The diverse crowd of bicycle enthusiasts and bureaucrats at Red Arrow Park buzzed on a sun-splashed Wednesday, and bicycle-themed music played the background (“Bicycle Race” by Queen, among others), as they awaited the announcement of a collaboration with local businesses and local government to bring a new bike-sharing system to Milwaukee. After the music died […]

The diverse crowd of bicycle enthusiasts and bureaucrats at
Red Arrow Park buzzed on a sun-splashed Wednesday, and bicycle-themed music
played the background (“Bicycle Race” by Queen, among others), as they awaited the announcement
of a collaboration with local businesses and local government to bring a new
bike-sharing system to Milwaukee.

After the music died down, Kevin Hardman, launch director for
Midwest BikeShare, unveiled to a crowd of about a hundred the name Bublr Bikes,
a name that he says creates a brand that’s unique to Milwaukee.

“Bike sharing is here in Milwaukee. We spent
a lot of time naming our bike-share system,” Hardman says, “because we wanted to make it
our own.”

The announcement of new stations follows a demonstration
kiosk installed last year by the same group outside Discovery World, which
generated nearly 1,000 rides despite no marketing or other stations
to bike to. Bublr Bikes offer riders the opportunity to rent bicycles from automated kiosks and return them to any Bublr Bike station.

The initial rates will range between $7 to $20 per month for
unlimited trips under 30 minutes each, with additional charges for longer trips. Riders can purchase a “Bublr Pass” using
a credit card and specify how long they want that pass to last, whether
it’s for less than half an hour, a 30-day pass or a pass for the remainder of the year.  

Bublr Bikes got off the ground with an investment of about
$3 million, with more than $1 million of that coming from more than two dozen
private donors. Bublr Bikes will have
10 stations installed around the Downtown area in the coming weeks, with plans
in place to launch 40 more stations in the metro area by 2015. Hardman says
that to reach their goal of a 1,000-bike network, the program will need an
additional $3 million over the next few years.   

Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett voiced his support for the
program and the benefits it brings.

“Milwaukee needs this,” Barrett says. “Bublr Bikes will put
Milwaukee on par with our peer cities and generate excitement for people of all
ages.”

Mortgage Guaranty Insurance Corporation (MGIC) Chairman and CEO
Curt Culver also spoke at the press conference, saying his support for Bublr
Bikes comes from the knowledge that the system would benefit people who live
downtown, as well as attract visitors and younger employees to the city.

“We need financial supports and advocates,” Culver said. “We
need advocates [for this system] because we want to attract and attain young
talent.”

Other bike share systems already operate in other cities
such as Chicago, Madison, Minneapolis and New York City.

Beginning next week, you’ll find Bublr Bikes at Cathedral
Square Park, Chase Plaza, Discovery World, 411 East Wisconsin Center,
Intermodal Station, Milwaukee Public Market, Red Arrow Park, Schlitz Park, the
U.S. Bank Building and Wisconsin Center.

County Executive Chris Abele emphasized that, in the future,
other kiosks will be installed across the county, in Shorewood,
Wauwatosa and West Allis.

“This isn’t just another bike share program,” Abele says.
“The goal isn’t just to have something in place; it’s to have the best.”

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