Response to survey shows overwhelmingly favorable response to possible bike-sharing program in Valley

Last modified: Monday, August 18, 2014

The Pioneer Valley Planning Commission received an overwhelmingly favorable response to its survey earlier this summer about the possibility of a bike-share program.

During June and early July, the commission had a survey available on its website to assess community interest as part of its larger study which is scheduled to be completed in December. Some 80 percent of the more than 500 people responding indicated that they would use a bike-share program in the Valley, and the same percentage also said that they would be willing to walk a half-mile to use the system.

Bike-share programs allow cyclists to borrow and return bikes at kiosks for a nominal fee. The survey was intended to gauge interest among residents of Amherst, Northampton, Holyoke and Springfield, as well as faculty, staff and students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Mount Holyoke, Hampshire, Amherst, Smith, Springfield and Springfield Technical Community colleges.

The largest number of responses came from Northampton — more than three times the number of responses than any other community, said Christopher Curtis, chief planner for the commission. Most respondents indicated that they would like to see bike kiosks in downtown centers, near bus stations and on college campuses.

A bike-share system would likely reach new cyclists as well, because 60 percent of the respondents who do not currently own a bicycle said that they would be willing to try using the program.

Many respondents also said that there should be a focus on improving bike lanes and bike racks around the community in order to make bicycling safer and easier.

“We are still trying to figure out if this type of program is feasible, and there are some interesting factors in this region that make it more difficult,” said Curtis. Among them is the distance among then communities, making it hard to connect bike-sharing programs within them.

“We have to determine whether or not we can make it work within each community,” he said, rather than expecting people to bike between communities.

“The survey is one of the first steps in this analysis,” Curtis said. He added that by December, “We will have a sense of whether we can recommend this program, and will have some analysis of what types of program will work, what size, where stations should be located, a business model, and how program can be paid for. The level of interest is one step but we have to figure out all of the other components.”


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