Evan Pack would do almost anything to inspire people to try bike riding. Even meet a reporter at 7:30 am to show off a recent coup.
“Milwaukee’s first and only bicycle vending machine – patch kits, inner tubes, tire levers – a few quirky surprises,” Pack says.
He runs a nonprofit bike shop called Vulture Space in downtown Milwaukee. He says the city has no after-hours access to basic bike repair.
“I’ve seen these in other cities – they’re a nice resource when bike shops are closed. If you get a flat tire,” Pack says.
So, he bought an old candy bar repository off Craig’s List for $300.
A local artist stenciled its exterior with multi-colored bicycle themed images and Pack stocked the contents. He says it took a combination of intricate folding and baby powder to repackage inner tubes, so they won’t jam on their way out the machine.
What Pack found most challenging, was finding a home for the machine. He wanted it to be accessible 24/7 – preferably in an outdoor location.
”You have to work with the city and the permits are expensive to have it on the sidewalk. Originally when we bought the machine we wanted it right outside the shop, right outside Vulture Space – there’s a 3-foot setback, but there was some problem with the mall in getting it there – so here it is,” Pack says.
Here, is inside American Euros on Oakland Avenue near the UWM campus. Sandwich shop owner Mark Miller is delighted.
“Everybody waiting for a sandwich definitely comes and checks it out; a lot of people say it’s the coolest vending machine they’ve ever seen,” Miller says.
Bikes figure into Miller’s business plan – he uses them to deliver sandwiches.
“We have a pretty dense population here; we don’t need to go very far. So we said, we can just use bicycle delivery and it’s been pretty popular. You can get a hero in no more than 10 minutes,” Miller says.
Lest we swerve into a discussion of urban food delivery, Evan Pack steers us back to Bike to Work Week. He spearheaded another – what he hopes will be – a tantalizing artistic element.
“This year we’re putting on Art for Bike’s Sake. Which is a bicycle-themed art show. It’s going to be really, really, really cool. It’ll be at the Anondyne on Bruce Street. Local and national artists displaying bicycle-themed art work – anything from paintings, junk sculpture, design, inner tube jewelry, it’ll be a bunch of stuff,” Pack says.
A funky object or vending machine might not entice these adult students at Riverside High School to bike to work this week. They’re sitting through an evening cycling class to learn the rules of the road and feel more comfortable with them.
Keith Holt belongs to the Wisconsin Bicycle Federation and is teaching the class called, Savvy City Cycling 1.
Bay View resident Bridget says she’s picked up good information – say, how to make a left-hand turn in busy traffic. And she likes the IDEA of commuting 8.5 miles to work, but still fears sharing congested city streets.
“I admit I’m a little scared of it, that’s one of the reasons I took the class. The bottom line is, cars are bigger than you are – you can never forget that,” Bridget says.
Classmate Dean is no stranger to biking but sticks mainly to trail systems. He says he’d like to try commuting to his job in downtown Milwaukee. And the distance isn’t daunting, but he has yet to overcome “busy street syndrome” plus he thinks the weather is still too cold.
“I’m thinking it’s a little early, isn’t it?” Dean says.