Bike-Sharing Programs Across Minnesota

By Brian Fanelli

A vacation without a bike is hardly a vacation at all, but sometimes bringing your bike on vacation is easier said than done. Fortunately, a growing number of Minnesota cities are embracing bike-sharing programs. Bike sharing is different from a traditional bike rental mainly because you’re not tied to one rental location. Checkout a bike from one rack, ride to your destination, and drop it off at another rack. Pretty slick, right? Right.

Biking has always been a fantastic way to explore Minnesota, and thanks to bike sharing it just keeps getting better. No need to pay luggage fees, and you can leave the u-lock at home. With nine bike-sharing programs across Minnesota, planning your next bike-friendly vacation is about as easy as riding a bike!

So plan your next Minnesota vacation with these bike-sharing programs in mind:

Nice Ride station St Paul bikeMinneapolis-St. Paul

Nice Ride Minnesota

No visit to the Twin Cities is complete without a bike ride, and nothing makes riding easier or more accessible than Nice Ride Twin Cities. With 190 stations and more than 1,700 bikes in circulation, Nice Ride is the uncontested top dog of Minnesota bike-sharing systems. Just take a bike when you need one and return it to any station in their system. All stations include a regional map with points of interest, additional nearby stations, and rental instructions. Swipe your credit card to rent a bike, or download their app to check out a bike with your smartphone.

Bemidji

Nice Ride Minnesota

Don’t get your cables twisted—Nice Ride Bemidji is a different kind of bike-sharing system than its sibling to the south. The Nice Ride Bemidji program is a standard rental service offering bikes for rent for a flat fee by the hour, day or week. Just rent your bike from one of their three locations, read their suggestions for where to ride, and away you go! No stations, no complications, just pure bike-sharing bliss.

Rochester

Nice Ride Minnesota

Many years in the making, Nice Ride is finally in Rochester! Opened in August 2016, Nice Ride Rochester has two downtown rental locations: Peace Plaza and the People’s Food Co-Op. Like the Bemidji program, Nice Ride Rochester is a standard rental service offering bikes for rent for a flat fee by the hour, or by the day. Whether you’re a visitor or a resident, exploring the trails in Rochester has never been easier.

Austin

Red Bike Project

No, you’re not just seeing things—there really are a lot of unlocked red bikes in Austin. Thirty of them to be exact. Launched in 2016, the Red Bike Project is Austin’s free, honor-system bike share program. It’s simple—just head to any of the six red bike racks around town, find a bike that fits, and head out for a ride. No fees, no time limits, just enjoy the ride and return the bike when you’re finished. Ride. Respect. Return.

bike sharing in minnesotaDouglas State Trail

Borrow-a-Bike

Starting at the Douglas Trail in Pine Island City Park and heading to the pavilion, this bike-sharing program has almost 70 bikes to choose from and rent–for free. There’s a bike for everyone on the Douglas State Trail! Men’s and women’s bikes, bikes with baskets, kids bikes (with and without training wheels), and even adaptive bikes and bikes with trailers are available. The Douglas Trail offers a pleasantly rustic 12.7-mile ride from Pine Island to Rochester. Wide-open spaces offer views of rolling cropland, farms, horses, cattle and wooded areas. So what are you waiting for?

Lake City

Community Bike Program

With a name like Lake City, don’t be surprised that everything—including the city bike-sharing program—revolves around the marina. Open daily from April to October, head to the Lake City Marina to experience the robust dining, shopping and entertainment options of beautiful downtown Lake City on two wheels. Bike sharing in Lake City is free for daily use and is available to anyone over the age of 18.

Willmar

Yellow Bike

With more than 60 bikes available at 24 stations across town, the Yellow Bike program in Willmar is an impressive piece of bike-sharing infrastructure. In fact, they have more bikes per capita than any other bike-sharing program in Minnesota! Easily identified by its bright yellow bikes and bike racks, Yellow Bikes are free to use and can be found at many convenient locations around Willmar. Whether you explore the many shops and restaurants in Willmar, or take a longer ride along the Glacial Lakes Trail, the Yellow Bike program has no fees, locks or time limits—just return the bike once you’re done!

Benson

Benson Bikes!

Launched in July 2016, Benson Bikes! is Minnesota’s newest independent bike-sharing program. With three bikes and a single bike rack located at Pilgrim Congregational Church, the distinctive turquoise bikes are available free of charge during the summer and fall. With a successful first year the system may continue to grow—so plan a biking vacation in Benson today!

hastings street sceneHastings

Zagster

Just twenty miles south of St. Paul, Hastings boasts an impressive array of bike paths, charming main street destinations, Minnesota's oldest winery, and a bike-sharing program to link them all together—Zagster. Just install the Zagster app on your phone, create an account, and start riding! Bikes can be checked out in downtown Hastings beneath the iconic Highway 61 bridge, just steps away from the Mississippi River Trail. And get this: the first two hours of every trip are free! With a deal like this, you can't afford not to check out Hastings! 

While you explore Minnesota with these bike-sharing programs, be sure to check the Pedal Minnesota interactive map for nearby bike trails, things to do, places to eat, and places to stay.