Boise GreenBike's Dave Fotsch Talks Setting Up Bike Shares at Bike Week Summit 

click to enlarge Boise GreenBike Director Dave Fotsch spoke Friday morning at the Idaho State Capitol.

Harrison Berry

Boise GreenBike Director Dave Fotsch spoke Friday morning at the Idaho State Capitol.

Boise GreenBike Director Dave Fotsch said he may have a "master's, if not a Ph.D" in bike shares, and at a Friday morning presentation at the Idaho State Capitol, part of the Idaho Walk Bike Summit 2018 symposium, the City of Trees' bike share guru discussed options for other cities looking to hop on the pedals and start bike shares of their own.

"Partnership is absolutely critical to bringing bike share to your community," he said.

Years of research, planning and fundraising led up to the April 2015 launch of Boise GreenBike, and it took many partners, including sponsors SelectHealth and St. Luke's, as well as close work with stakeholders like the City of Boise, the Ada County Highway District and Valley Regional Transit—of which GreenBike is a division—to deploy a fleet of 114 bikes parked at 15 stations across the downtown area.

click to enlarge - Boise GreenBike was launched in April 2015. -  - KELSEY HAWES
  • Kelsey Hawes
  • Boise GreenBike was launched in April 2015.
Since then, GreenBike has grown to include 127 bikes parked at 81 stations and "flex hubs," and wide use has made the bikes a common sight around town. People make approximately 25,000 trips on GreenBikes each year.

The GreenBike system, which partners with public and private entities, and relies on sponsorships and grants for financing, isn't the only model cities have used to put publicly available bikes on the streets, and Fotsch pointed to bike "libraries," where people can "check out" bikes just like they would a library book; privately funded ride shares, city-run programs; and third-party, contracted bike share services.

By working closely with cities and communities, Fotsch said bike shares can enjoy success in promoting public health, reducing roadway congestion and improving air quality—but without public buy-in, he warned, cities could end up like Dallas, Texas, where an influx of bike share programs have littered city streets and sidewalks, sometimes impeding use and ADA access; or some cities in China, where rapid and massive implementation of bike share programs has left tens of thousands of bikes abandoned in urban areas.

"These are virtually disposable and many of the companies went out of business [in China]," Fotsch said.

click to enlarge - LimeBike Director of Government Affairs and Strategic Development Gabriel Scheer delivered a presentation on his bike share to the Boise City Council on May 15. -  - HARRISON BERRY/CITY OF BOISE
  • Harrison Berry/City of Boise
  • LimeBike Director of Government Affairs and Strategic Development Gabriel Scheer delivered a presentation on his bike share to the Boise City Council on May 15.
He delivered his remarks as a potential competitor, LimeBike, tries to make inroads into Boise. LimeBike uses a "dockless" system, which means users use their smartphones to locate and unlock bikes scattered about the city, reducing the need to rely on expensive "hubs" like Boise GreenBike uses, but potentially making its bikes less secure and more prone to abuse. The company made a presentation before the Boise City Council on May 15.

Based out of San Mateo, California, the company is funded by more than $130 million in venture capital, which the company has used to deploy thousands of bikes in nearly 40 cities and college campuses in the U.S. and Europe. Its vast resources make rolling out the service virtually free for municipalities, but in an interview with Fotsch following LimeRide's presentation, he expressed skepticism about the company's business model.

"This company is a little over a year old. In less than a year, they’ve developed this model and deployed in cities across the country," Fotsch said. "I think it’s still an unproven model. How long can they keep bleeding money? They’re not making any money. Trust me on this, I know: I run a bike-share system."

Fotsch said, however, that for many cities with developing bicycle infrastructure, it takes blood, sweat and tears to build a bike share of their own, but the benefits are worth the effort.

"Bike share is not easy," he said. "But if you have a passion for it, you can bring it to your community."
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