FARGO – A bone-chilling wind blew through town all day as the small crew of workers installed docking stations for a new bike sharing service.

Mark Kleven, a manager with B-cycle, said with a hopeful tone that he heard it might be 40 degrees next week.

His crew is getting an early start on installing docking stations for rent-a-bikes aimed primarily at North Dakota State University students and downtown visitors. Kleven called the operation a “Redbox for bikes.”

The service is designed by B-cycle, a branch of Trek Bicycle Corp., but it will be owned and operated by Great Rides Fargo, a nonprofit group known for biking events around the city.

Sara Watson Curry, the group’s operations director, said the service will be launched March 15 and will go until around November.

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“It’ll be real interesting to see if we have any trends pop up with that,” she said. NDSU students will be a big user base because of the need to connect the main campus with downtown classrooms, she said.

“I think it’s going to be a lot of fun for tourists,” she said. “It’s a great way to see the city, and cycles can be economic drivers. You’re much more likely to pop into a coffee shop or a unique store if you’re on a bicycle or walking on foot.”

How it works

There will be 11 docking stations in all, five on campus and the rest downtown. One is in front of the Great Northern Bicycle Co. downtown, where Great Rides has its office. The number of bikes at each station varies depending on location for a total of 101.

Each station is made up of bike racks that lock in the distinct green bikes until a paying user unlocks it. A kiosk accepts B-cycle membership cards or individual payments. Most of the kiosks will be solar powered.

The bikes themselves are robust “comfort” models equipped with a basket, lights in front and back and a built-in lock, according to Curry and Kleven.

Bikes can be returned at any docking station, but Curry said she expects natural circulation will redistribute bikes throughout the system. But when it doesn’t, she said Great Rides has a pedal-powered solution: a Great Northern employee on a bike will tow a trailer with enough room for four B-cycle bikes.

“Moving a truck around isn’t always going to be a convenient thing to do,” she said.

What it costs

The cost of the entire bike-share system is about $450,000, paid for with NDSU student fees and sponsorships, Curry said. The city of Fargo is one of the sponsors putting in $30,000 to sponsor the docking station at the central bus terminal downtown. 

The system works on a membership basis. NDSU students are already members, but other users can buy annual memberships for $75, monthly memberships for $15 and day passes for $6. Membership cards are good for any B-cycle program in 40 cities around the nation, including Denver, Rapid City, S.D., and Madison, Wis.

There’s an extra fee for rides lasting more than a half-hour starting at $1 for one additional half-hour and $2 for every half-hour after that.

Curry said it’s to encourage users to return the bikes for the next user.

Theft is not a great concern, she said, based on the experience of communities with bike-share programs. St. Paul, which has 1,500 bikes, lost only one, she said, which was found later. “We do think there’s a lot of community pride and support in them. People will be looking out for them.”

On the Web: To find out more, go here.