With diverse reasons but a common bond, members of the local cycling community packed into the downtown WaterCooler on May 24 to shift the first-ever Boise Bicycle Congress into gear.
Representing everyone from velocachers (geocachers on wheels) to representatives from the Idaho Transportation Department, attendees presented several different agendas. For some, it was disappointment with what they considered toothless laws or absent infrastructure. For others, it was the lack of a decent bike map. What united them was their frustration that despite Boise being thick with bike organizations, there was little advocacy.
"What this community is missing is a single organization that will represent the common cause," said congress co-organizer Rick Overton. "That represents both the challenge and the opportunity before us today."
More than 30 attendees introduced themselves over beer and pizza, sharing their beefs before attempting to form an agenda.
Whitney Rearick, executive director of the Idaho Pedestrian and Bicycle Alliance and the meeting's other organizer, said the group could be different from other local cycling alliances because the specific goal would be advocacy, something either outside the mission or just off the table for other groups like Southwest Idaho Mountain Biking Association, Boise Bicycle Project or Treasure Valley Cycling Alliance.
It didn't take long before an entire wall was covered with sticky notes, representing everything from softer proposals like encouraging more bike-in events to harder proposals like including bicycle education with driver education in schools, changing the building permitting process to ensure construction doesn't block bike lanes, and getting bike lanes on State Street.
More than a brainstorming session, the meeting represented a growing backlash against community organizations seen as lying down on the job.
"No one said, 'Let's act on this tragedy and get organized,'" said Rearick, referring to the deaths of three cyclists within one month in 2009. "Why? There wasn't any leadership. We're trying to provide that."
Several members of the meeting said they had previously looked to TVCA, the group behind Boise Bike Week, but had been told the group wasn't interested in advocacy, only in community events.
After more than a half hour of brainstorming, the congress adjourned for the evening, planning to reconvene in two weeks and figure out what to do about its list of ideas.
But the first meeting did not result in the official formation of a group. To further complicate things, Rearick, one of the driving forces of the initiative, announced she was planning to move away from Boise in the near future, meaning the entire effort could easily crumble.
But Rearick remained optimistic.
"We have some clear ideas to focus on," she said. "Now we just need to get some leaders to emerge."