Each passing year, our traffic in Boise and surrounding areas has become really stressful. There are more drivers on roads and highways of Idaho than ever before. This is due to an influx of new companies, and the people that work for them that have moved into the Boise area. This has a catch-22 effect. We see the economic boost from employment growth, yet traffic is worse than ever. The stress level from trying to get from one place to the next has risen.
Boise GreenBike is a fabulous solution to some of the traffic congestion and stress levels that driving a car can present. It’s a healthier way of life, and it also helps the environment. When you ride a bicycle you aren’t burning fossil fuels. This saves you money and doesn’t add to the exhaust fumes in the environment which improves air quality.
I sat down with Dave Fotsch, Director of Boise GreenBike, and he shared some key points about the importance of the bicycle program to the Boise area. Historically, in the ‘90s, there was the Yellow Bike program, which was the community’s first attempt at bike share. Used bikes were painted all yellow and left unlocked and unattended around town. Without accountability, the bikes disappeared, some into the river, others to the homeless. Boise GreenBike launched in 2015 after a four-year effort to bring modern bike share to Boise. By modern, it means a system that offers security for the bikes and accountability to the riders.
To date, they have 127 bikes, which is going to jump to 250 bikes that should be arriving at the end of February, or beginning of March. This is being paid for by the FHWA. They have 83 or 84 hubs all over the city and BSU campus, and they will have more coming. They are considered an enterprise program of Valley Regional Transit (VRT). The assets you see on the ground, the bikes and the hubs, were paid for with federal grant money and a local match. Their entire operating budget has to come from ridership, membership, and sponsorship. The lion’s share comes from sponsors, about 75%, which is vitally important to the continuation, and the growth of their operation.
They currently have 2 title sponsors, St. Lukes and SelectHealth. They are alliance partners in business. SelectHealth is an insurance company and St. Lukes is a health care provider. They formed this alliance a few years ago. It was primarily to allow SelectHealth, a Utah based company, to get a foothold in the Idaho market. They also sponsor the bicycle-sharing program in Salt Lake City. Since they have sponsored Boise, SelectHealth has also sponsored systems in Park City and St. George in Utah. Dave said, “We are very thankful to them, and St.lukes for the support that they lend our system.”
In the month of May, they have a ride-free month in Boise. In 2018 it was called “May in Motion”. It is sponsored by St.Lukes and SelectHealth. Dave is very excited about this, “It was absolutely amazing! We had a 200% increase in ridership that month over previous years, and a 400% increase in membership. Even Better, we made more money in May than we had made in the previous May and the trend pulled through the entire summer clear to the end of September. We finished our fiscal year with a 50% increase in rides overall.”
They hold special events including “Cranksgiving” with Create Common Good, which is a local organization that provides job training and job placement services for vulnerable populations facing barriers to employment. This is a great event for St.Vincent de Paul. It’s a charity alleycat race where bike riders hunt down food items to donate to needy families for Thanksgiving. The primary beneficiary of Cranksgiving is St. Vincent de Paul and its Thanksgiving box program. In 2018 they donated 42 Thanksgiving food boxes, which means 42 families had a nice meal that otherwise might not have. Create Common Good provided food at the after party. https://www.facebook.com/CranksgivingBoise/.
They have another great event which is part of the Twilight Criterium. This event will be held on Saturday, July 13th in downtown Boise. It’s a bike race that starts at 1:00 pm when the kid’s ride with Kristin Armstrong, winner of three Olympic Gold Medals. Certain streets in downtown Boise are blocked off for this race. The race lasts all day long and features pro-riders as well as local amateur riders.
Boise GreenBike hosts their GreenBike race during this event, which is a celebrity race where they try to get celebrities to ride. The GreenBike race starts right before opening ceremonies for the pro women’s race, usually around 6:00 p.m. This year they are going to try to change it up and make it a ride for charity. They are looking for a title sponsor to cover that event. If you would like to become a sponsor of Boise GreenBike please contact Dave Fotsch at https://www.facebook.com/BoiseGreenBike/.To see more information about this very cool event please got to https://www.facebook.com/BoiseTwilightCriterium/.
They will also be offering free rides for Treefort Music Festival thanks to Key Bank who will sponsor free rides for everyone. They will draw what they call a superhub. At all of the Treefort Venues, you can lock the bikes in that hub. Valley Regional transit is sponsoring free rides on the Treeline circulator Service that will connect all of the venues downtown. It runs between 4th and 14th streets on Main and Idaho and makes a continuous loop from 6-12 am on Wednesday the 20th through Saturday the 23rd of March. If you have a Treefort wrist band you can ride any of the VRT busses for free. Those only run through Saturday.
I had to ask Dave about the theft scenario, bikes being thrown into the river, or vandalism to the bikes. He said that none of their bikes have ended up in the river so far. “They’ve been ridden into the river. Two years ago when the river flooded they put a notice out on their facebook page of which sections of the greenbelt were closed.” On one bike, it ruined the controller which cost $500 to fix. If you cause any damage to the bikes there are penalties and fees that will be applied to your credit card that is on file when you sign up as a member.
They have had several other bikes that had shown evidence of being ridden in the river. They had to rebuild the rear hub because they were all full of sand. Fortunately, no one has maliciously thrown a bike into the river. Boise GreenBike has amazing bike gurus, Aaron Harloe who is the Shop Manager and a life-long bicycle enthusiast. He has worked professionally as a bicycle mechanic. The other guru is Kelly Frazier who is their Field Technician. She’s a natural mechanic and computer whiz.
Each bike has a GPS, so they know where the bikes are at all times. The bikes used to cost around $1300 a piece, but they are getting new bikes that are coming in at $1800. They’re not cheap! The bikes are made by Social Bicycles and come with all the bells and whistles. You can track how many miles you have ridden, how many calories you have burned, carbon offsets, and the amount of money you have saved by riding a bike. To find out how it works, to become a member or sponsor, and how to reserve a bike go to https://boise.greenbike.com/.
Each bike has a basket and women can comfortably ride these bikes in a skirt. The seats are comfortable and getting around downtown and BSU is easier than ever. You don’t have to wear a helmet, however, it is highly recommended.
Please catch our follow up photo essay by Terry Welch which will feature various people riding Boise GreenBikes around town. This will come out soon!