Dave Reid
Eyes on Milwaukee

Bike Sharing and Permeable Pavement

City committee approves spending $100,000 on bike sharing in Walker’s Point, and the MMSD will experiment with permeable pavement.

By - Jun 21st, 2013 11:55 am
Beth Weirick, executive director of Milwaukee Downtown Business Improvement District, seems to be enjoying her ride on B-cycle at the Milwaukee Demo last year.

Beth Weirick, executive director of Milwaukee Downtown Business Improvement District, seems to be enjoying her ride on B-cycle at the Milwaukee bike-sharing demo last year.

It looks like bike-sharing is coming to Walker’s Point.

At Wednesday’s meeting of the Public Works Committee Dan Casanova, Senior Economic Development Specialist with the City of Milwaukee, explained that $100,000 will be allocated from TID 68 (Fifth Ward /The Point on the River condos) and TID 75 (Reed Street Yards) to fund bike-sharing installations in Walker’s Point. This money had actually been allocated already for bike and pedestrians improvements, but this file now specifies the particular program it will fund. Erick Shambarger, Deputy Director Milwaukee Office of Environmental Sustainability, added that his department will add an additional $30,000 funding for bike-sharing.

Ald. Bob Bauman spoke highly of bike-sharing saying, “I’ve used this system in Washington, D.C. and I can tell you it is great.”

“Happy to announce we are launching a pilot station,” Bruce Keyes of  Midwest BikeShare, Inc. proclaimed. The pilot station will be opening at Discovery World in the near future. Keyes said his group is hiring a launch director to “get from here to the finish line.” The news broke later in the day that Kevin Hardman would accept the position and will leave his post as Executive Director of the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin.

The ordinance was quickly approved, and unanimously, by the committee, with Ald. Jim Bohl recorded as making the motion.

The Name Game

As Michael Horne wrote about in his last Plenty of Horne,  a portion of Pittsburgh Ave. will be renamed Freshwater Way. Apparently, it wasn’t just residents who found the name less than thrilling. During this week’s Public Works Committee meeting the name received a bit of ridicule from Ald. Bauman, who asked, “this was the result of a contest?” The committee approved the name but the change will start at S. 2nd St. going west, leaving most of Pittsburgh Ave. unaffected.

Another name, which was also selected through a community contest, was approved during the meeting, that of Three Bridges Park. The only “complaints” regarding this name came from two Common Council wags. Ald. Willie Wade made a “motion” to “amend the file,” to name the park “Wille Wade Park,” while Ald. Robert Puente quipped that the word Puente meant bridge so he offered a change to “Three Puente Park.” A little levity at the city hearing.

Permeable Pavement

N. Edison St. along the Milwaukee River in downtown Milwaukee will soon be testing out sidewalks constructed with permeable pavement. A grant from The Fund for Lake Michigan will fund the pilot project to test the material’s durability under a freeze and thaw cycle. Permeable pavement, although more expensive than traditional pavement, allows for stormwater to enter the ground instead of running off into sewers during storm events, which helps to reduce combined sewer overflows.

Mary Dziewiontkoski, Department of Public Works, gave a presentation of the technology. Members of the Public Works Committee were worried that the water would splash and make a mess as the permeable pavement was setup above a small plastic bin. The demonstration showed that in fact the water didn’t runoff at all and permeated right through the pavement. The pilot project was unanimously approved.

Art Bridge?

During the committee’s discussion of a fairly unassuming file, one authorizing the city to purchase a portion of railroad right-of-way along the river in the Historic Third Ward, a possible art project was revealed. Ald. Bauman mentioned that the city is, “exploring acquisition of the bridge itself,” referring to the old railroad bridge that crosses the Milwaukee River, with the goal of possibly creating an art project that could gain national appeal. We’ll have more on this in the future…

Correction: The article originally incorrectly stated MMSD would fund the permeable pavement project.  The project will be funded by The Fund for Lake Michigan.

16 thoughts on “Eyes on Milwaukee: Bike Sharing and Permeable Pavement”

  1. Tom D says:

    Bike sharing will open with only one station? The whole purpose of bike sharing is for someone to pick up a bike at point A and then to drop it off at point B making it available for someone else.

    Offering bike sharing with only one station makes no more sense than opening a subway with only one station! All it allows is recreational riding which isn’t what bike sharing is for.

    Am I missing something here?

  2. Dave Reid says:

    @Tom D The Discovery World installation will just be a demo station so people can try out the bikes and learn about the system (other cities have done this as well I believe)… If fundraising hits its goal (I believe more than half way there) the actual system will open in 2014.

  3. Juli Kaufmann says:

    @Tom D – your understanding of bikesharing is correct, but @Dave has the response to @Tom D exactly right. Bikesharing in Milwaukee will only possible once funds are raised to install a system with sufficient density and scale to be viable. Midwest Bikeshare, the organization advancing the system in Milwaukee, has estimated that a system with at least 25 stations will be needed for a preliminary launch, with the aim of significantly expanding the number of stations as soon as funding allows. The 25 station system comes with a price tag of roughly $1.6 million – which underwrites the capital and installation costs as well as operational support until the system becomes self-sustaining financially within the first couple years of operation. Press announcements like these over the past six months have come when significant pieces of funding get secured. To date, about half the funds – or nearly $800,000 has been committed to the overall bikesharing program. At this time, initial funds are being used to launch this demo station and bring on board the launch director. While more stations could be added with the funds now in place, the plan is to wait until Spring 2014 when more funds are hopefully secured so that the minimum 25 station system (or ideally even more) can be launched all at once. For now, just a teaser…..

  4. jl@mke.us says:

    > Bike sharing will open with only one station?


    I own my own personal “bike station”, also called “The Garage”.

    I choose a bike, run (roll?) some errands or exercise, and return to my starting point.

    In this single-shared-station example, the locals near the station will “check out” a bike, do their daily activities, and return to home base.

    It’s a case of “Same, Same, Only Different.”

  5. Kasia says:

    I’m a Milwaukee native living in Brooklyn, and we just got our bike system up and running in areas of Brooklyn and Manhattan. It’s been successful with riders so far, but the whole system revolving around docking stations and hubs is, quite frankly, outmoded and a huge pain in the butt for both rider and administrator. There’s a company called SoBi (http://socialbicycles.com/) that makes smart BIKES, rather than hubs, so you could unlock the bike anywhere, find it with your smart phone, etc. It’s like a 5th of the cost of the B-cycle system. I saw them in Tampa at a conference and they looked awesome.

  6. Nick says:

    Milwaukee tends to drag it’s feet to impliment practical ideas like this. If decision makers were wise, they would use this “late adopter” approach to leap frog early adopters by utilizing new technoligies developed to pick up on these second wave innovations. Unfortunately, like with our old bus-mounted bike racks which were finally installed at a time when progressive cities were changing to bus-mounted bike racks with capacity for 3 bikes, we are finally adopted these pricey stations when other options are possible. Of course this is a good investment, but unfortunately not the best.

    If we must bury our heads in the sand, rather than going the socialbicycles route and impliment only one station, why not locate it at Discovery World First? As Tom D points out, this will basically serve recreational riding (which could really benefit tourists and locals visiting the vast lakefront parks).

    Props to the new city for the new bike path from Washington to Maple. I can see where people are trying to invorgorate the bikeability of the 5th ward and surounding area rather than support the lakefront which is already doing great. With only station, however, the best way to introduce people to the concept would be at the lakefront.

  7. Dave Reid says:

    @Nick CitiBike In NYC and Divy in Chicago are both rolling out right now so we’re really not behind the times. And again the Discovery World station is just so people can see the bikes and learn what bike-sharing will be. Other cities have done a very similar thing in the process of rollout. The actual system rollout is planned for 2014, assuming fund raising goals are met.

    I too am curious about socialbicycles but it seems to me those would be much less useful for transit purposes (very little insurance that a bike will be left at a regular spot) whereas station based bike-sharing will excel in the roll.

  8. Carl says:

    I’ve raised the idea of SoBi or similar before. Most of the issues brought up about this type of system can be debunked, including the usefulness and availability for single trips. On station-based systems some bike stations will be empty at certian times, just as there might not be any SoBi bike nearby. SoBi has plans for dynamic pricing to credit people for riding bikes to areas where they are needed. Key to either type of system usefulness is scale, which be built faster on a cheaper system.

    To be up front about things, let’s not forget B-Cycle belongs to Trek who are big in sponsoring bicycling around Wisconsin. Maybe it’s worth talking more frankly about the cost and benifit of using this proven system backed by a local business over trying out newer, cheaper technology.

  9. Julio says:

    I’m all for the bike sharing, but I agree with Tom. One station? I saw it in action in Minneapolis and it looks awesome. I would totally use it!

  10. Dave Reid says:

    @Julio No doubt for a bike-sharing system to work there must be multiple stations. The station at Discovery World is just a demonstration site so that people can see the system, try out a bike, and help build support for the full rollout, hopefully, in 2014 of 25 stations.

  11. Chris says:

    To be clear about the Discovery World station (which apparently many are struggling to understand? — reading comprehension…), it’s not only serving as a demo before the Spring 2014 rollout, it will also be a permanent station within the bike sharing network.

    There’s really nothing behind-the-times about this system, as Dave points out. It works quite well when you have a density of stops to make a true network.

    A point that really needs to be hammered home here is the need for Milwaukee businesses to step up and write a few checks. To date, not a single dollar has come from the private sector. It’s all money secured through grants, TIFs, and City funds. In NYC, for example, Citi Group underwrote most of the system. Unless Milwaukee secures Federal dollars, we’re going to need one or more of the many deep-pocketed corporations here in town to step up to the plate and support a more vibrant, livable city center.

  12. Dave Reid says:

    @Chris I’ll just add that as this point there isn’t any City funds yet either… Still all grant money. The TIF approvals would just hit the Common Council tomorrow (I think), and the OES funds haven’t happened yet either.

  13. Juli Kaufmann says:

    With respect to “all the better ideas” – hey, anybody who thinks that they have a better system should go right ahead. Put together a plan, raise the funds and political will, launch and operate the system. Milwaukee is just waiting for you. I’d be happy to see both a SoBi system and a B-Cycle system, the more bikes the better! For those who think one station is dumb, or want a different location – well, step right up. You can make it happen exactly the same way efforts have been undertaken for what we have so far- through a lot of pavement pounding, grant writing, door knocking, hand shaking, meetings, pitches, blood, sweat, and tears. The Milwaukee bikesharing effort has been primarily led by volunteers taking civic action for the greater good. Perhaps its time for you to be the change you want to see in the world, rather than just a bystanding commentator.

  14. Carl says:


    I find your comment a bit disrespectful, even if I’m not the intended main target of it. Assuming no one else here has understanding, appreciation and respect for the amount of work it takes, nor has has put similar effort into projects in our community, is pretty presumptuous.

    I think the strong critical response here, and lack of understanding of the demo station, might partially be a result of people not being presented with options and more involved in the process. I am also well aware that that, too, takes a lot of time and energy. But for a project that is at least partially public (even if the city doesn’t provide funding, through public space and support), real public engagement everyone’s right.

    I’d really like to see a healthier dialog of critical debate Milwaukee. It seems there’s often too angry of criticism and too defensive of responses.


  15. Juli Kaufmann says:

    Hey Carl,

    Thanks for the kind and thoughtful response. I meant no disrespect. Looking again at my post, it is not my finest prose. My apologies for taking less care than warranted and any resultant offense.

    I completely agree with you that we need healthier debate. I also share your sentiment that public engagement is a right. I would further characterize that feeling to say that I view public engagement as a responsibility. This is perhaps the point I most meant to make, although I did it poorly.

    Milwaukee is a place where change can happen. I do think debates in forums like this can be useful, but, as we so often see, like in this case, words can be insufficient. I also believe words must be coupled with actions. I certainly do not mean to imply nobody else acts. I am just attempting to encourage action too.

    Mostly, I apologize for calling people “bystanding commentators”. I meant that in the abstract as a criticism of exactly what you name, the unhealthy debate in many forums. However, on second read, putting that in my post in response to others made it seem like an attack. Name calling has no place in civil discourse.

    Thanks for calling me on such an imperfect post. The thing I love about Urban Milwaukee is that it actually generally does encourage great discussion. I also know that many of us are working every day with passion and commitment to make Milwaukee a better place.

    I hope you’ll forgive me my failings- Juli

  16. Carl says:

    Hey Juli,

    Thanks very much for responding. I think the tone of your post came off harsher to me than intended. I can well understand frustration with seemingly bystanding commentators and nay-sayers, and I think you have it right that posts here sometimes aren’t enough to build understanding. I guess people can best be meet where they are at, and as little under the assumptions and categorizations we all instinctively make of what their actions and beliefs are or why as possible.

    Of course a lot of change has to and is happening in Milwaukee. Many people are just that highly invested in it because change is still so direly needed in many areas. Sometimes that means things get ugly, including here on Urban Milwaukee. Though I agree for all the digression that can come out of this forum and others, the amount of good discourse and boarding of understanding is important.

    Best, Carl

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