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WUWM’s Chuck Quirmbach reports on innovation in southeastern Wisconsin.

Adaptive Bike Program Aims To Make Biking Accessible To More Milwaukeeans

Chuck Quirmbach
Shirin Cabraal (left) and Deb Falk-Palec head off on a two-person side-by-side tricycle.

People with physical disabilities may now be better able to use the Bublr bike-share system in the Milwaukee area. A pilot program announced Tuesday will add some adaptive cycles to the mix of bikes available.

Shirin Cabraal had polio as a child and now as an older adult can only walk with the aid of a walker. She's very happy that one of the new Bublr adaptive bikes is a two-person side-by-side tricycle. With the aid of another rider, Cabraal says she hopes to go exploring.

“Absolutely, absolutely. The trails, lots of different places. It'll open up a whole vista of opportunity, I think," she told WUWM.

READ: UWM Students Are Trying To Build A Better Recumbent Trike

Cabraal rode a little Tuesday, alongside Deb Falk-Palec, chairperson of theMilwaukee County Commission for Persons With Disabilities. Falk-Palec says for several years, there's been a push to add adaptive bikes to Bublr.

"The public does not just include able-bodied individuals. All individuals need to be included. And because in our research we found other cities were finding ways to include people, we knew we could do this in Milwaukee also," Falk-Palec said.

Credit Chuck Quirmbach
Some of the adaptive bikes Bublr is adding in the city of Milwaukee.

This pilot program runs through the end of 2019. The side-by-side tricycles, upright tricycles and hand cycles that use arm power, will be at various Bublr locations around Milwaukee. The adaptive bikes can be rented for the same price as traditional two-wheelers and they'll also be available to Bublr subscribers. 

So, which docking stations will have the adaptive bikes? Bublr Executive Director Sally Shepherdson asks for patience during a start-up period.

"There's technology that drives that location map and in our app, and we're trying to figure how we can get these bikes to talk to that technology so you can find the bikes — and we're close to a resolution on that," Shepherdson said.

Shepherdson says Milwaukee is the first major U.S. city to try to integrate adaptive bikes into a docked public bike share system. 

Credit Chuck Quirmbach
A silver and blue docking unit has been added to the rear of an adaptive tricycle for the Bublr program.

Chez Ordonez is acting chair of the city of Milwaukee Equal Rights Commission. He says the commission will monitor the effort.

"What is actually working? Are people using it? Is location a factor? Is price a factor? Is weather a factor? And community input is going to be the best thing. It can't just be analysis on paper. We have to hear from the community, and see what they need and what they want," Ordonez emphasized.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett helped kick off the adaptive bike program, calling it an "exciting day for mobility" in the city.

Support is provided by Dr. Lawrence and Mrs. Hannah Goodman for Innovation reporting.

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