Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

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.

By - Dec 4th, 2013 10:13 am

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.

Mayor Barrett at the media conference for the opening of the Milwaukee B-cycle kiosk at Discovery World. Behind the mayor are Alderman Kovac, Kevin Hardman-Launch Director for Midwest Bikeshare, Kristen Bennett-Milwaukee Bike/Ped Coordinator, Bruce Keyes and Barry Mainwood-both of Midwest Bikeshare.

Mayor Barrett at the media conference for the opening of the Milwaukee B-cycle kiosk at Discovery World. Behind the mayor are Alderman Kovac, Kevin Hardman-Launch Director for Midwest Bikeshare, Kristen Bennett-Milwaukee Bike/Ped Coordinator, Bruce Keyes and Barry Mainwood-both of Midwest Bikeshare.

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.

Perhaps the clearest sign of what a win this system will be, Alderman Robert Donovan voiced his support for the project despite a few concerns over the long-term operation of the system. City Engineer Jeff Polenske and Hardman said they would still be pursuing additional public funds for capital outlays to build more stations, but the operating costs are projected to be covered by private support, membership, and fees.

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.

Photo Gallery of Demo Station Launch

Categories: Eyes on Milwaukee

11 thoughts on “Eyes on Milwaukee: Bike Share Launching in 2014”

  1. Chris says:

    Just phenomenal news. I got to see this system firsthand in Chicago last week. It will change how residents and tourists alike use our city. Can’t wait to become a member.

  2. sheri says:

    I love this for Milwaukee but saw them still out over the weekend. Please put them away for the winter so they don’t get ruined!

  3. Dave K. says:

    Will bike Share users be able to put the bikes on the streetcar?

  4. Dave Reid says:

    @Dave K Generally yes streetcars allow bikes to be rolled right on.

  5. Kevin says:


    I would hope that they don’t put the bikes away for winter at all. Chicago isn’t.

    I wouldn’t mind them putting away the bikes at the current station this year, but only because I don’t see the point of having that station all alone in the first place. Once the system is up next year I will be very disappointed if they close for the winter. Only being available part time is like having a bus that will only take you _to_ work, you lose half of the cost but a lot more than half of the value.

    Similarly, though it’s less important, I would want to see the hours shift from 4AM – 11PM to 24/7. However I assume that is just an artifact of the current station being in a county park, not relevant to the long term plan.

  6. Bruce Thompson says:

    This is great news.
    A good complement to this would be a well-thought-out system of downtown bike routes with destination signs. That would help entice users to go places they don’t normally think about.

    A few years ago I attended a workshop in Montreal and used their bikeshare extensively in conjunction with their great system of protected bike lanes. One problem they had not solved was how to counteract the normal flow of bikes: in the morning from residences (and hotels, in my case) to workplaces and universities and in the opposite direction in the evening. This meant that bikes were scarce at the origin and racks were full at the destination.

  7. hereiam says:

    This is great news! I can’t wait to surprise.

    Is there a map of proposed station locations available yet?

  8. Tom D says:

    Bruce, other cities have the same problem matching supply and demand. For example, people take commuter trains into Manhattan in the morning and then switch to a bike to their office. At Penn Station, Manhattan’s busiest train station, Citibike has 4 bike stations with total space for 117 bikes (!), but they often run out.

    Washington DC has a team of “rebalancers” on staff who pick up bikes from full stations and truck them to empty ones.

  9. John says:

    It is great that these are coming to Milwaukee and have been a success in other cities. I wonder how they will actually be used in Milwaukee. Has anyone studied this? It seems that bike commuters here have bikes already, and with the ability to put them on the bus, it makes more sense to own and transport your own bike then to take the chance on the bike you may or may not get at the share rack. I know I am particular about performance as well on my ride and do not suffer needs for repairs well. Is there a map yet of proposed bike share locations? Will there be stations in the residential south, west, and north sides, or will they be primarily located downtown, thirdward, and east side? With the ultimate goal congestion mitigation, how does this work if the users are primarily tourists and those who already do not own cars? I think the potential is great, but the actual implementation will be important to realize that potential.

  10. Dave Reid says:

    @John It is true that the initial stations will primarily run from Walker’s Point (2 stations I believe), downtown, Third Ward, and parts of the East Side, but as in other cities that doesn’t limit use to only tourists. For those who drive into the city for work bike-sharing works as a form of short trip transit. And it opens up short commuting to new riders that haven’t tried before (I believe we’ve seen this in NYC of all places). And for those of us who bike (might not always have it with you), walk, or take transit it expands our mobility options and distance.

    As far of the specific locations that work is in process now (though a couple locations are known…i.e. NML).

  11. Bobbyk18 says:

    Very exciting! hope they put in a Bay View location or two!

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