Episode 016 – Jimmy Hallyburton: The Speed of Discovery
“Decrease the speed at which you move through the universe, and your universe expands.”
Decrease the speed at which you move through the universe, and your universe expands.
My guest this week is Jimmy Hallyburton. Jimmy is a former Hot Shot fire-fighter, TEDx speaker, city council member, and the Executive Director of the Boise Bicycle Project.
The organization is nationally known for its programs that serve incoming refugees, incarcerated individuals, and families experiencing homelessness.
He created the Boise Goathead Fest, a community-building event that’s grown into one of America’s largest bicycle festivals. In 2021 took part in the planning and creation of 110 miles of walking and biking pathways across Boise.
He’s concise with his ideas on building community and modifying city infrastructures to better accommodate bicycles as solutions to city congestion and health issues.
It’s a great conversation and you’ll want to listen to the end.
If you like what you’re hearing, subscribe and share this show with your friends because it doesn’t go anywhere without you.
Until next time, be nice and do good stuff.
- Instagram: @jimmyhallyburton, @ boisebicycleproject , @ boisegoatheadfest
- TED Talk: The Speed of Discovery
- Fun facts: I once lost 30 pounds, almost got lost at sea, and nearly bleed to death on a Baja sailing/bicycle trip gone bad. Listen to Jimmy talk about that here.
Jimmy Hallyburton was born and raised on a dairy farm in Boise Idaho. “Be home by dinner,” and “be kind to others,” are the only rules he remembers growing up with.
After fighting wildfires on a Forest Service Hotshot crew for 4 years while attending Boise State University, he created a nonprofit called the Boise Bicycle Project (BBP) in 2007. As BBP’s 15-year Executive Director, he has helped fix and distribute over 20,000 bicycles to families in need, and has made the organization nationally known for its programs that serve incoming refugees, incarcerated individuals, and families experiencing homelessness.
In 2018, he created Boise Goathead Fest, a community building event that has grown into one of America’s largest bicycle festivals.
Jimmy was elected to Boise City Council in 2019. In 2021, he led a Bicycle Pathways Master Planning process that set in motion 110 miles of off-street walking and biking pathways across Boise’s neighborhoods. Jimmy believes that beautiful change happens when people slow down, share space, and come together to get their hands dirty.
[00:00:00] Chris: All right, time to unset. How you doing today? How you feeling? That’s enough small talk. Let’s get after it.
[00:00:13] All right. All right. Episode 16, let’s get into it. Let’s go. My guest this week is a former hotshot firefighter, TEDx speaker, City Council member, and the executive director of the Boise Bicycle Project. The organization is nationally known for its programs that serve incoming refugees, incarcerated individuals, and families experiencing homelessness.
[00:00:33] He created the Boise Goat Head Fest, a community building event that’s grown into one of America’s largest bicycle festivals in 2021, he took part in the planning and creation of 110 miles of walking and biking pathways across Boise. He’s concise with his ideas on building community and modifying city infrastructures to better accommodate bicycles as solutions to city congestion and rising health issues. I hope you enjoy my conversation as much as I did with Boise City councilman Jimmy Hallyburton. I’m thrilled you’re here. Jimmy, if you can just to get started, if you can just fill us in a little bit on your backstory or your origin story.
[00:01:11] Jimmy Hallyburton: Yeah, absolutely. So I was born in Boise, Idaho.
[00:01:15] and I actually grew up in the same house that my mom did. My grandpa built the house in the fifties. My mom grew up there and then she sold it to my parents. And that’s where I was born and raised in that same house. And it’s on the outskirts of Boise and right next to a dairy farm.
[00:01:32] And this was in the, 1980s, early eighties. And we always joke around that Idaho is about five or 10 years behind everywhere. But I had this childhood that people think about where the rule is be home by dinner and there’s really not a lot of other rules, and you’re just kind of wandering around as a kid throughout the neighborhood and getting into, you know, all sorts of healthy mischief hopefully, and exploring around.
[00:01:53] And then it’s just a, an unbelievable amount of freedom that I felt like I had as a kid. And for me not only was I wandering around, but I was also always wandering around on a bicycle. And so for my entire life, my bicycle has sort of been this feeling of or symbol of freedom and opportunity.
[00:02:11] I remember at a young age pedaling out of my dirt driveway for the first time and feeling like my entire world had expanded at that point, it had been contained to my front yard, my backyard, the horse pasture behind us, and as soon as I broke free on two wheels. The world that I was exposed to suddenly had no limits to it anymore.
[00:02:31] So again, the bicycle’s sort of been this symbol for me for a long time. But, so I grew up in this sort of rural dairy farm area. Started fighting fires when I was in my twenties to put myself through college. A little ways into my firefighting career as a hot shot on the Idaho City Hot Shots.
[00:02:48] I started coming up with an idea with one of the other firefighters for this nonprofit called the Boise Bicycle Project. Started that when I was about 25, and I’ve been running it for 15 years. And so that’s, I guess a big portion of my life. 39 years condensed into a really small soundbite
[00:03:04] Chris: there.
[00:03:04] No, that’s awesome. But that gets us right to the point where I discovered you because of your TEDx talk in 2017 called the Speed of discovery. Oh yeah. The
[00:03:13] Jimmy Hallyburton: speed of discovery is sort of what I consider this magical speed of about 10 to 12 miles an hour where you can move through the world at a somewhat decent pace but not so fast that you can’t actually observe and absorb the world around you.
[00:03:28] Yeah, I did that, that Ted talk. And if I could go back again, there’s a couple things that I would do a little bit differently, but it’s funny, every once in a while, somebody like you or someone else hears it and there’s something that resonates with them. And I think that it is that sort of that symbol of the bicycle.
[00:03:43] It’s one of those things like food or art or music. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you’re. The bicycle has this unique spot in your memory and this unique feeling that it’s created for you. And so that Ted talk, it makes its rounds every once in a while and every some something pops up and all of a sudden it gets a bunch more views where I get a bunch more emails.
[00:04:02] And so I’m really glad that I did that and I’m glad that it seems to still have this sort of lasting effect even almost 10 years after I’ve.
[00:04:08] Chris: What the reason it resonated with me is because the speed of discovery and in our world, yours and mind connects even more because you’re also a sailor.
[00:04:16] You have an experience with that. And so my wife and I spent the last 10 years living in cruising on a sailboat, which we always used the term, the speed of discovery, because we always said we discovered life at six and a half knots, which. It’s exactly, it’s almost seven miles an hour, seven and a half miles an hour, which is close to the bicycle.
[00:04:35] And I’m an avid cyclist as well. So that’s what drew me to the talk when I was putting this podcast together for a way that we could talk about how. Even in today’s modern world, with everything that’s going on with gas prices and inflation and all this so social stuff that’s going on the bicycle, which is the simplest of simple, perfect inventions, can connect us to our communities and solve a lot of problems that we have with healthcare people being unhealthy, people, cities overcrowded and in congestion and that sort of thing.
[00:05:09] And it’s like I was trying to draw the correlation. How the bicycle has been around for 200. And it can help affect all of this stuff. And then you were the puzzle that completed it because I found your talk and I thought, I thought it’d be really cool to talk to you almost 10 years after you did that talk and find out.
[00:05:25] Because the Boise Bicycle Project, I mean, you guys, you have and I don’t know if this is still true, but you have 17 staff, you have 800 volunteers, and you’ve done over 17,000 bicycles and. What the cool thing about it is you place those bicycles donate them into low income families. And you’ve done over 6,500 bicycles.
[00:05:48] Is that true?
[00:05:49] Jimmy Hallyburton: Yeah. So we’ve donated, this year we actually donated our 10000th bicycle to a kid in the community. We’ve distributed more than that cause we fix up and we sell some of ’em at affordable prices or we have ones that go. Adult programs as well for folks that are maybe getting outta prison or who arrived as refugees or maybe they’re experiencing homelessness.
[00:06:08] But yeah, this year, 10 thou, 10,000 bicycle to a kid. Awesome. This little boy named Elise and he arrived in Boise from El Salvador. Doesn’t speak hardly any English at this point. And the nonprofit that referred to him, they were to referred him to us. They were really concerned just because he was.
[00:06:27] unhappy and rarely unhappy for a kid, not really finding a lot of joy. And you have to imagine arriving in Boise, Idaho. Sure. From El Salvador, and there’s nothing that really looks familiar. People aren’t speaking the same language. You probably fled a really scary situation and you are entering a situation that, in, in a lot of ways is still just as scary.
[00:06:46] So they were really looking for something for. that created some sort of familiarity, something that made him feel at home and something that, literally would bring a smile to his face. And so they connected in with us. We were able to get him this bicycle, and we had to work hard to get that smile out of him.
[00:07:04] But you could see it there. And there’s this, I observe it a lot. You and I’ve seen it happen over 10,000 times, but there’s this look that these kids get in their. And it’s a distant look and you can kind of tell that they’re not only thinking about the place that they’re gonna ride in that moment, the road in front of them, but they’re starting to think about all the places that they’re gonna go.
[00:07:23] And in kids’ imagination, even as adults, you know, that world all of a suddenly begins to grow pretty big and you start thinking about those possibilities. And when we got that bike too, Elise, we saw that same sort of look in his eye, that same sort of shiny look of this is gonna take me somewhere important and somewhere away from some of the stress and some of the feelings that I’m having right now.
[00:07:44] So that was bike number 10,000. We know that every single kid that’s referred to us, they all have these sort of similar stories and some of them are more heartbreaking than others. Some of them touch. In certain ways, but we know that each bike makes a difference. Beyond just being a toy.
[00:07:57] It’s really something that can connect these kids to opportunities to grow. So number 10,000, and then you think about all the different kids who’ve gotten ’em over the years. Some of ’em, you know, the kids that were eight years old, 15 years later, you know, now might have kids of their own.
[00:08:12] And so our bikes now, potentially getting to second generation kids, which is pretty cool to think about.
[00:08:16] Chris: It’s really amazing to think about actually, because Elise, as you touched on, probably fled an incredibly horrific situation, especially in El Salvador with what’s going on down there right now.
[00:08:27] But the bicycle at a time when you said like he came to Boise and he’s probably still feeling, even though he’s. Physically, he’s probably still feeling some mental isolation because he doesn’t speak the language. He looks different. The kids can be kind of tough on him, but when you give him that bicycle, The amazing thing about bicycles is, and you touched on it in your talk, was the freedom that you get.
[00:08:52] Like he’s he might be feeling isolated, but now there’s his helplessness is gone because he can get somewhere when he wants to. Take his mind out of something, he can now get on that bicycle and go do some discovering and exploring on his own and not feel that he’s trapped. Right? So when you give these kids these bicycles, most people or some people might see it as, Oh, you’re just giving them a bike.
[00:09:18] But in my eyes and a lot of other people’s eyes, man, you’re giving them the world because as a bike traveler, I’ve ridden my bike all over the world and you see things even in your own neighborhood. It’s a connection. And to touch on that further, not to over speak, but when I did some research for this talk, I started to find out about how, you know, cuz we all, when you think about bicycles, you think about the Dutch, the Netherlands, how they’ve managed their cycling.
[00:09:45] C. Well, Dutch teens have the lowest rate of depression, lowest rate of obesity, lowest uses of antidepressants in the world. And I mean, they cycle 46 to 76% of their ti, their trips. I mean, it’s correlative. Why do you, What do you think is the biggest impediment to getting that to happen in America to get a switch like that?
[00:10:09] Not even that on that magnitude, but maybe increase. .
[00:10:13] Jimmy Hallyburton: Yeah. It’s so funny. Like we know the impact that bicycles can have. And we know that that it can be transformative, you know, for communities, for, you know, socioeconomic status, for health, for all these different types of things. Like there’s proven, there’s data that shows that we can do it out there.
[00:10:29] And it takes a commitment really to make that happen. And in some ways it maybe takes a little bit of a, of a sacrifice. That sacrifice. I think a lot of times people think it’s gonna be hard or worse. People are, people don’t fear change. They fear loss. And so when people start thinking of like, Oh, well if I can’t drive, I’m gonna be there in it’s gonna take me longer to get there.
[00:10:50] So they have like this idea of loss that maybe goes with substituting a car trip for a bicycle trip. But you don’t also think about the positive things that you’re gonna get from that. So the, the positive aspects for your, your physical health, your mental health, the ability to be more in touch with the community around you.
[00:11:08] The ability to process the day before you get to where you’re gonna go going, or processing the day after it takes place, before you get home. And the important of that transition period. And I think that what happens a lot of times is that people don’t fully understand the benefits of a bicycle until they get back on it again.
[00:11:24] And once they get back on it again, they start to realize those same feelings that they remember from a kid from childhood. They still have it now, and it starts playing an important role. And what you find is that when people start to make that shift, they oftentimes don’t go back because that fear of loss goes away because they’re gaining so much in exchange.
[00:11:41] And so I think it’s a lot of times it’s reminding people of what that feeling is like and getting them back in touch with those. Different aspects. We do that a lot with political figures here in, in Idaho and Boise. You know, if we want somebody to understand what it’s like for these kids to ride bicycles or the need for better bicycle infrastructure, we try to take them on a bike ride.
[00:12:01] We try to show them what it’s like and what it feels like in these different areas. I think the other thing too is it’s just you’re, it’s of what you’re prioritizing, right? And so if you’re prioritizing the urgent over the important you’re going to get cities that we see like in America where they prioritize driving cars versus the more important aspects of, you know, really investing in the positive benefits that a bicycle can create against the negative effects that.
[00:12:27] You know, riding in a car can take. And so I think that, you know, we have to make sure that we are investing in long term solutions and a lot of times we’re still addressing what’s the most urgent at that moment. And the sometimes the easiest thing to do instead of the long term change that we need.
[00:12:43] But if you looked at some of the Dutch cycling, if you looked at other areas around the world like Bogota, Columbia, You know, that are shutting down during their cyclo via events, shutting down massive portions of their city to walking and biking, only all of a sudden you start seeing that the businesses are doing better, the people are happier.
[00:12:58] So it takes that sort of massive change and risk to be willing to take that. You know, political fallout that maybe is gonna be there to take a lane of a road away to add a bike lane or to close streets so that they’re open to the public. But time after time, Paris, all sorts of other places. New York City, you see that when they do it.
[00:13:18] It always has a positive benefit, but it’s a pretty big risk to, to take that step.
[00:13:23] Chris: Well, and that’s a great segue into your, your city council member in Boise. Correct? Still, still on the city council? Still on city
[00:13:29] Jimmy Hallyburton: council. I was elected in 2000. I was in office for two months before the pandemic hit, and I’ve been there ever since.
[00:13:35] So I’ve got about another year and a quarter left on my term, and then I’ll have to decide whether or not I’m gonna run again.
[00:13:40] Chris: And that’s interesting because you, you got elected right before one of the most. I don’t even know what the word to use, but the pandemic just changed so much in the world.
[00:13:51] And during your first tenure as a city council member I can’t imagine that it was easy, but to me I haven’t spent much time in Boise, but I have friends there. I’ve several friends there. Boise is on the forefront. I think with like cities like Boulder who have made the investment into changing their infrastructures.
[00:14:09] Because when you look at the data, and I mean people always gloss over when you talk about numbers, but when you, when you’re trying to make a change in a community, the numbers are really what drives the motivation for the politics. Whereas the people are just, it’s an emotional reaction to, Wait, I’m not gonna be able to drive my car anymore, and that kind of stuff.
[00:14:28] But that’s not true really. When you diminish a lane or take away city parking to add a bike lane, the numbers actually increase. For local businesses, they actually become more profitable because they spend more money because they’re actually traveling through the neighborhood at a slower pace. And then when you add on top of that, the cost for construction of highway, a single lane of a bike lane is $250,000 on average.
[00:14:54] And. The return to taxpayers is almost 240% on stuff like
[00:15:00] Jimmy Hallyburton: that. Yeah. Those investments work. You know, a good way to think about it is if you and I were neighbors, Chris, and we got up in the morning and each of us decided to ride our bicycle to work that day, there would be two less cars on the road.
[00:15:12] There’d be two less cars at that stop sign in our. That another car might have to wait behind. And so as as more people get outta their cars and they get onto bikes or taking public transit or walking, it’s significantly reducing the amount of cars in the congestion that’s on the road. And it’s really sort of the only way out of it.
[00:15:30] You can build more roads, you can build more lanes, you can have faster speed limits. It’s never actually going to reduce the congestion unless you’re creating opportunities for people to drive less. In Boise, the average household takes about 10 vehicle trips per year, not per year per day. 10 vehicle trips per day.
[00:15:47] If you took 10 per a year, we’d be doing pretty. So the average household takes 10 vehicle trips per day, and when we’re trying to talk about actually getting people out of their cars, we’re not actually saying we need to remove every single one of those trips. But think if the average was five or six instead of 10, that’s really when you’re starting to reduce the amount of cars that are on the road, reducing the, or improving the air quality, reducing congest.
[00:16:11] And doing all these different types of things that are gonna have a positive benefit for everyone. And so, you know, we’re, we’re asking, and we have to design cities that way too, where people don’t necessarily have to take every single trip by car. And so that means making sure that our neighborhoods have, you know, a coffee shop, a brewery at restaurant, you know, some of these basic types of things, parks where you can walk to.
[00:16:33] And so there’s a design aspect to it, but it really is something that we have to think about with our roads. If our long term goal is to maintain the status quo of traffic jams or keep them, you know, minimized then you can kind of keep doing what you’re doing. But if you actually want to reduce and you want to improve people’s commute times for cars, the best thing that you can do is try to figure out how you can get half of the people outta their cars and into another mode of transportation.
[00:16:58] And there will be some people for all sorts of different reasons that will never have the opportunity to ride. Because of how far away they work, it could have something to do with a disability or a variety of other different circumstances, and so we need to make sure that’s something that’s still there.
[00:17:10] But by, by somebody who else, who is, has the ability to choose to ride a bike, it’s helping everybody out in the process. Yeah,
[00:17:16] Chris: that’s so well said. Because I, I think the issue isn’t getting everyone out of their cars. The issue is getting some of us out of our cars because there are inherently gonna be people who are disabled or they have gigs that they just can’t drive.
[00:17:31] They just aren’t able to. But when you put into the factor that we just can’t keep expanding roads, especially in the older cities like. I’m in Philadelphia right now, visiting family. This city’s been here for a long time. There’s, there are very few options for expanding any of the roads in Philadelphia.
[00:17:49] There’s nowhere to go, no matter if you wanted them or not. But what they’ve chosen to do is Philly’s on the level with like Portland and Boulder and Boise. They’re going down the road of creating bike paths out of old train tracks that were. That aren’t no longer being used.
[00:18:03] They’re trying to connect the city. And when I was in Nashville, I spent 25 years in Nashville. They had done an amazing job connecting about 60 miles worth of Greenway through the city that you could get from one side of the city to the other. Without having to get on more than one mile of Surface Road.
[00:18:20] My curiosity is just with guys like you who are in the position and doing it every day do you see it, do you see having an effect? Do you see it becoming easier or is post pandemic, is your job becoming harder?
[00:18:31] Jimmy Hallyburton: It’s probably both. You bring up a really good example in Philadelphia and Philadelphia has a large population of people who choose to ride their bicycle.
[00:18:39] And then it has a really large population of people who have no other transportation options. And Philadelphia has done a really good job with some of the railroads and some of the canal access roads. So the maintenance roads that longer run, that run along irrigation canals of putting some bikeways that are.
[00:18:54] The reality for both of those types of people both who choose to ride and who have another other no other transportation options is that about 60% of them, they want to ride their bicycle more for some of their trips, but they’re too concerned about the safety issues of riding in the street. And that’s gonna amplify even more if you’re talking about somebody riding with children.
[00:19:13] Or riding with maybe somebody who’s elderly, a variety of different types of things. And so you have to be creating infrastructure for that 60% of people that make them feel comfortable getting to the places where they need to go or they don’t feel like they’re putting. Their life or their kids’ life in danger.
[00:19:28] And so I’m part of a different group of cyclists that they would call a little bit more on the, fearless side where we’ve ridden so often, we’re so comfortable riding in traffic that there’s not too many roads that are really gonna scare us, and we’re gonna ride our bicycle no matter what. If you were to continue building roads designed for folks like me, you’re not gonna get people on.
[00:19:47] But if you really design around those 60% of people who really wanna ride, but they’re concerned, then you start seeing infrastructure that truly gets people riding. Like those trails that you mentioned in Philadelphia, like those people that you mentioned in like our Dutch cycling mm-hmm.
[00:20:01] In places like Copenhagen where they actually have infrastructure that separates people, from the dangerous auto. The hard thing that we have here in just about every single state in America that a lot of other places don’t, is that while infrastructure continues to get better cars also continue to get more dangerous.
[00:20:18] So you can think about, the size of your F-150 pickup truck that just came out last week compared to that same F-150 that came. In the eighties or the seventies, how much bigger it is, how much higher that bumper is, where it’s potentially gonna hit somebody if it contacts them rather than in the legs hitting them like in the chest area.
[00:20:36] So we live in a country where speed limits continue to get faster and cars continue to bit get bigger. And we’re investing in good infrastructure at the same time, so we’re doing something good, but there’s other things that we really have to address when it comes to safety. And the other issue that we really see invoicing everywhere else is that the equi the infrastructure isn’t really distributed equitably.
[00:20:56] So the communities who have more political sway, who are more connected who have more time, whose biggest problem is that people drive too fast through their neighborhood. That they don’t have a way to pick up their kids after school cuz they’re working two jobs or that they’re worried about getting food on the plate.
[00:21:13] You know, these places that have a lot of these bigger issues are actually the people who have little and sometimes no other transportation options. They might be a one car family or a no car family, and they’re the places that really lack the type of infrastructure that’s needed to allow them to commute safely.
[00:21:28] So as cities, one of the things that we have to do is to make sure that when we’re looking at these invest. Whether those are canal pathways, railroad tracks better infrastructure that’s on the street, we really need to be looking at the places where there’s gaps in that infrastructure, not in just the places that have it.
[00:21:47] Cuz if you’re looking at data, you would say, Oh, this area of town rides a lot so we need to invest more infrastructure cuz they’ve got the data and the numbers to back it up. But then if you really looked at that more, you would say, Oh, the reason that they’re riding more is because they already have this infrastructure.
[00:22:02] And if we really want to create that change, we need to be looking in these areas where people. Have less of ability or feel like they’re in danger to ride, so that we can get those numbers up in those places too.
[00:22:13] Chris: Because safety is the biggest impediment with changing the mindset. Correct. Most people, like you said, is about 60% of riders state that the reason they don’t ride to work is because of the safety issue, and that inherently goes to the city infrastructure and stuff.
[00:22:27] So in cities, Philadelphia and Chicago. And in Chicago, you have the weather. Even in Philly and New York, you have the weather becomes an impediment. But could you make more headway in rural areas, say in Iowa to do it there first and then bring it into the other cities? Or does it make sense to concentrate your efforts in a city like Miami or a city?
[00:22:49] Like Dallas or Houston, and then use that as the example to propel this argument forward that this, hey, this can work if we, the money is there, we just need to reallocate it more correctly.
[00:23:00] Jimmy Hallyburton: Yeah, it’s certainly easier to do it in those rural areas because they’ve got all the space in the world to do it, you know, So when they’re going through and then they’re resurfacing the road or repainting stripes on the.
[00:23:10] You know, they’ve got a large amount of real estate to actually create high quality infrastructure. And in a lot of these rural areas, some of them you can think of like a highway is there also their main street, you know, that runs through the middle of the town. You’ve got people that are going really fast through their neighborhoods, but they’re also, you know, pretty walkable by the time that you get from like the school to the library, to the grocery store.
[00:23:31] And so there’s a lot of aspects where making those cities walkable and bikeable can be just as game changing in these sort of urban areas. But I still think those urban areas are where you’re gonna start to find the benefits of the most numbers. Cuz you’ll start to figure out ways to combine trips.
[00:23:46] So if you can combine a bicycle ride with a bus ride or a bicycle ride with you know, a mass transit or a light rail system or different things along there, then you’re actually being able to use a bicycle to get across town just as fast as a car. And you mentioned something earlier, it’s, it’s safety, but it’s also safety and convenience.
[00:24:04] So if you can make it just as convenient or more convenient to ride your bicycle than it is to drive, you know, that’s when you’ll see a lot of changes. And you see this in urban areas where people ride their bikes because it’s easier to park their bike than it is to park their car and cheaper to park their bike than it is to park their car.
[00:24:20] So that’s a convenience factor. So if we start to figure out what the other things are that we can add to the convenience levels of riding a bicycle and. More, and usually that’s like better bicycle parking, covered bicycle parking, having like public pumps and different things along like that.
[00:24:35] Businesses that can, you know, put, you know, showers or different types of facilities you know, inside their businesses that make it a little bit easier. You start to actually make it easier and more convenient to bike than it is to drive. And when that starts to flip, that’s really, I think, when people will make those decisions, the safety and the convenience at the same time.
[00:24:53] And there’s so many things that you can do in both of those aspects as far as investments go. But when businesses, the nice thing as an elected official is that when businesses start asking for those, You know, that’s where some of the money is. And so businesses have a really large potential to play huge advocacy roles in getting this type of infrastructure.
[00:25:12] And it’s typically really good for their business as well. From a recruitment standpoint, people wanna live in bicycle friendly cities. They wanna work at a bicycle friendly businesses. Employees who ride their bikes to work tend to get sick a lot. Tend to be healthier overall. Tend to arrive to work happier.
[00:25:26] tend to get home, you know, to their families a lot happier at the end of the day. So it makes a lot of business sense and when business starts to drive these decisions, it makes it really easy, I think, for elected officials and for, you know, people who are operating, governing our roads to make those types of investments.
[00:25:41] Because they’re the ones who are also, would be the ones complaining about parking going away. And so if you sort of flip the script, you know, you, you’re able to make a lot of big.
[00:25:50] Chris: And that’s, that’s a great, great point because in going back to the Netherlands, which we, we keep re reverting back to that, but it’s such a great example.
[00:25:59] I mean, over the last 20 years, they’ve built over 500,000 bicycle parking spaces and over 650,000 people per day. Use the train bike combination to get to work or get to do their errands. And that’s the one beautiful thing that I think a lot of these urban areas already have is in Chicago. In Philly, we already have subways and trains, and we already have that.
[00:26:23] We just kind of gotta do a better job with allowing bicycles and finding a place to put those on there to make it easier for people who want to, to bring their bike to work. And then the businesses, as you said, they’re they, they’re countless. Examples, like the company that makes Cliff bars and Osprey backpacks and all these companies, they are on the forefront of encouraging their employees to get to work by bike.
[00:26:48] And they also have all that supportive they have bike tools. I mean, I was just in Bentonville, Arkansas on the way driving across. And Bentonville is, you know, famous for the home of Walmart. And this was a little tiny town that Walmart was considering moving out of because they had grown outgrown it.
[00:27:05] And I went through there three weeks ago and the entire city has been redone because instead of moving and spending the millions multi of millions of dollars it would take to move the Walmart headquarters, they finally had someone in inside the company say, Why don’t we just reinvest it into Bentonville and make this an area.
[00:27:26] So they did the airport, they started building mountain bike trails and now they’ve, they’ve acquired the Monaco of the mountain bike capital of the world they’re building. The entire town is bike paths and there were five bike shops I went into and every one of ’em was a different bike shop. Catering to either electric bikes for commuters with kids.
[00:27:49] Bikes for three. There was a mountain bike thing, but my biggest point was the bike lanes were brand new and painted. There were crossroads. There were ways to get around the whole town and all each corner of a major intersection where the bikes were, had coffee shops, cafes. It was impressive. It was, I was blown away.
[00:28:10] That in front of every cafe is a entirely a huge bike rack. There’s five or six bikes in it there. There, the sidewalks are painted. All of the curbs have been chiseled at the corner, so you can just ride up and down. It’s, it’s incredible what can really happen and transform that city is like hopping on bikes.
[00:28:31] Jimmy Hallyburton: Yeah, sometimes it’s hard to make those investments and hard to convince people to make those investments, but then usually what you see is that once they’re in place People would lose their minds if you would try to take them away. Exactly. So it was hard. It was hard to convince them to get it in the first place, but now that it’s there people, they grow attached to it.
[00:28:47] We have this thing in Boise, the Boise Green. 50 miles of pathway that runs along the Boise River. And when it was installed 50 years ago, it was one of the most controversial projects that the city had ever gone in. There were people who were showing up at city council meetings throwing tomatoes at the city council member, like a cartoon or like an old, you know, movie that you can think of.
[00:29:05] This was happening 50 years ago and people thought it was gonna be impossible. It was gonna destroy the city. It was gonna do all these different types of things. And now it’s widely considered sort of like the crown jewel. Of the city. It’s something that if we were going to try to take away right now, like people would burn city hall down if we were gonna make any sort of attempt to do it.
[00:29:24] And so sometimes those investments are really, really hard to make. Once they’re there and those benefits start to happen, which usually takes a little bit of time. People become incredibly attached to ’em. And it’s sort of that idea again, that that feeling of loss has gone away. And the change that they experience actually ended up being a positive change.
[00:29:42] And so if we can help people get past that fear of loss and get to look and say like, No, there’s actually some benefits here, so let’s focus on those as well. And then we can figure out which outweigh the other. A lot of times we can, we can make those investments a little bit more. There’s one thing you know, I will.
[00:29:57] I think that there’s another important role that bikes play beyond just sort of the you know, the impact on the city. It’s, it’s really the impact that we have when we interact with each other. And I talk about this a little bit in my TED Talk, especially during the pandemic where we became more isolated from each other and we got into our own groups or our own pods.
[00:30:15] We really sort of stopped interacting with each other as a community and, and when we first started getting out, you would get next to people and it would feel uncomfortable and you wouldn’t quite know how to interact with people when you’d go to a coffee shop even though they were friends of yours.
[00:30:29] Well, when we drive in our automobiles, we sort of do the same thing all the time. , you’re sort of in this box that separates you from the person that’s next to you on the street. You know, whether that person’s in a car or if they’re standing on the side of the road. And our experiences with each other, our interactions they aren’t really in a way that we would behave in any other circumstance.
[00:30:49] You know, we’re sort of our worst selves oftentimes when we’re behind a car trying to get to work or trying to get to these other places. And I use this example in my TED Talk. But I was driving in my car which I still do. And I was riding past somebody who was experiencing homelessness and they had a sign that they were holding up a cardboard sign that they had painted.
[00:31:09] And in my car, like I started to begin this absolutely ridiculous internal dialogue of how should I interact with this person? Should I ignore them? Should I focus on my driving? Should I do all these different types of things? And, you know, just this, this ongoing dialogue that I’ve had multiple times and I know other people do the exact same thing.
[00:31:28] And then the very next day at that same intersection, that same person was there and I was on my bicycle and I rolled up to the person and I said, Hey, how’s it going? Just as if it’s another human being, which they are on the street. And when you separate people with a glass box, a big, huge vehicle, and the speeds that go with it, you start to really get rid of those human interac.
[00:31:49] And I think that that’s a really important part of bicycling that people miss out on, is that those human interactions are important. That person who’s experiencing homelessness on the side of the street, it might be 20 degrees out that day. And when you’re standing next to ’em, when you’re out of your car, you start to understand a little bit more of what this person might be experiencing.
[00:32:07] It also opens up the, the opportunity for a potential conversation or a better under. You know, of each other. And that shared space is really, really important. And we lose that when we’re in our vehicles and we get that back when we get out. And that I think is really one of my favorite parts about riding my bike is the interactions that I have, have with people along the way, Maybe.
[00:32:27] Maybe sometimes it’s with animals, maybe it’s with kids who are like walking to school that I can wave to. You know, it’s a variety of different things that I feel more in touch with my community. And I think right now, post pandemic, that’s something that we should all be trying to think about is how can we.
[00:32:41] Be more in touch with our community and not just the people that we are used to, that we agree with 100% of the time, but actually share space as a community and have those real human interactions. So well
[00:32:52] Chris: said. It is imperative that we make those connections again because with the situation going on in, in America and I mean just all over the world.
[00:33:03] The tendency is to withdraw. Right? But in, and I read something many, many years ago that I, I don’t remember who said it, but when it was, when you’re feeling the need to withdraw from something, the better action is to plug in harder. Just push into it harder. And the, I, I spend most of my year in Baja, which I know you’re familiar with.
[00:33:25] Baja. You did a sailing trip down there, which could be an entire episode on, Its on its own, but, and we’ll put the link to that story in the show notes. But , I, I rode my bicycle from. Down the Baja divide. Oh, cool. Which is an incredible mountain trail. 1500 miles. And the reason I did it was for the people, the interaction that post covid, I rode through the smallest mountain villages and saw people with the least to give, and they gave it freely.
[00:33:53] Traveling on the bicycle resets your psyche in a way. That is, I don’t think attainable in any other way other than either Treking or walking across the world. Anything that slows you down to the point where you have to physically interact with the universe you’re walking through. And I think to your point on the TED Talk, which I loved so much, is that interaction that.
[00:34:19] I’ve sat in my car and done the same thing on a corner. Do I make eye contact? I feel embarrassed because, or shameful cuz I’m not gonna donate cause I don’t have cash. Or you go through this whole psychological process in your head that if you’re on a bicycle or if you’re walking, you just don’t have any other choice but to treat that person as a human being.
[00:34:38] Right? You just, it’s just it. You’re gonna graze it and you’re gonna have to have that interaction and that in, in addition to the health benefits. But I. As you interact with your community, that too is a health benefit. That’s a positive mental image and positive stuff that you’re putting in your head.
[00:34:55] So it’s all, to me, an incredible benefit.
[00:34:58] Jimmy Hallyburton: Yeah, those interactions are really beautiful experiences cuz it means that you’re kind of both growing with each other at the same time. And you’re both benefiting from that experience. So there’s really an exchange that’s going on. When I’m on my bicycle, there’s something that is just so interesting to people when they see someone on a bike that they want to know what’s going on.
[00:35:18] They’re a little fascinated. I think that they’re a little bit jealous of the adventure. They kind of look at that and they say, Oh, I would like to do something like that. Or I would, you know, I did something like that when I was a younger kid. But I was riding across Oregon. This is after I did the TED Talk and I was going from Boise to the Oregon coast and I was driving down this Highway 20 which is one of the longest highways in the country.
[00:35:39] And you go about 50 to 60 miles between towns and so in between the towns, there’s nothing, there’s no water. You know, it’s, it’s a pretty deserty. I’d driven the stretch a hundred different times. And usually it’s a stretch that you drive through pretty fast cuz you’re like, it’s not even pretty outside, it’s just bare desert.
[00:35:57] And when I was on my bike, that stretch completely transformed. I was starting to see, you know, birds of prey, you know, on, on the posts along the way. There was this weird town where I, I stopped at this gas station. It’s the only gas station in a hundred miles of either direction. And, you know, the person bought me a Coors Original at the bar and, you know, asked if I needed a trip to my next wow or a lift to the next spot.
[00:36:18] I was like, No, I actually like riding my bike. And he is like, Well, let me show you where this secret swimming hole is. And so in the middle of this desert, he showed me where this swimming hole is that. You know, wooden plank diving board that I jumped off of that is the same wooden plank diving board that this guy’s grandpa jumped off of when he was younger.
[00:36:34] And this guy spent his entire life living in this tiny little town in the middle of eastern Oregon. And had I not been on my bicycle, which was sort of this invitation for him to start asking me questions, you know, I wouldn’t have had that experience from him. Nice. And throughout the conversation it, it became very clear that we differed a lot politically, you know, some of our views on covid.
[00:36:56] But I get, I began to understand why he felt and thought some of those things and we were also able to put a lot of those things aside and again, connect to each other as human beings and understand that like, hey, we disagree on some stuff and that’s actually okay. But what’s more important is that the humanity that we can exchange with each other.
[00:37:14] And again, I’ve just, I’ve never experienced that with, with anything else, quite like the way that I do on my, on my bicycle. So it seems like this sort of magical, magical thing that’s gonna make the invite the community to interact with you and really kind of cool and beautiful.
[00:37:29] Chris: I, I truly agree 100%.
[00:37:31] It is a magical thing. And I had the same experience because I feel like when you arrive into a town on a bicycle, you are the least threatening creature out there because people look at you and they say, Oh, this poor fellow, what the hell is he doing? . But then, and they also have the other aspect where, or they say, Oh my God, that’s so cool.
[00:37:51] And it immediately gives them an. To a dialogue. Where did you come from? Where are you going? Why are you doing this? And I found the same thing on our sailboat. It all socioeconomics, all political, whatever. It vanished when you pulled in on a sailboat because you don’t know if the dude on the next boat is a brain surgeon, a lawyer, or, or a destitute.
[00:38:13] The first question is, where did you come from? Where are you going? And then you start talking about boats and the rest of the world. Ancillary. It’s, it’s, it’s the, what is important is you are traveling and you have this commonality that you arrived by boat and he arrived by boat, and that’s what connects you.
[00:38:31] And then I find when I’m riding a bicycle, Yep. The same fascination that you had people pulled over. I, I had countless people pull over on the car in there when I went into these little Mexican towns and one dude jumped. Scared the hell outta me. Jumped out, pulled over, almost hit me with his car and took out his phone and said I was 350 pounds.
[00:38:54] When I went, when Covid hit, and what I did was I got a bicycle and now he was like 190, but he was this beautiful Mexican dude. He hugged me like he was gonna crack my spine . And he was like, I’m gonna ride this trail one day. I’m gonna, And he took, he showed me I was, it was beautiful. And I had. Countless, countless experiences like that, and they are priceless.
[00:39:17] And I know we’re getting to the end and I gotta let you go, but I wanna say that your, this is none, none of this is kind of new for you because your grandfather, this is kind of in your blood, right? Al Larson, they called him the Bluebird man. He was instrumental in conservation and awareness, right? This, this comes through the whole, Yeah.
[00:39:36] Halle Burton line.
[00:39:37] Jimmy Hallyburton: I’ll share that story really. And I’m glad that you brought up the sailing thing because there are lots of different ways where we can slow down the world and kind of foster those real interactions. For me, the bicycle is a wonderful tool that’s really worked for me, for you at sailing.
[00:39:50] For my grandpa was, it was something different. My grandpa who’s a hundred years old, alive today, he’s doing really well. Excellent. He at about 50 years old and he was. He had served in the military in World War ii in the Korean War. He’d been a minor, he’d been a logger. He’d had like a pretty tough you know, pretty just like tough and adventurous and heroic life at 50 years old.
[00:40:14] He decided after reading a National Geographic article that he was gonna help save the Bluebird population. Bluebirds were on decline, their second cavity dwellers, so they make And the holes that other wood packs that other animals make. And because Starlings a non-native species that got introduced, bluebirds were being outcompeted, and so they were going extinct and he saw this, and for whatever reason, he decided this is gonna be something that I’m going to help solve.
[00:40:40] And he didn’t do it by going and complaining to somebody or demanding anything. He did it by building a bluebird box. And then he hung it up and then he built another one, and then he hung it up and he built another one, and so on and so forth. And I think over the course of 50 years, he’s hung up over, I think it’s something like 10,000 bluebird boxes.
[00:40:59] He’s banded. I think 50 or 60,000, like baby Bluebird and as a citizen scientist got his banding license and he hung these boxes up all over Idaho. He went out and monitored them, you know, counted the eggs, measured the wings, see could see if birds were coming back, what type of year they were coming back.
[00:41:17] And he did this for 50 years and compiled the largest amount of bluebird research that’s ever been compiled before. And as, and is widely known as sort of the Bluebird man. There’s this great documentary about him called the Bluebird. But in the process of doing that, he also found evidence of how climate change was affecting bird migration patterns and was one of the earlier people to really identify that as a citizen scientist.
[00:41:39] And so he was always so motivating to me, cuz here’s a person who, when they saw a problem, decided that, Hey, I’m gonna get my hands dirty and solve it. And in the second half of their life found their purpose found their thing that allowed them to connect with other community. Found a way to be more in touch with nature and find some peace in a life that wasn’t, didn’t really have a lot of peace in its earlier history.
[00:42:05] And so I think that’s out there for everybody and people can kind of figure out what that is for them. You know, what is the thing that’s gonna help you slow down and connect with the world around you a little bit more? What is the thing that’s gonna let you actually get your hands dirty and do something besides post about it on social media?
[00:42:19] Amen. Or write a letter. You know, what’s the thing that’s actually gonna allow you. Get involved with the change and, and allow you to feel a part of that purpose. You know, earlier in this interview I think you mentioned that I went on to city council during a really hard time when the pandemic started and it was a really hard time and I’m still running Boise Bicycle project and on city council at the same time.
[00:42:38] So two full-time jobs. I can’t imagine what my life would’ve been like had I not been in either one of those positions, cuz I was still in a spot where I could be part of trying to. The problem or create solutions or try to make sure that the people who are being affected by the pandemic the most, that I was in touch with them and bringing their voices to the table.
[00:43:00] And so I was in a really rare spot where I had the ability to create change while other people were stuck at home. And so it was really, really hard, but I, I feel really, really lucky. That I gotta be part of trying to come up with the solutions to these problems. And I think that what people will find is that when they find whatever that problem is that they wanna solve, it starts to become a little bit addictive.
[00:43:23] Because you find that purpose and that feeling, and maybe it’s work related, maybe it’s not work related, maybe it’s the hobby on the side, like my grandpa who started building these bluebird boxes. But once you start feeling that, hey, I can actually create some. And do something positive, it becomes something that is hard to get away from after that.
[00:43:39] So I feel really lucky to be in both positions that I am the executive director, the Boise Bicycle Project, and the team that made so much impact, kept kids on their bicycles, kept people connected to the community during the pandemic and kept the programs going. And then also being on city council where we can make sure that.
[00:43:56] Investing in communities to make better change going forward. I feel really lucky.
[00:44:00] I feel really lucky to have discovered you and I think we’re all lucky that you’re there too. So thanks for your service and what you do, and I’m gonna let you go. But before I do, is there anything that you’re working on that excites you or tell people where they can find you?
[00:44:12] Chris: Of course. The boisebicycleproject.org. Is that correct? Yeah,
[00:44:17] Jimmy Hallyburton: boisebicycleproject.org is a great place. And, Boise Bicycle Project is on Instagram. I’m on Instagram @jimmyhallyburton as well. I try to post a lot about my bicycle trips that are on there and I try to show people that you can do it on any type of bike wearing any type of clothing.
[00:44:33] Yep. No matter where you live. And just trying to make it a little bit more accessible. That’s really sort of one of my goals is to like uncomplicate the aspect of riding a bike. You need a bike, you need a pair of jeans, and you need a T-shirt and you can go out and go for a ride. And, and that’s enough to get started.
[00:44:48] And you may find that you wanna make some changes down the road, but I really wanna make sure that people know. just, just go out there and get involved and kind of get started. As far as things that I’m excited about I’m really excited at the bike project right now, that we’ve got new programs that are helping the kids that we serve, not only get bicycles not only learn how to fix their own bikes, but actually get employed, get employable bicycle mechanic skills, both at the Boise Bicycle Project and other bicycle shops here in the valley.
[00:45:14] I think my ultimate dream for BVP is that one day it’s ran. The executive director is somebody who’s actually benefited from one of our programs, who knows what life changing impact a bicycle could make and would have the ability to communicate that in another way. And we’re really trying hard to make sure that we’re generating pathways towards leadership within our community, within bdp.
[00:45:33] And that’s I think one of the most exciting things for me to think about is, who are gonna be our future leaders and how can I, as an elected official and the executive director of BBB. Open those doors for those future leaders to find solutions to problems that you and I can. . Incredible.
[00:45:48] Chris: Great stuff, Jimmy. Great stuff. We’re gonna have, we’ll have all the, your links to Instagram and all that stuff in the show notes. And I can’t thank you enough for taking your time outta your day. I know you’re incredibly busy with everything you got on to speak to us here and I know people are gonna love this conversation and I’m thrilled to have it because I think it’s important and I just feel like championing people like you is.
[00:46:13] Is imperative to, to move the dialogue forward and move the needle. So thank you again for your time and I really appreciate it.
[00:46:19] Jimmy Hallyburton: Yeah, thank you Chris. And no matter where people are live or where they’re listening to this, there’s a strong chance that there’s something similar to the Boise Bicycle Project in their own area.
[00:46:26] Philadelphia has an awesome one. I think it’s called Philadelphia Bike Works that I visited the last time that I was there. So the things that we’re doing here in Boise are going on all around the world. So just look up a non-profit bicycle shop wherever you’re at and you know you can jump into your own community, figure out how you can help get some more people on bicycles.
[00:46:43] Chris: Yeah, get down there, get in, get your hands dirty. Go visit these people. They could probably use your help. And I always tell people wherever you live, you don’t have to ride a thousand miles on a bicycle. You can go out and ride around the block. There’s always something probably within two miles of your house that’s begging to be discovered.
[00:46:58] It’s just about getting involved. So yeah, reach out to any of the local establishments that are trying to do stuff like this and see if they need a hand, cuz the chances are they could use your help. So thank you. Thank you again, brother. I appreciate it. Yeah, thank
[00:47:11] Jimmy Hallyburton: you.
[00:47:15] Chris: Hey, thanks for listening. You like what you’re hearing. Make sure to subscribe or follow us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to your favorite podcast. And do me a favor, share it. Tell your friends, because the show doesn’t go anywhere without you. We drop new episodes every Wednesday. If you wanna listen to back episodes or find out how to support the show, you can do firstname.lastname@example.org.
[00:47:37] Next week I’m flying solo. Hope you come back for that and until then, be nice. Do good stuff.
Get on the email list →
Be the first to know when new episodes drop, new merch added, and other cool happenings.