Milwaukee’s Housing Authority received a grant to increase bike-share access for low-income residents living in public housing, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The $64,000 grant comes from the Better Bike Share Partnership, as part of the group’s second year of funding initiatives to make bike-share programs more equitable. Officials announced Friday that the funding would allow the Housing Authority, Milwaukee’s bike-share program called Bublr Bikes and nonprofit bike shop Dreambikes to lower prices for low-income residents, as well as hire bike ambassadors to increase bike-share usage in public housing.
Thanks to the grant, Housing Authority residents will now pay $8 for a Bublr Bike system annual pass, a 90 percent decrease from the standard $80 annual pass. And people can pay cash for them. Philadelphia’s Indego system has been praised for its cash-based membership option for riders who don’t have credit cards. Now Milwaukee will offer that flexibility too. “To make this system work, there has to be a way that low-income people can use this,” said Mayor Tom Barrett while announcing the grant last week.
Bike ambassadors’ main role will be to identify other barriers that keep low-income people from using the system, and then find ways to eliminate those barriers. Eight other cities also received a grant from the Better Bike Share Partnership this spring, including Boston, Brooklyn, Los Angeles, Minneapolis and Oakland. Most of the initiatives are centered around increasing low-income ridership by providing targeted outreach, education and discounted memberships, and by partnering with community-based organizations already working with low-income, immigrant and non-English-speaking populations.
More and more cities are taking strides to make bike-share systems more equitable. In an op-ed for Next City this spring, Kate Fillin-Yeh wrote that one important sign of bike equity is stations that are close to transit and dense enough that people only need to walk a short distance to get to them. Because low-income people and people of color have a disproportionate risk of death or injury while walking and cycling, she also emphasizes the need for cities to increase the number of bike lanes, especially in poorer neighborhoods.
Jen Kinney is a freelance writer and documentary photographer. Her work has also appeared in Philadelphia Magazine, High Country News online, and the Anchorage Press. She is currently a student of radio production at the Salt Institute of Documentary Studies. See her work at jakinney.com.