Bublr Bikeshare Unveiled in Milwaukee

The City of Milwaukee and a group of private investors unveiled the bright blue Bublr Bikes at the first bike-share station in Red Arrow Park today. In the next few weeks there will be 50 of the fun but practical bikes at ten stations, and people will be able to Take a Bublr to get around downtown Milwaukee. Initial rates will be $7 for a day pass and $20 per month for unlimited trips. Like other bike-share systems, the bikes are intended for short trips rather than all day rental bikes, with the first 30 minutes free and additional charges after that.

Where will you take a Bublr?

Bruce Keyes, president and co­‐founder of Milwaukee­‐based Midwest BikeShare Inc., the non­‐profit that operates Bublr Bikes, said the opening of the first 10 stations later this month precedes the system’s planned launch next year. Keyes said an additional 25 to 35 stations with 200 to 300 bikes will be available next year. The system expects to grow to 100 stations with 1,000 bicycles within a few years, reaching more neighborhoods as public and private funding becomes available, he said.

“With these first stations, riders will be able to bike between many popular destinations this year and get a real sense of how the larger system will work in 2015 and in future years of growth,” Keyes said.

The great unveiling of the Bublr Bike-share in Red Arrow Park.

Mayor Tom Barrett told the crowd at the unveiling that Bublr Bikes puts Milwaukee on par with other peer cities like Nice-Ride in the Twin Cities and B-cycle Denver, as there are now more than 30 cities in the US with bike-share systems. Barrett had announced who announced City support for bike-share last July at the first demonstration station by Discovery World. “It will be especially popular with the young millennial workers that many employers are seeking.”

MGIC Curt Culver feels that Bike-share is part of the solution to his company’s ability to attract and retain a talented workforce and to reducing health care costs for his employees. Bublr Bikes will be integrated into their company wellness program, which can reduce employee health insurance premiums.

Perhaps the most impressive speaker at the event was MGIC Chairman and CEO Curt Culver , who said his company was sponsoring the Bublr Station in Red Arrow because the system would benefit people who live and work downtown and would attract visitors, young talent and businesses to the city. “I encourage other Milwaukee employers to get behind Bublr Bikes and help make downtown and nearby neighborhoods even more exciting and vibrant,” he said.

I talked to developer Barry Mandel who told me they are building projects in Chicago with .6 parking spaces per unit, where as in Milwaukee they have to build one parking space per bedroom because Chicago is ahead of Milwaukee in terms of transit and cycling. “It costs me $25,000 per parking space, so if I can reduce that cost with Zipcar or Bublr, my developments are more profitable.”

Kevin Hardman, launch director of Bublr Bikes, said Midwest BikeShare had raised nearly $3 million, with more than $1 million of the funding from private donors, including the Mandel Group, MGIC, the Astor Street Foundation, the Pabst Theater Foundation, Schlitz Park, the US Bank Center, the Brico Fund, the Milwaukee Development Corporation, Lakefront Brewery, the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, Dermond Property Investments, Rockwell Automation and others. A full list of sponsors can be found here.

The station in Red Arrow Park is sponsored by MGIC. CEO Curt Culver challenged other businesses to sponsor stations.

Hardman said that Midwest Bikeshare needs to raise an additional $3 million to expand Bublr bikes to their goal of a 1,000­‐bike network within a few years. Coincidentally, I was in a Polish Moon Ride planning meeting at Anodyne Coffee’s Bruce Street location when Anodyne owner Matthew McClutchy signed his sponsorship papers for a Bublr station there. If that sort of enthusiasm among private businesses continues, Bublr stations should be popping up all over Milwaukee soon!

The first ten stations will be at the following locations:

  • Cathedral Square Park
  • Chase Plaza
  • Discovery World
  • 411 East Wisconsin Center
  • Intermodal StaRon
  • Public Market
  • Red Arrow Park
  • Schlitz Park
  • U.S. Bank Building
  • Wisconsin Center

Midwest BikeShare Co-­Founder Barry Mainwood praised both the “catalytic partnership” with the City of Milwaukee that helped get the project off the ground and the critical backing from the county, Wisconsin Department of Transportation, many private supporters and other communities around Milwaukee. As we reported in yesterday’s blog post, Shorewood, Wauwatosa and West Allis were awarded $1.5 million in Transportation Alternative Program grants to expand the Bublr Bike-share to those inner-ring suburbs, which will make the system a regional asset.

Gary Grunau, an early believer in bike-share rides one of the Schlitz Park Schwinn Suburban bikes back to his office after the media conference in Red Arrow Park. Schlitz Park Office Park will get one of the first 10 Bublr Stations.

While Bike-sharing is relatively new to the US, there are now more than 500 programs around the world with systems as large as 90,000 bicycles in China’s sixth-largest city, Wuhan. The largest system in the US is CitiBike in New York City with 10,000 bikes, but Nice-Ride in the Twin Cities with about 1,300 bikes or Denver’s 700 bike B-cycle program are probably the closest benchmark systems to compare to Milwaukee.

View The Bike-sharing World Map in a larger map
Although it is new and some systems are still working out a few hiccups, like pricing in NYC or back-end software issues like Montreal-based Public Bikes, overall the systems are successful and growing everywhere they are installed. It is important to understand though that these are really more pedestrian accelerators than a bike rental system. They are designed to help people make those trips that are too long to walk, but short enough that driving or regualr transit is not practical.


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.

6 thoughts on “Bublr Bikeshare Unveiled in Milwaukee

  1. Whatever happened to B-Cycle and the station at Discovery World? Are the going to be 2 competing bikeshare programs?

    • Jaime, that B-cycle station is also owned by Midwest Bikeshare and the Bublr Bikes are supplied by B-cycle. It was just for demonstration purposes, but it will be rebranded and integrated into the Bublr system as part of the first ten stations this year.

    • Hey Maggie,

      B-cycle ended up being the supplier of the bikes, but they will have custom paint to match the Bublr brand.

      • Awesome! Thanks for the information. I just happened upon an updated # for you from bikesharingworld.com; as of August 2014, there are 730 cities with bikeshare programs, for a world bikeshare fleet of over 822,500 bikes!

        • Thanks for the latest info Maggie! I will save that for future reference, but since it is an ever growing number, I fear I will always be a bit behind.

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