Meet Marisa: Community Partners Coordinator at Nice Ride

Share   |  Posted Aug. 15, 2014 by Emily Wade

Walk up to a Nice Ride table at a Twin Cities festival this summer and chances are you will meet Marisa, a wide-eyed young cyclist beaming behind wisps of golden blonde hair.  A member of Nice Ride’s outreach team, Marisa will greet you, offer you a 30 day Nice Ride Membership, and point to the helmets and backpacks hanging from the tent above her.  If you’re skeptical about whether Nice Ride is for you she will tell you how convenient it is, how she rides with friends and then recommend routes on the poster-sized map in front of her, not once revealing the journey she took to be there.  Unless, of course, you ask.             

Marisa on a Nice Ride

Longboard to Long Haul 

Marisa’s entry into the cycling community was one of necessity.  A longboarder early on, Marisa tore her meniscus running up the stairs to her apartment one day.  Her physical therapist recommended Marisa trade her skateboard for a bike to strengthen the muscles in her knee.  Soon after, Marisa bought a yellow bike with rainbow stripes from a woman in Uptown.  Though the frame was a bit too small for her, Marisa and her partner quickly upgraded to single-speeds.  After the switch the two raced through the cities with the ease and comfort of a well-fitted ride.

These days Marisa gets around on a Surly cargo bike for work and a Long Haul Trucker when she’s off the clock.  But using a bike as her primary mode of transportation isn’t always easy, especially when she has to bring an entire event’s worth of supplies with her. 

Biking Upstream

“Biking home with a trailer of 200-250 lbs worth of stuff in pouring rain can be really tough,” Marisa tells me recalling an event she worked at in an apartment building in the North Loop.  When Marisa packs for a big event she stacks a tent, table, chairs, signage, computers, and boxes of helmets, backpacks, snap bracelets, and maps on a three by five foot bike trailer.  She then carefully hitches the trailer to one of Nice Ride’s cargo bikes, hoping the bike won’t tip over from the added weight.

The trek from Nice Ride’s office in Seward to events in Saint Paul, Uptown, or Northeast can be draining.  Torrential rains scattered throughout this year’s Green Line Opening, Northern Spark, and Open Streets events haven’t helped matters.  But for Marisa, showing up at events by bike isn’t a gimmick, it’s a lifestyle.  “We’re living our philosophy.  You want to go somewhere?  Grab a Nice Ride, or any bike, and go ride it.”

Marisa takes pride in changing how people think about bike transportation, particularly when it comes to young girls she sees on the Greenway.  “So many little girls wave at me and say, ‘Aw, yeah!’” she tells me, “I feel good knowing that I might be some sort of an inspiration.” 

Riding around with the trailer and handing out free memberships at festivals aren’t the only ways Marisa impacts the Twin Cities cycling community.  As the Community Partners Coordinator, Marisa sets up Nice Ride demonstration rides with local organizations to make the bike share system more accessible to people who might not use it otherwise.  With a degree in Human Services and a certification from the League of American Bicyclists, Marisa focuses on connecting community members to cycling resources, making sure they have the know-how and safety skills to use Nice Ride bikes with confidence.   

Marisa’s favorite bit of advice to give beginning cyclists is: ‘don’t be a bike salmon’.  While many newcomers think they should bike against traffic, they ought to ride on the right, just like cars.  “I call those folks who like to ride against the current, against traffic, a bike salmon.  People just love that term,” Marisa laughs.

Turning Up the Volume on Bike Share

Though Marisa does most of her work alone, she insists that her job, and the entire Nice Ride system, would crumble without the help of volunteers and everyone on staff.  “From the operations team to customer service to our Marketing Intern, Davis, it really takes all of us to make this work,” she says.    

As for her special role, Marisa sees the outreach team as Nice Ride’s loudspeaker.  “It’s our lifestyle.  And it’s a really fun, incredible, healthy lifestyle,” she reminds me.  “We’re the ones that are like, ‘You got this!’  Because, really, there’s no excuse.”

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