Madison's Free Bike Program

Freshly painted Red Bikes drying on a sunny May afternoon.

Madison’s Red Bike Project

Bicycles are good on so many levels and since 1996 the Red Bike Project’s mission is to encourage the use of bicycles by providing a zero cost transportation alternative to motor vehicles.

Budget Bicycle Center maintains a fleet bicycles as a public service to residents, students and visitors of Madison, WI. A credit card is required to check out a bike and lock. The cost is completely free when the bike is returned. All Red Bikes must be returned by the end of the season, typically set near the end of November. The bicycles are serviced by Budget Bicycle Center during the summer whenever service is needed, completely free of charge. Free service includes replacement of tires, tubes and brake pads and sometimes goes as far as replacement of the bicycle if it is beyond repair. The only maintenance required by the rider is checking the tire pressure once a week.

Community members donate additional bicycles each year to help balance the number of bikes lost the previous year. Budget Bicycle Center repairs, maintains and distributes the bikes from its 930 Regent Street location.  Volunteers welcome new bikes to the program with a healthy coat of red paint and keep veteran Red Bikes looking great at the painting parties, the first two Saturdays in May. The entire fleet quickly gets checked out beginning in April. Because of the high demand there is a healthy turn over rate.  Bikes are returned, quickly fixed, and checked out by the next person who wants one.

Red Bike Benefits:

  • Save the cost of a parking permit
  • Save the expense of gasoline
  • Get some exercise and fresh air
  • Help reduce air pollution
  • Help reduce traffic congestion
  • Have fun utilizing the best mode of transportation in Madison!!
  • It’s FREE!

All UW Madison students, staff, and faculty are encouraged to participate in the Red Bike Project.

The Red Bike Program offers reconditioned bikes that can be used not only on campus but in and around our community.