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Boise v. Pittsburgh: Battle for Business

Boise, Idaho, and Pittsburgh, Pa., had to laugh last spring: They were both tied for the most Bicycle Friendly Business awardees all-time in their cities. Both sides were then determined to reach the top spot come this Fall. Well, they both did a great job recruiting businesses to recognize the benefits of bicycling in the workplace, encouraging several organizations to apply. Boise and Pittsburgh, as of today’s Fall announcement, are tied again, with four new businesses each! Today, we hear from Boise’s Dave Fotsch, the director of Boise Bike Share, about this cities efforts this round. It’s going to be an exciting Spring for the Bicycle Friendly Business program…


When you think about some of the great rivalries in sports it’s easy to point to the Red Sox and the Yankees or the Packers and the Bears. But there’s another rivalry barely getting noticed, except among those in bicycle circles.

This clash of titans seems mismatched. Pittsburgh, the Steel City, with a population of just over 300,000, is being pitted against Boise, Idaho, the City of Trees, with a population of just 200,000.

When the last round of Bicycle Friendly Businesses was announced in May, Boise found out it had 25 –so did Pittsburgh. A plan was already underway in the City of Trees to top not just Pittsburgh, but every city in the United States.

“About a year ago we put together a list of about a hundred businesses that we thought were bicycle friendly,” recalled Jimmy Hallyburton, Executive Director of the Boise Bicycle Project, a Platinum-level BFB. “All they really needed to do was apply and we thought the application process would help set them on the path to really becoming bicycle friendly businesses.”

The challenge, of course, is actually getting those businesses to complete the application.

“The success that we’ve had has been going to these places and getting them started on the process,” said Hallyburton. “The places where we just emailed and said, ‘You guys really ought to apply,’ it seems like they never followed through.”

One of the places that will be applying in 2015 is Ada County. Kelly Paananen, the County’s Risk Manager and a daily cyclist, got interested after the controversy surrounding the county highway district’s all-too-brief experiment with protected bike lanes.

“Ada County would love to be a part of this process,” said Paananen. “So I met with the Commissioners and said ‘Why don’t we do our own, and make the Courthouse and other facilities more bicycle friendly?’”

The Commissioners agreed, which led to the creation of a committee of employees focused on making the Courthouse and surrounding offices more bicycle friendly. Paananen also reached out to Jimmy Hallyburton for assistance with the application.

“Ada County was easy,” he recalled. “I met with Kelly and she found the 10 most motivated bicycle riders at the courthouse.”

The result is a brand new bike repair stand, additional bike parking and a webpage about biking that will launches today as the county formally announces its efforts to achieve Bicycle Friendly Business status.

And that’s how it’s done, one business at a time. Boise is gunning for the top spot, and Kelly Paananen is leading the charge, even though she has mixed loyalties.

“I really would like to see Boise kick their ass, although I am a Steelers fan,” She laughs. “Boise’s such a small town, it would be nice to be recognized for something like this. They don’t need all the glory, we don’t even have a professional sports team.”

Pittsburgh, this is your notice. Boise is recruiting a hundred bicycle friendly businesses and not even the Steelers defensive line can stop them.