Bikes can’t lose in cities.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett checks out a Milwaukee B-cycle bike from the new kiosk at Discovery World Museum on the Lakefront.

This morning Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett teamed up with Midwest Bikeshare, Inc., to announce the opening of Milwaukee’s first B-cycle kiosk. Mayor Barrett upped the ante not only by confirming the City will commit $288,000 toward Milwaukee bike-share system, but by announcing there will be 23 more stations open by March, 2014.

I know, I know, we shouldn’t run out and chisel that date in granite, or even cream city brick, but this announcement did come with the opening of the first functioning bike-share kiosk in Milwaukee. Perhaps even more important than the first station or even the money is having the Mayor as a true champion of bike-share in Milwaukee.

This milestone is just another indicator that even in my much loved, but sometimes slow to accept change, home town, that bicycles really are back on the rise as a legitimate form of transportation. Bicycles are such a good fit in urban areas and offer a simple, low-cost, singular solution to so many complex problems, that market forces and momentum should be enough to ensure their near-future position as a mainstream mode of transportation.

Mayor Barrett at the media conference for the opening of the Milwaukee B-cycle kiosk at Discovery World. Behind the mayor are Alderman Kovac, Kevin Hardman-Launch Director for Midwest Bikeshare, Kristen Bennett-Milwaukee Bike/Ped Coordinator, Bruce Keyes and Barry Mainwood-both of Midwest Bikeshare.

Inexpensive, efficient, convenient and fast, bicycles meet every test of a great transportation system. Compared to cars, bikes are CHEAP to buy and maintain. Compared to freeways and roads, bike lanes and trails are INEXPENSIVE to build and maintain. In dense, urban areas where most trips are less than a few miles, bikes are often the FASTEST way from point A to B when parking is factored in.

In the current politics of cutting taxes and reducing government subsidies, it would be hard to imagine a future that does not include bicycles. Don’t get me wrong, I won’t be riding my Schlick Northpaw up to Ashland County to go deer hunting this fall, and I don’t expect others will either, but I do expect the growth in people riding bicycles for transportation to continue. It is great hear Mayor Barrett recognize how well bikes fit the “heart of a city.” With leadership like that, Milwaukee B-cycle can’t help but succeed and add to cycling’s momentum.


About Dave Schlabowske, Deputy Director

Dave was the first full-time staff member hired to open the Bike Fed's Milwaukee office 15 years ago. A former professional photographer and life-long Milwaukee resident, Dave likes wool, long rides, sour beer, and a good polar vortex once in a while.

5 thoughts on “Bikes can’t lose in cities.

  1. I think these community bikes are a great idea. I do have a concern though. At least as far as the way they are handled in Madison, and I assume it is similar here, there are no helmets available. Granted, helmets may be a personal thing. But there should at least be an option to use a helmet somehow and there should be better caution information advising people to wear their helmets. We all know that biking without a helmet is not a safe decision!

    • Hey Carol,

      I don’t think you need to be too concerned. When I last checked, the NYC CitiBike bike-share system had 500,000 rides and no reported injuries. These upright, slower bikes with big tires reduce the chances of crashes. Most Bike-share systems also recommend people wear helmets and include locationss of shops where helmets can be purchased.

      Out of the more than 500 cities around the world that have bike-share systems, I believe only two have or require helmets available and it has hurt ridership growth in those locations. The bike-share systems that required helmets were crippled by it and had low use rates. Melbourne is one such system. While it is certainly true that helmets reduce the chance of serious brain injury if you fall and hit your head, more people on bikes=lower crash rates. Bike-share systems do a lot to get more people riding, so in effect, they do a lot to reduce crashes.

      Of course, anyone who knows they will be using a bike-share bike regularly and is worried about crashing could carry a helmet with them.

      Thanks for reading, writing, and of course riding!

      • Great reply David. As a resident (and helmet wearer) of Australia, where bike helmets have been compulsory since 1990, it has absolutely crippled ridership and all the other benefits associated with riding. It’s one’s *choice* to wear a helmet. Nobody can tell you not too. I’d chose to wear one most of the time, if given that choice, but others wouldn’t and that’s fine. When it comes down to pure numbers, health costs and problems stemming from a sedentary lifestyle far outweigh those associated with head injuries from riding a bike.

        • Thanks for the comment from the land down under. We all accept different levels of risk. People skydive, ride motorcycles, free-climb mountains, etc., and understanding relative risks is important. If there were a good system to rent-a-helmet for a day, maybe it would be worth the expense of putting it in place, but I suspect people would not like wearing used helmets hundreds of others may have had on their head.

          As you said, since riding a bike has a relatively low risk of serious injury compared to the risks from obesogenic illnesses, we are much better off with more people riding, helmets or no.

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