Milwaukee’s Bublr Bikes takes on healthy food access

by Stefani Cox

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Source: Bublr Bikes.

Bike share can mean health in a lot of different ways, but we don’t always associate it with eating healthy. Now there’s a partnership to connect the dots.

Bublr Bikes has been hard at work on a community partnership with a grocery store called Pete’s Fruit Market, run by Pete Tsitiridis. The store actually exists at two locations, one on the north side of Milwaukee, where the population is predominantly African American, and another, newer store on the south side of the city, where locals are more often of Latino descent.

Gears and Grub

Bublr and Pete’s have been working together with other community-based organizations, such as the King Business Improvement District to create an event around bicycling and healthy food that kicked off for this year in the middle of April. The event is called Gears and Grub.

Source: Bublr Bikes.

“What I really love about it is that it’s a collaboration between King BID and Pete’s who provides all the ingredients for the tasting,” said Sally Sheperdson, Executive Director of Bublr Bikes. “It’s also a collaboration with Heart Love Place, which is a jack-of-all-trades nonprofit with a culinary training program within the facility.”

Sheperdson says these types of events and partnerships are particularly important given the high rates of obesity and diabetes among marginalized communities in Milwaukee.

During the event, kids and some adults prepare food provided by Pete’s Fruit Market. (A recent recipe was eggplant parmesan, for example.) They talk to participants about how to make the dishes they are working on and share information about healthy eating. Attendees can sign up for bike share on the spot at these events.

Sheperdson notes that it’s important to approach each community with an open mind to differing needs, as they have seen with their work on the north and south sides of Milwuakee.

“The approaches are different, but they need to be,” said Sheperdson. “You don’t need to get people to come to our south side store, but on the contrary the north side is different. The south side has had a longstanding Hispanic grocery store with an amazing lineup of Hispanic products. The Pete’s location on the north side is in more of a food desert.”

Providing accessibility

Bublr also has an ambassador program that kicked off on the first day of spring. A big part of the job of ambassadors is to sign people up for Bublr Bike Share’s all access pass, a discounted membership available at $8 per year to qualifying members, including those who are eligible for food-based benefits.

Sheperdson emphasized the importance of getting interested residents access immediately, rather than working through a slow process.

“We do it right on the spot,” she said. “We don’t say, ‘We’ll mail [the pass] to you.’”

Source: Bublr Bikes.

Another way that Bublr works to make its memberships accessible is to provide a cash sign-up option through a community partner, the Sixteenth Street Community Health Center. The center offers bilingual services to facilitate communication about options.

“They are very thoughtful,” said Sheperdson. “They wanted to start out with in-person surveys to learn about perceptions and barriers to biking in their community. As an incentive when people answer the survey, we are offering them a free ride day.”

Bublr is looking forward to using the results of the survey to guide them in how they work on the next phase of their outreach, affordability, and accessibility initiatives.

Bublr has also introduced a transit integration option by providing a Bublr access sticker that attaches to the back of a bus pass to create a joint card. This helps facilitate transfers, given the many bus stations that are co-located with Bublr docks.

The Better Bike Share Partnership is funded by The JPB Foundation as a collaborative between the City of Philadelphia, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) and the PeopleForBikes Foundation to build equitable and replicable bike share systems. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram or sign up for our weekly newsletter.