City Government

Pedal Project Poses Payment Problems

By STEVE “BIKEBOY” HULME

A year or so ago, Mayor Bieter, an eternal proponent of alternative transportation whether it be a trolley, or valley-wide rail service, or bicycles, proposed a bike-sharing program, just like in the Big City.

Bicycle kiosk, part of the Velib,  bike transit system in Paris, France.

Bicycle kiosk, part of the Velib bike transit system in Paris, France.


Unlike the ill-fated “yellow bike” experiment of a few years ago, where volunteers made some donated bikes rideable, painted yellow, placed on the streets only to disappear within a few weeks, a bike-share program is more like car rental. You need to either be a “member,” or produce a credit card, in order to use bikes that are secured at kiosks scattered at various starting/destination points.

The Boise proposal is for 140 bikes at 14 stations, primarily around downtown but extending to the BSU Campus and of course the North End. The startup cost was an estimated $650,000.

As much as I love bicycle transportation (it’s been my primary mode of local transport for 27+ years now), I’m skeptical. Partly because I don’t believe our demographics are anything like those of Boston or San Francisco or Seattle. And partly because the startup cost of $4600 per bike! seems excessive and would mostly be funded by the ever-deep-pockets taxpayers. I’ve BLOGGED about it in the past.

I happened across an article about the new bike-share in beautiful Orange County, California, that seems to reinforce my skepticism. “Bike Nation” just opened three kiosks for their bike share. In the first 28 days, 30 people have rented bikes. The manager of the project attributes the low participation to bad weather. (Five of those 28 days were rainy. Bad weather? Yeah, right!) He says, “A lot of people are really interested in the system,” and expects business to pick right up, once the weather gets nice. The story can be seen HERE.

I wish him luck! Unlike the proposed Boise bike share, the city didn’t give any money to Bike Nation. Perhaps it’s a private project. (More likely, he probably got some grant money from the feds, or a state government.)

I’d gladly support any such project that’s funded by the actual users… or by corporate sponsors in exchange for advertising space, like the NYC program that will soon be underway. Last I heard, the government is broke and getting further broke by billions a day. Now is not the time to start new taxpayer-funded enterprises, no matter how much they sparkle.

“Bike Boy” is a frequent commenter and sometimes contributor to the GUARDIAN.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Rod in SE Boise
    Feb 28, 2013, 12:43 pm

    $650,000 !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    $4,600 per bike !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Why not look at a non-traditional bike share system. Social Bicycles (http://socialbicycles.com/) ditchs the bike stations in favor of using whatever rack space is available. Bikes are GPS chipped with remote (smartphone) unlocking. The startup cost are 25% of the proposed system.

    Hailey,ID recently tested this system out in September and will be launching this spring. http://www.mtexpress.com/index2.php?ID=2005143420#.US-nAaKcd8E
    http://www.mtexpress.com/index2.php?ID=2005140094#.US-m_6Kcd8E

  3. This scheme relies on federal funding. All but $5000 actually, which is the “match” put up by Central District Health.

    VRT, they of the buses that come around sporadically, will run the program.

    Yeah, I expect it will be so popular that every bike locker will be empty. Whether that’s from ridership or theft, I can’t say.

  4. Maybe people should go buy their own bikes… Just saying

  5. Team Dave reads the little red book.

  6. At some point we have to stop being taker’s of every tax dollar that can be sucked up, just because we can. It is this mentality that is fueling a lot of pork spending, too many cops/firemen and other public positions that end up costing “other taxpayers” and not us.

    I will say the bikes look interesting but not at the price of this project. I wouls also add my concern for dealing with flat tires and all the other things that killed the yellow bike program. Goatheads are everywhere in this valley these days.

  7. I bet for $150,000 less, a mere $500,000, we could fund the golden parachute for the Mayor and ask him to quietly leave town and never come back. Would even rent a trolley with a rent-a-bike on the back to take him to Portland and a book on how to win friends and influence people so he can think about what went wrong with Boise/ACHD.

  8. Should have voted for Dave Hall…

  9. I think this is a fantastic idea that could be of real benefit here…I do however, think there are some additions to the plan like offering bike trailors for pets or children, different types of bicycles from mountain/street/ to physically challenged, bike insurance, bike miles similar to air miles that you can keep or donate, and donating so many free monthly user passes to stable citizens -or folk’s that have been citizens here in the area for five or more years.

    Also, stations at Lucky Peak, Eagle, and Star along the Green Belt, Boise Towne Square Mall, and Meridian along Fairview Road, out by the Waterworld Park, Bogas Basin Pioneer Lodge (seasonally) as sometimes people get stranded in those areas and would feel blessed to take advantage appreciatively; while others might just enjoy riding around in those areas. It does seem the financials could be worked with to provide better reasoning, coping, and managing strengths within it’s budgeting to bring about this sort of reality like starting up by working with the Boise Bicycle Project in resourcing used but unused bicycles from other areas if need be while writing Grant proposals and getting funding from that with donations.

    Meanwhile I’ll hope and work where I might for the best P.S. If it does not materialize you still can’t complain about the status quo which is this is a great city on or off a bike!

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