Bikeboy Says Two Wheeler Plan Off Balance

Our long time two wheeler expert, Steve Hulme (aka Bikeboy) offers up his views on a new government spending spree for Boise bikes.

By Steve Hulme

The CCDC, in cahoots with the Central District Health Dept., are hoping to start upa bike-sharing program in Boise.

On the surface, it sounds laudable… 140 bikes at 10-15 different secure”stations” around town–mostly downtown extending out around BSU, and to the North End. You swipe your membership tag, or bankcard in the case of out-of-towners, and you release a shared bike. You ride and ride, and then turn your bike in at any of the 10-15 stations to release yourself from liability for the bike. Depending on how long you’ve used it, you pay rent.

In big cities, “members” get a half-hour of use for free, and then it’s a few bucks per hour. Members pay a $55-85 annual fee. Visitors would just be charged the per-hour fee for the time they had the bike out.

Fantastic, huh? Promotes health… cements our reputation as being “bike friendly,”gives tourists an easy way to ride the Greenbelt.

But here’s the rub. The startup money is likely to be $650,000. And that kind ofmoney doesn’t grow on trees… but it might as well; they’ve asked the federalTransportation Department to give it to ’em. And of course, it would go onto the backs of the taxpayers. Or doesn’t it count, if it’s our federal taxes?

Here’s another point of interest… they did a study to determine the viability and decide where the bike stations should be located. They looked at 6 cities with existing bike-shares: Montreal, Minneapolis/St.Paul, DC Metro, Boston, Denver, and Miami.

What makes Boise different from them? Well, the comparison cities range in size from 400,000 (Miami) on up, and the metro populations range from 2.5 million(Denver) on up. I question whether Boise has the population base or density to
realistically compare with those places, or support a bike share program, even if we are “a bike-friendly city,” as stated by Karen Sanders of the Downtown Boise Association.

I’m not confident that my grandkids and their grandkids want to pay for a bike-sharing program for us, today.

It’s like nobody “in power” gives a rip about the $15 trillion debt – let’s just spend more!

EDITOR NOTE–Paris was the first place to start the bike vending program and it has caught on worldwide.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Brian Vermillion
    Apr 20, 2012, 4:55 am

    This is exactly what is wrong with our country. Forcing some do-gooders idea on the country and making everyone pay for it. This has BSU written all over it.

  2. Seem to me Boise tried a Bike sharing deal once before. If my memory serves me it was a free one. City had a bunch of bikes downtown ( Painted pink if I remember) and you could borrow one and just leave it down town.

    Had prisoners work on the bikes if I remember also. Kind of giving them some job training. The program lasted about a season. Most of the bikes disappeared. It looks like a great deal compared to this one. I don’t think they lost any where near $650,000.

  3. Diane Sower
    Apr 20, 2012, 6:50 am

    I think we’re still at a a point where we like to maintain our own bikes, and this takes that out of our hands. Might be great for some, granted, as transportation is just really expensive, and the buses don’t run 24/7. But most bike fanatics like to take care of their own stuff.

  4. Boise State is apprehensive due to the lack of density in our city and muli-modal transportation hook ups. BSU has a rental bike program where anyone can rent a bicycle for $10/day, I feel this may be better solution. The Boise bicycle project provides bicycles to anyone for the cost of a tank of gas (less even), so people could buy a bicycle for less than a years membership to a bike share program. Bike share isn’t the best and only idea for every city. This is a great idea but we have to have the built environment (infrastructure) change before something like this will work.

    (my own opinion)
    *employee for parking and transportation/cycle learning center Boise State.

  5. Hey, this really isn’t federal money, it’s Obama money which is totally free. He gets it from his back pocket and sends it out to worthy places for stimulus. Think how much employment will be caused by this $650,000 expense – kabillions I tell you!

    And when the bikes get stolen, as they did before, think how much good work the police can do tracking these down. Why maybe we can get another Obama money grant to hire some detectives!

    Oh Bikeboy, who cares what your kids and grandkids will have to pay in the future. We are living in the now!

  6. 1) The only bike that fits me is mine.
    2) Biking is dangerous. Do I get a helmet too? No? Well then, you expect me to carry a helmet around with me while I tour Boise and conduct my business?
    2) Biking is dangerous. More bikers = more bike vs. car wrecks. Especially if I am a tourist and don’t know the city.
    3) If it was a good idea a bike shop would be doing it for profit already.
    4) This is why they have not reduced the parking meter staff. Those displaced by the new parking meters will now spend their time fixing broken bikes and looking for missing bikes.
    5) Everywhere I’ve seen such a program the bikes are crap. If they are not crap they get stolen.
    6) If biking was such a great idea we would not have cars.
    7) Everyone working for the city, please take a year off. Sewer and water people you can stay.

  7. Gary Richardson
    Apr 20, 2012, 11:53 am

    The alternative for that $650,000 of federal transportation funds (gasoline tax receipts) is about half a mile of highway construction.

    We get down to some fundamental ideas about social policy here. Our local, state and national roadway systems resulted from a “do-gooder” notion that we can do a better job building and maintaining them as a community than privately. The toll-road to Idaho City, for instance, became a public highway.

    Personally, I think giving up a half-mile of highway to encourage folks to give biking a try looks like a pretty good idea to lower the demand for that extra half-mile of highway.

    So long as we’re subsidizing people to move to Kuna, for instance, by building more capacity for people to move around in a ton or two of steel, we can afford to invest in a much more efficient mode of getting people around.

    So, which would you prefer: Subsidize commuters and development in the ‘burbs or encourage biking in Boise? Or, should we end public funding of the transportation system?

  8. Jason Robinson
    Apr 20, 2012, 11:56 am

    The problem is that no one in government (local or federal) thinks they are doing enough if they aren’t doing SOMETHING. So we have a rash of ill conceived laws ushered in by their all-to-willing lobbyist friends in order to “do something” and to bring some bacon to the lobbyists company.

  9. I’d rather see the money spent on bike paths and path maintenence.
    And allow taking bikes on empty buses.

  10. Brian
    “This has BSU written all over it”

    No I would say our Mayors name is all over it

  11. Pablo Hernandez
    Apr 20, 2012, 3:17 pm

    The motto of government: If it ain’t broke we are going to fix it until it is!

  12. Gary has certainly brought a new perspective! (I think of Gary as a friend and have appreciated his viewpoint for more years than I care to think about!)

    If the funds get approved and the system goes in… I sure hope it’s a booming success!

    (Gary, I hope you realize the resentment you will stir up by suggesting that gas taxes are paying for bikes! There will be gnashing of teeth!!)

  13. Gary Richardson
    Apr 20, 2012, 5:14 pm

    To learn about the success and failure of bike-sharing systems elsewhere:

  14. Gary
    Another alternative for the $650,000 gasoline tax receipts would be to reduce our taxes on gas…. but as you politicians do… you figure out ways to spend it

  15. Well, I’m afraid the bikes would just all disappear again.

    Still, as for using the tax money taken from us by the feds: Let’s see, would I rather have my money given to some U.S. city for a possibly hare-brained idea, or used to blow up some town I never heard off in some country I know little about to kill a bunch of people who might or might not be bad guys?
    Hmmm ……

  16. @Gary: It used to pay for a lot more freeway before the highway departments got fat at the top. The highway system was/is at the core of our economy. The bikes are an expensive flop. Perhaps it’s time for a bike fee? Or how about selling memberships to let it pay for itself. Put my gas tax money where you said you would put it when you took it from me… under my wheels. Stop spending money so foolishly! People live in Kuna to get away from the city all all its crime and taxes. Norend is highest crime in the area. Big citys are really bad crime.

    BTW- Wiki sites will get you an “F” at any university.

  17. Gary Richardson
    Apr 21, 2012, 12:38 am

    Yeah, Steve, I’m somewhat familiar with the resentment some have for public spending (taxes) for bikes. There are some who resent bicyclists being on the public roads.

    Fuel taxes pay only a portion of the costs of our addictions to oil and autos. Property taxes pay for a sizable chunk of the local road system, which is where bikes could offer a viable alternative for lots more people.

  18. nan emouse Obama money?
    This goes way back before him. Damned if you don’t sound like one of them rich non Tax Paying Bush’s.

  19. Robert – I was under the impression that the $650,000 grant for this bike program came about during the last 3 years which I believe is the time that Obama has been in office and therefore would have been a grant given under his administration. But I could be wrong. Everything is all so Bush’s fault that I’m just not sure about the timelines anymore. Obama could have just been elected last week, but maybe it’s been over 3 years. It’s all so confusing.

    Anyway, I’m sure when the bikes get stolen, that will be Bush’s fault too since apparently according to Obama and his acolytes, like you, that everything is Bush’s fault. But it’s only money, and $650,000 is such a teeny tiny amount that really it doesn’t even count as money.

  20. Gary Richardson
    Apr 21, 2012, 10:42 am


    I’m already paying my “bike fees.”

    About $300 of my annual property taxes go to the ACHD, only about a third of whose costs are covered by fuel taxes. I also pay federal income taxes that subsidize the half of the cost of our heavily automobile/oil-dominated transportation system not covered by fuel taxes, which I pay as well when I fill the tanks of my autos.

    Bikes an “expensive flop”? Accommodation of bicycles on Ada County streets has markedly increased cycling, a much more efficient means of getting around locally than carting one’s heap of flesh around in a ton or more of poison-belching steel.

    You might want to check your facts on high-crime areas.

    Most people move to Kuna because they think housing is a lot cheaper there–until they add in the costs of driving elsewhere for work, shopping, entertainment, etc.

  21. I have a couple of thoughts:

    1. Bikes have to fit right to pedal right and be comfortable for the rider. How will this happen?

    2. Goatheads = flat tires. I don’t leave home w/o a spare tube and tools to fix a flat along with an air pump attached to the frame.

    Didn’t former mayor Brent Coles try this out with the yellow bike program. I don’t recall the fate of this program.

    I do agree with Mr. Richardson that $650k will buy about 1/2 mile of pavment. Iwould like to see lanes for bikes and would be willing to pay a registration fee to pay for them so I don’t have to battle cars while on my bike. There are rights of way along power lines that could be paved for bike use if everyone could agree on this move. Another area that is touchy with the irrigation people is the canal rights of way.

  22. I was on the committee that sponsored the Yellow Bike Project. It was a nightmare – and there wasn’t much demand.

    This will be the same.

  23. @ Gary: My facts are just fine. Look at the ADA crime map + stats which show Boise downtown and norend are the highest crime in the Boise area. If you go to a big city there is no doubt. Crime in the city is why the burbs were invented. All we need now is a large infusion of people who don’t have the same value system as we do and then the norend and bodo is truly doomed. The mayor is working on that for us too.

    A flop is something that needs continuous outside funding. That is what you are advocating. I’m advocating government stop destroying my financial future with failed ideas. Have you seen the facts of our national debt? What makes you think we can afford to give free bikes to the local bike thieves? If this thing is a good idea it would be done already.

    This bike thing sounds like a first lady campaign idea. Her other idea is collective urban farming and a lowering of the safe food standards for the stuff they sell in the street market (actually Mao’s idea but who noticed). 200 days!

  24. A 1995 study titled “Whose Roads?” by cycling advocate Todd Litman laid all this out in detail. The study estimated that automobile users pay an average of 2.3 cents per mile in user fees, including fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees, while they actually impose 6.5 cents per mile in road service costs. Who pays the difference? It’s picked up by general taxes and property assessments. So while bicyclists pay an equal share of those taxes, they impose costs averaging only 0.2 cents per mile in road service costs.

    Read more:

  25. Bike share programs are cool, but I don’t think Boise has the density.

    Bike share members secure the rental with a credit card so there is much incentive to bring them back.

    I ride to work every day, but I still have a registered car in my name as do most cyclist.

  26. Gary Richardson
    Apr 22, 2012, 10:28 pm


    Your “facts” are slippery. Originally, you said, “Norend is highest crime in the area.” Now, it’s, “…Boise downtown and norend are the highest crime in the Boise area.”

    Bikes don’t need “continuous outside finding.” Their riders just want their growing share of the transportation system–and dollars. I’m not saying that a bike-sharing program is necessarily a great expenditure. I was trying to introduce the idea that we have to do something different from what we’ve been doing, which is–in essence–building another half-mile of highway.

  27. Knowing the light rail/trolley is DOA, city is desperate to find another way to be progressive. Why do we look to the government for all our services and soltuions. Another writer had it right, if it was a good idea, the bike shops and bike co-ops would be doing it.

  28. @Gary: Norend in downtown the same, and I’m correct on the crime statistic or you would show otherwise. You’ve not replied to the challenges to your slippery facts. Lots of distraction tactics but no reply.

    So is the mayor going to build a new Chinese bicycle factory south of town to build these new bikes for the massive global free government bike market?

    New biking idea: If you want to bike? Reach in your pocket and buy one or rent one from an existing business. I think the law just changed to say the government is not suppose to be competing with business or something to that effect anyway.

    This idea is just more nanny state waste. And yes we do need to do something different. We need to get rid of incompetent buffoons in government. Yes get rid of the buffoons who have destroyed our economy while chasing after crazy theories on how to run a country. Greed, graft, and corruption should be the government manager’s focus.

  29. Everybody happy idea (other than freeloaders): Sell memberships. If you get enough money, then do it. If not enough money, refund those who bought in.

    And most importantly: Let the co-op our someone with some concept of how to run a business be the proprietor-manager.

  30. The federal dollars usually come with a required 15-20% local match. Its our money to begin with not the “feds” money, and secondly the local match has to come from the local community, either CCDC or City of Boise, either of which is really the public money anyway.

  31. Zippo,All:

    FYI: Unfortunately, HB 495 that would have prevented the Idaho Land Board from buying and running businesses died in a Senate committee after passing 63-3 in the House. The bill was held because there was no motion on the measure. Maybe next year? For more info, go to:

  32. Gary Richardson
    Apr 24, 2012, 8:56 pm

    The North End (V3) and Downtown (V2) are two different and distinct police crime reporting districts:
    There are ten reporting districts. Unfortunately, statistical summaries by neighborhood do not seem to be available online. But if this month’s reporting is any indication, both Downtown and the North End rank below several other districts in both number and severity of crimes reported.

    If you know of data showing the North End to be Boise’s high crime neighborhood, bring it on.

  33. You could be correct… my last peek at the data was a few years ago. Norend and DT are neighbors and they are still high on the list for crime. What is the worst now, is it the bench? Another nearby area.

    Did you look speciffically at bike theft?

    Back to the main point of this story: Tell me how you’re going to justify 2/3 of a million $$ and make the program self-sustaining. It’s seems to be an idea based on someone’s guess of what they think might improve people’s health. Seems to me it is not the kind of process we should follow to protect the public trust, even if it is Obama’s funny-money.

    Too many with too much spending power for too long = broke nation. We have arrived!

  34. Gary Richardson
    Apr 25, 2012, 5:09 pm

    How do you feel about spending $40 million to widen 1.2 miles of State St.–an idea based on someone’s guess of what they think might improve traffic’s health? Should we just keep feeding asphalt into that beast?

  35. States street wider? It’s a great idea. Traffic count and accident rates indicate the need. Probably getting wider, in part, for bicycles? You do not understand what keeps the lights on in this country if you think infrastructure improvement is a waste. They need to do it with fewer suits and more shovels like they did in the 1960s, before we got a building full of wasteful over-educated people at the transportation department. It’s not enough however. Really need to be building a loop of freeway around the whole town instead of making these dangerous through-streets bigger.

    Any bicycle theft specific crime stats yet. The latest ADA map seems to show the highest density crime in the area of our discussion. And how about that membership idea.

  36. sam the sham
    Apr 27, 2012, 4:53 am

    Kinda leaves out the tax payers on the bench doesn’t it!

  37. Gary Richardson
    Apr 27, 2012, 5:38 pm

    Oops! I erred in the comment above:
    The $40 million estimate is for widening 4 miles of State St.–from 23rd St. to Glenwood–$10 million per mile. Previously, I was measuring the distance from 23rd to Veterans Parkway/36th St.

  38. Gary Richardson
    Apr 27, 2012, 5:53 pm


    I believe membership is part of the Boise bike-sharing proposal. More important, I think, is the ability for anyone with a credit card to rent and secure one of the bikes.

    I agree that the project should become self-sustaining. I assume careful consideration is going into where to locate the 140 bikes for both security and convenience.

    I know, stupid me for thinking folks who’ve made careers out of transportation planning could come up with a workable idea; I must have been a bureaucrat in a previous life.

  39. Not should become. Should BE self-sustaining. Stop spinning and side-stepping.

    Assume nothing with this bunch of money wasting career people. They are about themselves first and public farther and farther down the list. They even pay people to blog about this kind of stuff so as to cloud the issue.

  40. Gary Richardson
    Apr 28, 2012, 11:39 am


    It’s clear from this conversation that you and I have very different views of what’s going on here–personally, with each other, in this community, this country, on this planet. I hope that yours brings you peace and happiness.

    Here we are, trapped in the amber of the moment. There is no why. –Kurt Vonnegut

    EDITOR NOTE–You have both been civil, but its time to move on to a new topic.

  41. More than happy to cause you frustration bother. Peace, love, and get your hand out of my pocket!

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