Bublr Bikes aims to expand access to bike share

Milwaukee bike share service Bublr Bikes has announced its plans to provide more access to its bikes, particularly in low-income neighborhoods.

Bublr, which was launched last year and allows riders to rent bikes from its stations by the day, month or season, is owned and operated by nonprofit Midwest Bike Share Inc. MBS has released an independent study that showed it could increase availability to all Milwaukeeans by putting bike stations in low-income areas and taking several other steps.

MBS has already taken some actions, including: adding a single-ride price that is the lowest of any bike share company nationwide; partnering with the Boys & Girls Clubs to offer a youth training and employment program; and expanding instructions and website content to include Spanish language.

The report also suggested Bublr create a community outreach program; work with low-income neighborhood (LIN) residents and stakeholders to place stations, determine pricing and promote the service; create subsidized or discounted passes; provide a non-card payment option for passes; offer in-person or phone membership registration; put maintenance buildings in LINs or commit to hiring LIN residents.

It costs MBS about $50,000 to install a new bike station and about $75,000 to $100,000 to operate it over five years. Its stations are located within about a half-mile from each other, allowing a rider to rent a bike at one station and leave it at another. The nonprofit currently has 11 stations, 10 of which are in downtown Milwaukee. The other is at Brady and Humboldt on Milwaukee’s east side.

The report compared Bublr to bike sharing systems in a variety of other cities, including Madison, Chicago, Minneapolis, Des Moines, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Omaha, Denver, Houston and New York City.

“Most systems have historically started out in more affluent neighborhoods, mostly to ‘make money,’ with expansion into LINs an important, but secondary goal,” said Nancy Ketchman of Bottlewood Communications, who completed the study. “Bublr Bikes has an opportunity to become a leader in equity by reversing this typical expansion strategy.”

Bubler plans to add 20 new stations and about 200 new bikes to its system in 2015, and further expand to more than 100 stations and more than 1,000 bikes in the next few years.

“The Bublr Bikes board of directors and staff are committed to implementing key action items to create a bike share system enjoyed by our very diverse community,” said Juli Kaufmann, Bublr board member. “We see this report as a good first step. We ask you to hold us accountable and help us achieve our mission of a bike share system for all.”

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