Minneapolis‘s Nice Ride bike and scooter program is suspended until further notice after its operator, Lyft, was unable to secure a sponsor.
“We have made the tough decision to suspend our operations of the Nice Ride system at the completion of our one-year license after losing the system’s presenting sponsor. Since losing the presenting sponsor, we have worked tirelessly to find a new sponsor but have not been successful. We will continue to work with our local partners to look for opportunities to provide service again in the future.”
The suspension of the service includes rentable bikes, electric bikes and scooters. Lyft says it will also remove the Nice Ride dock stations when weather permits.
Lyft secured operations of Nice Ride in 2018 in a contract with the city. Blue Cross and Blue Shield was the primary sponsor for the not-for-profit program before announcing it would end its sponsorship in November.
The health insurer’s withdrawal, having been the lead sponsor of the program since it launched in 2010, left the program $2 million in the hole.
A spokesperson with Lyft said the company has been unable to secure a new sponsor or a temporary public subsidy to cover operating losses.
“Given these realities, and the months of planning needed to open the program by the riding season, Lyft is not currently in a position to ramp up operations of the program this spring without the support of partners, which is a critical component in all of our markets with a healthy operating model,” the company said.
Sarah McKenzie, with the City of Minneapolis, said the city is “disappointed” in the outcome.
“The City is disappointed that Lyft could not find a new private sponsor to support their operation of the Nice Ride system,” McKenzie said. “Regardless of the outcome, the City has other licensees in the Shared Bike and Scooter Program interested in providing shared bikes, ensuring that the city will have bikes in the program this upcoming season.”
Lyft suggested that changes made by the City of Minneapolis in recent years was a factor in the program’s struggles, saying that Nice Ride was created on the premise of both sponsorship and public funding in collaboration with an operating company.
“The [City of Minneapolis] has moved to a one-year license agreement model, both public and sponsorship funds have exhausted, and the number of operators has grown to make it even more difficult to secure a sponsor,” the spokesperson added.
The announcement comes after the program had record-breaking numbers in 2021 and 2022. The program served 73,000 riders in 2021, who between them went on more than 500,000 rides, with many using the bikes to travel to restaurants and entertainment venues, or to run errands.
The Star Tribune reported ridership increased 54% in September 2022, largely due to equity programs such as Nice Ride for All and new enrollment from University of Minnesota students.
The city still has scooter rental contracts with Bird, Lime, Spin and Veo.