Guest Opinion by
GUARDIAN bike Nazi
A bike share – just like in the Big City! – is on the horizon, here in li’l ol’ Boise! The honchos are predicting that by the end of April, 114 shareable bikes will be available at 15 stations, scattered around the city center, north end, and BSU area.
According to the website you download the app (very 21st-century!) and reserve a bike. The pay-as-you-go plan is $4/hour. Or a membership can be purchased for a month or a year, which includes one hour per day of bike use. There is also an additional $2 “out of hub” fee if you stray out of the approved zone. (How did they come up with the hub? Who knows? Perhaps they asked Mayor Bieter where he likes to ride…or the legislature will rule outside the hub like they do with Uber).
Old-timers will remember a “yellow bike” scheme from a few years back. Cheap bikes were painted pale yellow and dropped on city streets for free use by whoever came along. Nobody should’ve been surprised when the bikes evaporated or ended up trashed and abandoned. By contrast, the new Green bikes will be maintained… and the registered borrower will be responsible for safekeeping. You can’t just ride to your destination, lean the bike against a tree or a parking meter, and walk away.
The bikes look a little on the “klunky” size – cruiser-style bikes with fat tires, baskets, adjustable seats, etc. They have a GPS locator, just in case one wanders off the range. One interesting feature – they have a drive shaft instead of a chain. They should be low-maintenance and well-suited for putting around in the downtown/hub area.
Will it succeed?
Bike-shares have been wildly successful in big cities like Boston and New York. In those cities, with dense populations and heavy tourism, bicycle ownership is a luxury. By contrast, Boise is a sprawling suburbia where most residents live away from downtown and can easily own a fleet of bikes and a place to store ’em.
The membership and rental fees will not cover the costs. Our bankrupt federal government wrote the check for the startup costs, and sponsors will kick in for the ongoing operational costs. Good neighbor St. Lukes is sponsoring it. (Perhaps I’m just being cynical, but are they trying to buy some “good will” from area bike riders, to help them with their grandiose plans to rearrange their neighborhood?) I expect that taxpayers will also help foot the bill going forward, but it’s hard to say what the level of commitment ($) will be.
I saw the spokesman on TV – he was saying the “app” will keep track of how many miles you ride, how many dollars you saved on gas, how much atmospheric carbon your smart transportation choice prevented, etc. Life is good! (Obviously those numbers are only meaningful if the GreenBike is replacing some other form of transportation. If you’re driving downtown to ride a GreenBike, and then driving home again afterwards, you’ll end up spewing more deadly carbon than if you’d just stayed home.)
I personally hope that a year from now we can look back and declare it an unqualified success! But I’m also happy that they have the good judgment to start off modestly.
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