Jimmy Hallyburton, executive director and co-founder of Boise Bicycle Project, is a Boise populist par excellence. The nonprofit he manages gives away a thousand bikes a year to children in need, and he has for a long time been the face of Boise's bicycling community, first leveraging the growing number of people riding their bikes into a movement, then transforming the city into one of the most cycle-friendly places in the country.
"It all starts with ideas, and it starts with people getting behind those ideas," he said.
On Friday and Saturday, Aug. 2 and 3, he and thousands of others will be in Cecil D. Andrus Park for the second-annual Boise Goathead Fest. It's the biggest BBP event of the year, but more than that, it's a rallying point for cyclists as a social, political and economic movement, and Hallyburton makes no bones about harnessing that power to do big things.
"We're going to have the mayor up there kicking off the bicycle parade, but while he's up there, we're going to be talking about things to improve our bicycle communities, including bikeways along canal access roads, and when he hears us say something like that, and he hears the audience react in favor of something like that, we can push things a bit further," he said.
During the event, there will, of course, the aforementioned parade—folks can attend for a recommended $5 donation to a Goathead Fest-affiliated nonprofit of their choice—and there will also be events for kids, live music, vendors, crafts, a launch party, Frankenbike demos, dance battles and a whole lot more. It's a chance for people to get down to the park on their bikes and celebrate being cyclists; but as with much that BBP does, service and advocacy elements have been woven into all of it.
During the lead-up to the event in 2018, BBP announced it had set a community goal of collecting goatheads, especially in neighborhoods where it had donated bikes in the past. The burrs are responsible for hundreds, if not thousands, of flat tires every year, and people rallied, gathering 2,000 pounds of them. This year, BBP set a lofty goal of picking up 8,000 pounds of them, and though just 2,000 pounds have been pulled up so far, Hallyburton said BBP already sees an impact.
"We focus on pulling in lower-income neighborhoods, and last year, we saw about half the flat tires we normally see with people we give bicycles to, so we know that year after year, we can decrease the amount of flat tires for all types of people," Hallyburton said.
The idea of focusing on goatheads was an "idea in our back pockets for years," and Hallyburton added that they "probably do more damage to this bicycle community than anything else" by discouraging people from riding their bikes. BBP's chance to implement a mass strategy at eliminating them came when Tour De Fat, the New Belgium Brewing Company-sponsored all-things-bike fundraiser, announced it was pulling stakes from Boise in spring 2018. With just a couple of months before TDF was expected to take place, BBP acted quickly, pivoting it into the Goathead Fest. To hear Hallyburton talk about it, much of the community BBP and other organizations had helped build around bikes hung in the balance.
"We felt like we had no other option," he said. "Our income at BBP is very diversified. Losing Tour De Fat is like losing a chunk, but it wouldn't sink us. We'd be alright. Some other nonprofits that were involved with Tour De Fat, it was their largest fundraiser of the entire year."
In Goathead's first year, it received $15,000 from New Belgium, and in 2019, all funds will come from local sources (including sponsorship from Boise Weekly). The move speaks to Goathead Fest's tagline, "Pedal-Powered, Wonderfully Weird and Bona Fide Boise," but it also diversifies its funding to protect smaller participating nonprofits like the Treasure Valley Cycling Alliance and the South West Idaho Mountain Biking Association. The event hopes to roll in other nonprofits like the Payette River Bicycle Movement in Valley County, in addition to businesses that benefit from big downtown events. In 2018, every participating nonprofit walked away with at least $1,000.
Hallyburton, who is now running for a seat on the Boise City Council, has deftly parlayed Tour De Fat, and now Goathead Fest, into political capital. Though he won't speak from the Capitol steps about his candidacy during the festival, he will talk about other ambitions, including a plan to transform the maintenance tracks around Boise-area canals into bike tracks similar to the Boise Greenbelt, that would require cooperation between numerous organizations, including the city, the Ada County Highway District and canal administrators.
"[It's] similar to what was created 50 years ago for the Boise Greenbelt. People keep telling us it's impossible, we'll never be able to do this, the irrigation districts are too hard to work for, and I can say, 'Well, that's what they said about the Boise Greenbelt,'" Hallyburton said. "There's no way we'd be able to get it done, and instead, it ended up saving the Boise River and creating the backbone of our entire community. We're a community that can do hard things."