In a perfect world, everyone would have a bicycle.
At least that's one of the founding principles of the newly formed Boise Bicycle Project, a nonprofit bicycle cooperative that's hoping to further propel Boise's cycling community into a more cohesive, commuter-friendly and charitable direction.
Started in October by two Boise-based Idaho City Hotshot firefighters, BBP held its first meeting last week to introduce itself to the community at large and seek input from pedal-pushing locals.
"Everyone was excited about different things we could do to promote bicycling in Boise and to really have a rallying point as far as bicycle culture goes," says co-founder 26-year-old Brian Anderson. "There are a lot of different personalities in the cycling community in Boise, and this would be someplace where they can all come together, to meet and discuss issues and work on bikes."
Anderson and co-founder Jimmy Hallyburton, 25, say that BBP emulates nonprofit bicycle co-ops in bigger cities as a multifaceted organization that collects, repairs and donates used bicycles to those unable to afford them, in addition to being a fully functional repair shop, used bike retailer, community workspace and educational center.
"Right now, we're collecting used bicycles and either donating them to people who need them and can't afford them, or will sell them at a price people can afford," explains Hallyburton. By spring, Anderson and Hallyburton plan to have a permanent location in which to further expand BBP's services.
"By spring we'll have a shop space that has open work stands so people can come in and work on their own bikes with our help. We'll operate similar to a co-op, where people can either pay a membership fee and use our stands whenever they want, but also, we'll have after-hours workshops when anyone can come in for free and work on their bike." They're also planning to have nights dedicated to various workshops, like a ladies' night or a kids' night, to provide bicycle-repair education in a non-threatening and comfortable environment.
Hallyburton recently spent three weeks in Portland, Ore., researching a range of similar establishments, and he says it's crazy that Boise doesn't already have an organization like BBP given the fact that the city has such a well-established cycling community.
"There's not even a place in Boise that sells used bikes other than thrift stores," says Hallyburton "And a lot of times those bikes are 'as is.' There's not a store that sells decent, old used bikes that have been fixed up to sell at a reasonable price."
However BBP doesn't have fixer-uppers in mind to create a profit margin. Instead Hallyburton and Anderson are repairing bicycles in order to donate them to low-income adults in need of reliable transportation and kids whose parents simply can't afford to buy them a bicycle. Through a partnership with Idaho Federation of Families for Children's Mental Health, a statewide nonprofit organization offering support, advocacy and training for families that have children with mental disabilities, BBP was able to hit the ground running as a nonprofit organization.
The federation's administrative director Courtney Santillan thought BBP's concept was so beneficial not only to the work Idaho Federation of Families does, but to the community as a whole, that she offered to sponsor BBP. Under IFF's 501(c)3 status, Santillan helps Anderson and Hallyburton write grants and will eventually house and monitor whatever funds BBP is able to secure until it's able to establish its own nonprofit status.
"We'd like to see it expand to a statewide project," explains Santillan. "A lot of the rural areas really need something like this, as we've certainly recognized in the work that we do. And we have connections with the kids who need the bikes."
Currently, Hallyburton and Anderson, who are both taking the time off from their seasonal jobs to focus on starting up BBP, are in the process of overhauling almost 70 bikes for donation. Hallyburton says he spent several weeks trolling area thrift stores buying inexpensive bicycles with money from his own pocket. Recently, he forged a partnership with the Idaho Youth Ranch to inexpensively acquire bicycles that usually end up recycled or in the landfill if IYR is unable to sell them.
Already, however, BBP is feeling the pains of growing. The bicycles BBP recently picked up from IYR are being stored under a tarp in Anderson's back yard, and Hallyburton says they have another two dozen used 10-speeds and cruiser bikes at an apartment only used for storage, where the two spend most of their time repairing bikes. Although Hallyburton says plenty of people offered up storage space at last week's meeting, a permanent location to ease some of the storage pressure is a high priority.
"We want to keep it in the downtown area because that's where all the commuters are; and we want to have a stand that's sitting outside our shop with a pump so that if somebody needs to come in and pump up a tire, they can commute over, fill their tire or do whatever, and the stand is outside," says Hallyburton.
He and Anderson are eyeballing a place near the intersection of Broadway and Warm Springs avenues that has garage space for storage, a large floor area to be used as workspace and a living area downstairs. Hallyburton says several locations downtown have also piqued his interest, but for BBP's purposes may prove too costly.
"Right now, our number one need is money," he says. "With that we need to buy work stands because more workstands would make it so that we could have multiple people working on bikes. Two huge needs are bicycle tires and bicycle seats. For the most part, we can fix up any bicycle out there, but the parts we have to replace are the tires, the tubes and sometimes the chains."
In the coming weeks, BBP is hosting a benefit concert in conjunction with Sun Valley band Finn Riggins' CD release party at Neurolux. Anderson says he'll raffle off one of BBP's restored bicycles, speak about the organization and its goals, and raise money to keep things moving forward.
While raising money and awareness of their cause are BBP's most immediate goals, Anderson and Hallyburton say that in the long term, they'd like to see BBP be an important player in the bicycle community, giving back to the community through charity. And for others to share that vision.
"What we're really hoping is that we can find some enthusiastic folks that want to be a part of it," says Anderson.
Want to volunteer or make a donation? For more information on the Boise Bicycle Project, visit BoiseBicycleProject.org. BBP's benefit concert featuring the CD release party for Finn Riggins is Sat., Dec. 22, 7 p.m. Neurolux, 113 N. 11th St.