Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett made news on the opening day of Bike to Work Week; not by riding a bike, but by announcing the city will contribute $288,000 to build out a BikeShare system that will open in 2014.
Barrett and other city officials previously supported the efforts of Midwest BikeShare Inc. to build a system of kiosks and short-term bike rentals, but had insisted the project move forward without public dollars. Changing gears on Monday, the mayor finished his annual ride to work with the announcement that money from the Tax Incremental Finance District created to help Northwestern Mutual build a 33-story office tower will be used to help pay for the BikeShare launch.
Barrett said $150,000 would be drawn from the TIF District money, roughly $54 million in borrowed funds, devoted to street improvements for the Northwestern project. The remaining money for a BikeShare system would come from federal sources.
The BikeShare, with locations spread throughout Downtown, will reduce congestion on city streets, improve local transportation and provide a healthy alternative to driving, Barrett said.
He rode one of the Trek B-Cycles that will be offered for rent from N. 51st St. and Washington Blvd., to City Hall during his annual Bike to Work Week outing.
“It reminded me of the fist grown-up bike I rode,” Barrett said. “It’s a big, sturdy bike.”
Bike sharing systems have blossomed in more than a dozen U.S. cities, and dozens more around the world. Users rent the bikes from kiosks, either via annual memberships or short-term rentals secured via credit card. GPS systems track the bikes and their locations.
Bike share systems have blossomed across the country in the past five years, providing bikes at hundreds of self-serve locations.
Users obtain bikes by using their credit cards to obtain daily or annual memberships and pay fees based on the length of the rental. Bikes can be rented from one kiosk, then returned at another, providing a convenient transportation option in urban areas.
More than a dozen cities, including Madison, have installed Trek’s B-Cycle system. Washington D.C. and Minneapolis developed their own bike share infrastructure and both Chicago and New York have hired Alta Bicycle Share to build out their massive systems over the next year.
New York City plans to provide 10,000 bikes at 600 rental stations, and secured a $41 million sponsorship from Citigroup that will pay for a large portion of the capital and operating costs.
In Minneapolis, the non-profit Nice Ride Minnesota built its system with federal grant dollars and a contribution from Blue Cross and Blue Shield. Cash from similar sources will be necessary for the successful launch of bike sharing in Milwaukee.
Principals in Midwest BikeShare had hoped to launch a system in Milwaukee this year, but have not secured the $1.5 million needed to build the infrastructure. One kiosk, at Discovery World Museum, will open this year, with the full launch now scheduled for Spring of 2104.
“We needed to have all the funding in place,” said Barry Mainwood, a local businessman and principal in Midwest BikeShare Inc.
Bruce Keyes, an attorney and BikeShare partner, said the city’s contribution will be an asset in securing other dollars from sponsors.