Milwaukee Bike Share Program could launch next year

The first phase of a citywide bike share program could hit the streets of Milwaukee next year following approval of $320,000 in city funding by Milwaukee’s Public Works Committee during a Wednesday hearing.

 

The bike share program, spearheaded by Midwest BikeShare, Inc., would plant 28 bike share stations throughout downtown Milwaukee with each station holding at least 15 bike docks. Residents would be able to rent bikes from the stations for a daily fee or an annual flat fee.

The city’s commitment of $320,000, which will be up for review by Milwaukee’s Common Council on Dec. 17, would be added to nearly $1.3 million in federal funding and an additional $600,000 that Midwest BikeShare has garnered in private donations.

The Milwaukee-based nonprofit organization envisions the initial 28 bike stations as the first step of a much larger bike system similar to systems in other Midwest cities like Chicago and Minneapolis, said Kevin Hardman, launch director of Midwest BikeShare.

“What was underscored at the meeting (on Wednesday)…is that we see this only as the beginning of a network of 100 to 200 stations,” Hardman said. “So this is only the first rollout of a much larger network that we envision.”

Midwest BikeShare, which will be responsible for the installation and maintenance of the program’s bikes and station equipment, aims to make bike sharing available to Milwaukee residents, commuters and visitors by the middle of next year.

Rental bikes would be intended for short trips across the city that can be made in 30 minutes or less.

“Any successful city provides choices, and in transportation Milwaukee needs more transportation choices,” Hardman said. “And what bike sharing represents is a great choice for those short distances and a choice that doesn’t exist right now.”

Kristin Bennett, bicycle and pedestrian transportation coordinator for the city of Milwaukee, echoed the need for that choice in transportation in Milwaukee.

“I think (the bike share program is) part of the city’s bigger efforts to improve bicycling as a mode of transportation that people can choose easily,” Bennett said.

Midwest Bike Share hopes to raise an addition $400,000 by the end of the year to support bike sharing during its first months of operation and is also seeking a lead program sponsor along with individual station sponsors.

According to Hardman, the nonprofit has been in talks with a few different companies about lead sponsorship and hopes to have secured a lead sponsor by the first quarter of 2014.

Sponsorship will allow area companies the opportunity to have their name associated with “something that is just going to be a beloved Milwaukee asset,” Hardman said.

For more information about bikeshare sponsorship, contact Hardman at kevinh@midwestbikeshare.org.

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