By Jim Kinney | firstname.lastname@example.org
Article Credit MassLive
With ValleyBike Share’s second season drawing to a close, organizers say the short-term rental program had a busy year, with the number of trips increasing over 40%.
Riders rolled up 196,000 miles this year, compared to 84,00 miles in the abbreviated first year of operation in 2018, said Wayne Feiden, Northampton’s director of planning and sustainability and one of the officials behind ValleyBike Share.
Feiden said those 196,000 miles — nearly eight times around the Earth at the equator — represent a good measure of growth for a bike share in its second year. The number of trips in 2019 was 74,000, up from 52,000 trips in the first year.
ValleyBike Share only operated July through November in 2018, however. And even when it did get started, the bikes were plagued with software and mechanical problems that weren’t worked out until later in the season.
This year, ValleyBike Share got an earlier start across its network — which began with locations in Amherst, Holyoke, South Hadley, Northampton and Springfield — and added stations and bicycles in Easthampton in July. Contractors remove the bikes and their docking stations around Dec. 1 year to give snowplows access to sidewalks and plazas. The bikes are put out again in April.
A $1.1 million federal traffic congestion mitigation grant will allow the service to expand in 2020 to Hadley, Chicopee and West Springfield, linking communities that are already served and giving, for example, Springfield residents easier access to shopping destinations in West Springfield.
Feiden said the first West Springfield station will be at the Memorial Avenue Big Y.
Meanwhile, Feiden said, Chicopee closes a gap between Springfield and Holyoke. And Hadley is a big shopping and employment destination for Amherst and Northampton.
“We hope to get those added in the second or third quarters of 2020,” he said.
The busiest stations on the system continue to be in downtown Springfield at Court Square and MGM Springfield; at Town Hall in Amherst, the Southwest quad on the UMass Amherst campus and Pulaski Park in downtown Northampton.
The average ride is two miles and Northampton is the community with the greatest number of rides.
Further expansion, also paid for with the federal grant, will come in the form of filling in stations in areas that are already served, Feiden said.
“We know nationwide people rarely walk more than 500 feet to a bike share station,” he said.
The program lets people rent a bicycle for a short ride or for the day. A pass or membership, often purchased through a cellphone app, is needed to unlock a bike, and the bikes need to be placed back in docking stations to recharge. The bicycles have electric motors that assist riders up hills, but riders must pedal for the bike to work.
A standard monthly membership costs $20. A single-trip pass costs $2 and an unlimited day pass costs $6, according to the ValleyBike Share website.
Credit card customers can still access the system via mobile app or kiosks at the most heavily used ValleyBike locations, Feiden said.
The Pioneer Valley Planning Commission received $1.3 million in 2017 from the federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Program to launch ValleyBike Share. The commission spent $87,000 in state money on feasibility studies and preparation in the preceding two years.
Feiden said organizers hope to sign on a systemwide sponsor, like Citibank sponsors New York City’s Citi Bike. There are sponsors underwriting the various stations.