The Boise Bike Share isn't the Yellow Bike program.
Yellow Bike lasted just one year in the 1990s. It was a disaster.
"You can consider it first-generation bike share. Bikes were simply left around town, unlocked, and anyone could take them, ride them, leave them anywhere they wanted. And that was, indeed, the problem," said Dave Fotsch, who in September became the director of the Bike Share, a division of Valley Regional Transit.
"The homeless adopted a bunch of them. Ne'er-do-well youth took them and threw them in the river. They were kind of crappy bikes to begin with. ... It just didn't work."
Yellow Bike's stigma follows Boise Bike Share as Fotsch and other transportation experts try to get it started.
"Boy, are people's memories long," Fotsch said. "It's tainting what we're trying to do."
Last October, the Statesman reported that Valley Regional Transit was struggling to find money for the program. Now, Bike Share is on the verge of becoming a reality.
Fotsch said a grant from the Federal Highway Administration's Transportation Alternatives Program will cover more than half of the program's expected $650,000 startup cost for bikes and equipment to check them in and out. The city of Boise contributed $64,000. Idaho's Central District Health Department and Boise State University pledged smaller amounts: as much as $44,000 and $10,000, respectively.
The transit authority has asked for vendor proposals to develop the share system. Responses are due Friday. Fotsch said the authority wants to launch Boise Bike Share by summer.
Here's how it would work: A customer buys a membership — anything from one day for $5 to a year for $75 — at one of 14 stations around Downtown Boise. Each station has 10 bike stalls.
After paying, members can take a bike -- probably a three-speed cruiser — for as long as 30 minutes, then check it back into any Bike Share station. Longer than 30 minutes will mean added fees. A member may take unlimited 30-minute rides until the membership ends.
Stations are a major cost — between $20,000 and $30,000 each. A cheaper bike-share option, one that's in use in Hailey, would have no stations. Instead, all the paying and checking-out technology is attached to the bike. The problem with this system is that bikes can end up just about anywhere, since there's no requirement to check them back in at a dependable location.
That's one of the reasons most people prefer a system that has stations, Fotsch said.
"There is a sense of permanence with the stations," he said. "You know you'll find bikes there."
'HEALTHIEST CITY IN AMERICA'
Boise City Councilman TJ Thomson has made public health his focus in office. Thomson said that bike sharing can be a component of his larger goal of helping Boise become "the healthiest city in America."
"We have to get creative and find unique ways to get people moving, and this is one of them," he said. "We have to do it brick-by-brick with very little funding."
Fotsch is hoping for 1,000 members in the first year of Bike Share's existence. After that, there's a built-in assumption that the program will grow.
Thomson expects Bike Share participation to start slowly. The key to its long-term success is making sure that the bike stations are in the best locations, he said.
"It's going to take a large network of them to have the impact ... that we expect and want to have," Thomson said. "The more centers — as long as they're located in the right location right at the start — the more chance it has for success."
MANAGING THE SYSTEM
The original plan for Bike Share was to introduce the stations in two phases. The first would include three stations in the Downtown core and four more near high-interest locations, such as St. Luke's hospital, Julia Davis Park, the Boise Public Library, the Greenbelt and Boise State University.
The second-phase stations would be scattered farther from the Downtown core, with locations as far northwest as the corner of 16th and State streets, and as far southeast as the corner of ParkCenter and Park boulevards.