Sharing Bikes, Burning More Calories, Less Carbon 

Pay-as-you-go for $4 or secure an annual membership for $70 ($46 for students).

Kelsey Hawes

Pay-as-you-go for $4 or secure an annual membership for $70 ($46 for students).

Within days of the April 22 rollout of Boise GreenBike, the City of Trees' new bike-share service, Boiseans got two pounds lighter—and it can only go down from there. Boise GreenBike calculated that approximately 7,000 calories had been burned in 251 trips—mostly short ones—around town. More impressive, officials said 156 pounds of carbon had been reduced by riders; that's the equivalent of the CO2 emissions from 29 gallons of gasoline or 279 pounds of coal burned, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Not bad for the long-anticipated program, still in its infancy.

Boise GreenBike started as an idea that came four years ago to its now-director Dave Fotsch. He was attending a lecture by Mia Birk, the then-Bicycle Program manager for the city of Portland, Ore. Birk went on to head Alta Planning and Design, which kick-started bike sharing in Boston and Washington, D.C.

"It generated a light bulb moment for me," Fotsch told Boise Weekly.

Anyone who knows Fotsch, even remotely, knows that he is an avid cyclist, so it was no huge surprise that he wanted to introduce a bicycle sharing program to Boise. When he served as public information officer for the Central District Health Department—a position he held for more than eight years—Fotsch crafted a one-sheet proposal for his director in hopes that the department would get behind the project. The concept was simple: a program in which someone could rent a bike anytime they wanted. The execution was as complex as any public service, but in time the city of Boise agreed to the project, Valley Regional Transit got on board as the lead agency and Fotsch was named the program director.

Today, Boise GreenBike boasts 114 bikes at 15 stations located throughout downtown and on the campus of Boise State University.

"For someone that doesn't want to buy a daily or a weekly bike from the Cycle Learning Center, it is the perfect alternative," said Samuel Patterson, assistant director of Boise State Transportation and Parking Services. "It's great for our students."

Two stations were set up on campus: one near the Student Union, which is considered the center of campus life, and another near the Boise State Interactive Learning Center on the north side of campus, along University Drive.

"Trends on college campuses are becoming less and less car-centric," said Stephen RItter, Boise State's Bicycle Program supervisor. "This is just another great option for them to have something to rely on but not have to take on the responsibility of maintenance issues."

Fotsch is already looking to put more Boise GreenBike stations on or near the Boise State campus.

"The university is very interested in the data that we are going to generate from this system," Fotsch said. "If it shows that it is successful then we will install more stations on campus.

"That data," he added, includes "the number of trips and time spent aboard the shared bikes, but also the number of calories burned, carbon reduced and even dollars saved by rising vs. driving [$102 in the first two weeks]."

Boise GreenBike offers several options to consumers: a pay-as-you go fee ($4 per hour); a monthly fee ($15), which secures one hour of usage per day; and an annual fee ($70) for one hour of usage per day. Anyone who has a monthly or annual membership pays $4 per hour for any extra hours, per day. Student annual fees are $46, which give one hour of usage per day. Founding memberships ($100) secure 90 minutes of usage per day, plus a free helmet. Bikes can be taken/returned from any of the program's 15 stations across the city.

In a passing glance, the bikes look familiar, but a closer inspection reveals that they are unique from any other on the street.

"It's a bike designed from the ground-up just for bike share," Fotsch said.

Each two-wheeler includes a GPS device, tracking the bike's whereabouts 24/7. A solar panel keeps its battery charged and a touch-screen pad allows users to identify themselves with a four-digit pin number.

"They're a bit different than some of the systems you might see in New York or Chicago," Fotsch added. "Those bikes have to be returned to their specified [station]; with our bikes you don't have to do that."

That said, if a bike is locked up outside of a station hub, which is indeed allowed under the Boise system, there's a $2 "out-of-hub" fee. Fotsch added that there's a flipside: if you return a bike locked out-of-hub to a station hub, your account is automatically credited $1, which can be used for additional ride time.

Boise GreenBike has set a goal of 25,000 rides in its first year, which Fotsch said "is a reasonable goal."

As for calories burned? That's a bonus.

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