Bike Share Launching in 2014
Phase I of bike share program will have at least 28 stations and 250 bikes, thanks to a federal grant.
The goal of bringing a bike sharing system to Milwaukee got a $1.6 million boost today and a 2014 start date. A system consisting of at least 28 stations was authorized unanimously by the city’s Public Works Committee. The federal government, through the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality program, will pick up 80 percent of the $1.6 million cost, with the city matching the remaining 20 percent ($320,000). Substantial private funds will also be used to set up the system.
The city has been working on the project for over a year in partnership with Midwest BikeShare. Existing funding sources identified for the project include a portion of the financing district for the new Northwestern Mutual tower as well as private support by local businesses and organizations.
Midwest BikeShare launch director Kevin Hardman began his presentation on the planned system by saying it’s “no longer a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.” Midwest BikeShare’s plan is for a system of 100-200 stations with more than 1,000 bikes by 2018. Hardman ticked off a list of cities that have launched bike sharing in the past three years, starting with Denver, Minneapolis, and DC and ending with the planned launches in Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, Portland, Seattle, San Diego, Austin, Atlanta, and Louisville.
Hardman hopes the 2014 launch of the Milwaukee bike share system will have over 30 stations and more than 250 bicycles.
New Wisconsin Bike Federation Director Dave Cieslewicz (replacing Hardman) started off the public hearing portion of the meeting, which featured a parade of heavy hitters speaking in favor of the project. He noted what a boost the system has been to Madison, where he was previously mayor.
Speaking as a downtown resident and business owner as well as a litany of other roles, Gary Grunau noted that “this is a very necessary thing for our city.” He’s signed as a sponsor via Schlitz Park with a five-year funding commitment.
Milwaukee Downtown President Beth Weirick spoke in favor of the project, referencing the massively successfully Santa Rampage event as a sign of Milwaukee’s bicycle culture.
Pabst Theater Foundation Director Gary Witt spoke in favor of the project, and was hopeful the system will be successful beyond Downtown.
Also speaking in support of the project were Dan Casanova from the Department of City Development, Kyle Schultz a UWM student and UWM Office of Sustainability employee, Jeremy Fojut of NEWaukee/ART Milwaukee and Paul Miller of Collectivo.
A bike share system allows riders to purchase a day pass, which gives them unlimited free rides of up to a half-hour in length (and additional length rides for slightly more), or an annual membership, which often gives them slightly longer free checkout times. The short checkout times ensure a healthy circulation of bikes across the system. Riders desiring a longer ride simply need to stop at a station and check a bike in and out to reset the clock (and continue on their way for free), a practice known as dock-surfing.
This summer a single demonstration station was setup at Pier Wisconsin – Discovery World on the lakefront. While a real bike share system relies on a number of stations for riders to go from and to, the single station showed future riders what the bikes look like and how a station works.
The system will be built using B-Cycle bicycles from Wisconsin-based Trek Corporation. Other cities operating using the B-Cycle system include Denver and Madison. The Bike Czar, Dave Schlabowske, wrote about funding for the proposed system in January. He also wrote about the joys of using a bikeshare system last month.
The grant still needs to go before the full Common Council and mayor, but appears to be a lock for approval. So bring on the bicycles! The resolution authorizing the grant was co-sponsored by Aldermen Bob Bauman, Nik Kovac, Jose Perez, and Tony Zielinski.
Having greatly enjoyed the systems in Chicago, Denver, and Minneapolis, I can’t wait to sign-up for a membership locally. Three cheers for tireless supporters of the project, Bruce Keyes and Barry Mainwood, who led the formation of Midwest Bikeshare.