Boise GreenBike: A lesson for the future

Fred Birnbaum Articles

For summer relaxation, there’s nothing quite like hopping on my bike and hitting a trail in the foothills.

I love my bikes and I’m thankful many see Boise as a bicycle-friendly town.

That said, I’m firmly convinced only government could flip a simple mode of transportation into a taxpayer-funded boondoggle.

It’s easy to notice the new Boise GreenBike set up, as 15 bright green racks around town offer access to bicycle for rent at $4 an hour or $70 for a yearly membership.

The program offers more than 100 bikes, which without government interference, probably sell for $300 a pop. These models feature sophisticated GPS tracking technology, boosting the price by at least $1,000.

What a deal, right?

Now, if this were solely a private venture, I’d have no gripes. If peddling pricy bike rentals works in the private sector, more power to you.

That’s not what this is, though. Boise city used a $320,000 federal grant to acquire and place the bikes, money helping the city compete with private businesses likes Bikes2Boards near Veterans Memorial Park.

Is this fair, given the product placement advantage the city has using sidewalks?

The rental process is overly complex for such a simple item. You have to download an app, use it to locate a bike and pay with a credit card. The city would like to see 25,000 trips, according to the Program Manager, to consider BoiseGreenBike a success.

They are not on pace to do that.

Let’s hope Boise residents keep this novelty in mind when Mayor Dave Bieter or another city official promotes the notion of a trolley or circulator again. If the Boise bike program seems frivolous, a circulator would be a real horror show.

Think of the construction, the torn up streets, the lane reductions and restrictions during the construction phase.

If a trolley ever becomes operational, city officials would quickly defend low-use rates, just like they do with the Boise bikes or regional transit buses.

Let’s learn from this mistake and not go down the path of another silly public project – the circulator. Let’s use our transportation funds for roads and bridges – something with a daily demonstrated need.