Central District Health Department officials believe it will cost about $650,000 to get bike sharing off the ground. After that, it will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars every year to operate.
But its worth every penny, district health spokesman Dave Fotsch said.
Its a matter of health, he said.
The trick is finding all those pennies.
Programs around the country make bikes available for free or inexpensively, so people can grab one and drop it off at their destination. Think of a Boise State student hopping on a bike for a quick trip to the Downtown.
Such programs are meant to boost transit systems and encourage people not to drive their cars into town. Sixty percent of errands are within a mile of the home or office, and 80 percent are within 3 miles, according to Central District Health. Cars are least efficient and most polluting when driven short distances.
The way health officials see it, Fotsch told members of the Boise City Council on Tuesday, getting more people on bikes will reap public health benefits in three ways.
First, it will encourage exercise in a state where more than one-quarter of the adult population is obese.
Second, it will improve air quality.
Third, it will enhance road safety.
Motorists, Fotsch said, tend to drive more slowly when there are more bikes on the road.
As for funding, the federal government denied an application for a grant that would have paid for the programs initial cost.
The health district, Capital City Development Corp. and Boise State University have pledged a total of $64,000, but thats less than 10 percent of whats needed to get started.
Fotsch asked the council to match that amount, but the members were noncommittal.
Theres a cheaper option for Boise, but council members werent very enthusiastic about it.
The original model for the bike program has found success in several cities across the country. It calls for 140 bikes and 14 stations positioned around Downtown, where customers can rent and return the bikes. Memberships could range from $8 a day to $65 a year ($45 for students), with bike rentals being as cheap as $1.50 for the first hour.
An alternative system would have no stations. Instead, equipment on the bike itself would coordinate the reserving, renting and returning of the bikes. Its cost would come to less than a third of the original model with savings from cheaper bikes and no return stations.
But the system has virtually no track record, either for success or failure, Fotsch said. Council members Elaine Clegg and David Eberle said theyd rather put the citys money into a tried-and-true system than a cheaper one thats unproven.
Fotsch said St. Lukes Health System has shown interest and could become a supporter. Eberle said thats a step in the right direction. He suggested that the health district recruit supporters among other hospitals, groups and private companies.
Sven Berg: 377-6275