Client: Nice Ride Minnesota (Minneapolis, MN)
Agency: Roepke Public Relations (Minneapolis, MN)
Campaign: Nice Ride Minnesota Launch
Duration: May 2010 – June 2011
The nonprofit Nice Ride Minnesota launched its public bike sharing program on June 10, 2010. The program aims to change the way people experience and perceive transportation and the Twin Cities.
“We were the first [US program] to get funded, and whoever went first had to get it right,” explains executive director Bill Dossett. “There were questions about [viability] and safety, and no one knew how to use it. PR was critical to success.”
Roepke PR donated pro bono services to help educate and ensure support from sponsors, media, and the public.
Events, media relations, and social media outreach drove messaging.
“Locally, we needed to educate and engage people,” says agency president Katherine Roepke. “Nationally, we needed to raise visibility and educate on the benefits of a bike share program. All other cites were looking at this as a model.”
A bike ride through downtown Minneapolis followed by a press conference kicked off the launch on June 10. Attendees and speakers included Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, Dossett, and the CEO of title sponsor Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota (BCBS).
Local, regional, and national general consumer outlets were targeted.
Roepke says the team overcame media reports of complaints about not installing stations in north Minneapolis and $250 debit card authorization holds for each bike rental by communicating proactively and non-defensively and by making changes.
Nice Ride hosted a "Cities, Bicycles and the Future of Getting Around” forum on June 17, 2010, featuring musician and author of Bicycle Diaries David Byrne, Rybak, and others.
Nice Ride attends numerous public and corporate events (about 90 last year and 150 this year), answering questions, and letting people try the bikes.
Dossett says due to “resounding” public acceptance and launch success, BCBS committed an additional $1.5 million by September 2010. Additional sponsors have increased from about 12 at launch to 25 currently and have contributed $480,000 to date. The Federal Highway Administration also re-upped its grant this year.
The program expanded from 65 stations and 700 bikes at launch to 116 stations and 1,200 bikes this year. More than 250,000 trips have been taken.
About 500 attended the launch ride. The sold-out forum event attracted 950.
Roepke says thousands of stories have appeared in outlets including National Geographic, Travel + Leisure, and Men's Journal.
Dossett frequently consults on new US bike share programs.
Roepke, who joined Nice Ride's board in early 2011, has “no plans to stop” pro bono support. Media relations continue and the team is reaching out to college students.