Last summer, a new sight began to appear on the streets of Milwaukee.
Strange looking light blue kiosks began to pop up on various street corners. At first they were empty, but over time you may have noticed them becoming populated with sturdy two wheeled, dark blue bikes — making you wonder just what was going on here.
Those were actually the first steps of the new baby on the transportation scene as Bublr, Milwaukee's brand new bike share program, was just getting started. It was the first phase of bringing affordable bike rentals/shares to the streets of our burg.
Though the bikes are hibernating for the winter, Bublr has been busy working on its vision for a more bike-friendly Milwaukee all winter. And with spring around the corner, we'll soon see what plans they've had in the works.
I recently sat down with Kevin Hardman, one of the men behind Bublr to talk about Bublr, bikes and the future of bike sharing in the region…
1. What is Bublr now? What do you hope it becomes?
Bublr Bikes is Greater Milwaukee's bike share system and bike sharing is a way in which to easily and conveniently share a lot of bicycles so that people can get around in an urban environment.
Bike share systems are in over 750 cities worldwide and there's another 300 cities that are currently planning bike share systems and 23 of the top 25 most populous cities in this country now have a bike sharing system.
At it's essence [Bublr], is public transportation but one that's perfect for an urban environment; short trips, those one to two mile trips. Milwaukee's following along our peer cities, you know even Portland doesn't have one, so we're even ahead of Portland with bike share.
Where we want to be held accountable by our peers, our supporters and most importantly, the people that use Bublr, is a network that's at least 100 stations. We see that as our first-tier big goal. And 100 stations is not a number we just pulled out of the air — Minneapolis is entering their sixth operating season and they have 170 stations. So 100 stations in Milwaukee and what that means for people is connections into the neighborhood you live in and connections into the greater city.
I would say that our vision is not only that Bublr is a Milwaukee system, but also a regional system at least in the coming years [with expansion] to be in the inner ring of suburbs like Shorewood, Wauwatosa, West Allis…all three of those communities have received federal funding to support bike sharing. It's gonna take a year or two to get out there, but we see this as a regional system.
We're lucky here that leaders of days gone by have built the Oak Leaf Trail, the Hank Aaron Trail; the City of Milwaukee, City of Wauwatosa — actually all these municipalities have been investing more and more in bike infrastructure and bike lanes so that's going to make bike sharing a perfect fit now.
2. 2014 saw the project launch with a limited number of stations/kiosks, any plans for expansion? If so where?
So our goal this year is to have in excess of 40 stations on the ground. We have 10 stations on the ground [now]…we learned so much just getting those 10 stations on the ground.
We're gonna turn the system back on on March 16th with those 10 stations, but our goal is to add at least another 30 stations [this year].
3. 2015 is still young, any major plans beyond getting more bikes on the road?
We've got some big announcements in the coming months. We've got partnerships that we've been forging for years that are really coming to fruition that people will be really excited to hear about.
We're not ready to announce it yet because we're still working it out… We are planning for, and fully intend for, bike sharing to be an integral part of just the transportation fabric of Milwaukee. World class cities have committed to it and it's transformed [them]. Like Radio Milwaukee, we feel Milwaukee is a world class place, so that's what we intend to build.
For a complete map of current Bublr stations, go HERE.
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