewalk area I think this thing could take off.

Duluth does need more bike-friendly routes/trails but with the current attitude in the city engineering area and general population it will be tough going.  Things do change but only with hardworking people like the riders that are active in getting this town out of the 18th century and into the 21st.  Thanks to all of you.  Keep it up.

I sure would love to be working in the downtown with all the new options for transportation (bike racks on the bus is the only new one I can think of).  When the connector trail is complete it will be so sweet for us far westers.  Can't wait.  I hope Chip either gets the picture or is replaced.  Right now I live in the far west and work near the airport.  I have always wondered if the bus bike racks get full and if so then what? Wait for the next bus?


about 13 years ago

Cosmojr, agree that it's local bicycle riders who need to actively advocate for implementing bike lanes and off-street trails. COGGS is a great example of getting organized and gaining influence in this community, but they are all about mountain biking and trail building, not the interests of commuting cyclists or recreational riders whose abilities and comfort levels are better suited to level, paved trails.

I was interested to see that the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota ( lists a local blog site, Biking Duluth (, as our area's Bike Advocacy Group. 

Now, I love this blog - it really promotes all-weather riding and the pleasures of being a cyclist in this part of the world - but it doesn't appear to have a real political advocacy function at all.

How do you suppose we could coalesce these into a cohesive working group?

PS, DTA bus drivers will often (if not usually) allow a bike to be brought right onto the bus if the exterior rack is full.  They are allowed to make a judgement call based on how full the bus is, and how long someone would have to wait to catch the next bus.

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