For Dave Fotsch, Boise GreenBike has been an interesting ride
by Brad Carlson, photography by Mark Dyrud
Before spearheading the GreenBike program, Dave Fotsch spent a lot of time behind a radio microphone or in front of a TV camera. When he wasn’t working, he pursued the “get there when we get there” hobby of bicycle touring, producing a patient enthusiasm that helped him to set Boise GreenBike in motion.
Boise GreenBike customers unlock, ride, and lock borrowed bikes in the urban area roughly from Expo Idaho east to Harris Ranch. The Valley Regional Transit-run service fields 114 bicycles at 15 stations, 10 of which have kiosks where users can insert a bank card and sign up for membership. If you spend much time downtown you’ve probably seen them, and you may have already experienced the convenience and utility of the program.
Inspired after seeing a presentation from bike-friendly Portland, Fotsch contemplated a sharing program for Boise. Analysis by Boise State University planning experts, two $320,000 federal grants secured with help from a CDHD colleague and $64,000 in startup funds from the City of Boise powered the organization’s launch. “This is my dream job,” Fotsch says.
Fotsch started as director at the end of September 2013 and immediately faced a big issue: A regional planning organization had pulled and redirected one of the federal grants.
“It presented a lot of challenges,” he says. Worst-case estimates for revenue and expenses helped, although “the first year, my learning curve was vertical.”
With equipment and infrastructure finally in place, GreenBikes officially launched in mid-April of 2015.
The initial year of Boise GreenBike operations has gone well overall, Fotsch says. Riders have had to learn where to pick up and return bikes, which limited demand early on. “There are a lot of challenges, but people are getting it,” he says.
User fees cover about a third of the budget; sponsorships by businesses cover the rest. In 2016 Fotsch aims to boost ridership and, depending on funding, expand the service area, increase the number of racks, and possibly acquire more of the purpose-built bikes.
“My goal is to make these racks as common downtown as phone booths used to be,” says Fotsch.
Lessons learned from a lifelong passion for cycling in general, and plenty of experience with bicycle touring in particular, have helped Fotsch stay focused. “That requires a lot of patience,” he says of bicycle touring. “You don’t get anywhere fast. I have been able to use that mindset, that patience, to see the project through.”
His efforts with Boise GreenBike continue the work he has done in the health sector since mid-1999. Before joining Central District Health in early 2005, he held high-profile jobs with the Idaho State University Institute of Emergency Management and American Red Cross of Greater Idaho. Earlier, he worked in various radio and TV jobs in Milwaukee and Boise, where he arrived in 1991 as a graduate assistant through Boise State University Public Radio.
“When I saw this opportunity, I thought, here is something I could bring to Boise and really make a difference in our community,” Fotsch says.
“I know bikes are a transformative technology. They improve cities. This is part of my mission.”
1017 Main St., Boise