Public bike sharing programs are gaining momentum in Madison and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. On February 2, the Madison Common Council voted 15-4 to invest $100,000 in B-Cycle, the same Trek Bicycle Corporation-owned bike-share system that impressed Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett in Denver, Colorado, in 2008.
Madison will dip into its contingency fund for the money to enter a three-year, $300,000 contract with B-cycle. The program will start next May with 350 bikes at 35 rental stations.
Riders will pay for use of the bikes either for a year or 24 hours, using a credit card at one of the bike stations. In other cities, daily fees start around $5. The bikes cane be returned to the same or different stations.
Chicago and Des Moines started B-Cycle sharing programs in 2010.
“I love the program,” Barrett said. “I think it increases mobility in a very inexpensive and environmentally conscious and fun way.” He said the city would seek federal grants or private contributions to pay for the city’s share of the costs.
In Madison, the city will provide $100,000 per year for three years. The plan received exactly the 15 votes necessary for approval as an amendment to the city budget.
Trek estimates its investment in the infrastructure and operation will be about $1 million annually. Revenue from subscriptions and bike rentals will be split evenly between the city and Trek.
Company representatives have had very preliminary discussions with Milwaukee officials about a B-cycle startup. “Milwaukee is a perfect market for B-cycle,” said Eric Bjorling, a spokesman for Trek. “Great destinations, major universities, dense urban population and great bicycle infrastructure already in place.”
The Milwaukee Bike Master Plan approved by the Common Council last September lists the launch of a bike sharing program as one of its objectives.
“Investment in a bicycle-sharing program in Milwaukee will add to the vibrancy, economy and health of the city,” said Amanda White, associate director of the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin. “Bike sharing in other cities has proven hugely successful in supporting tourism and a reduction in car trips downtown.”