Amherst approves next steps in study of proposed bike-share system

Last modified: Friday, December 18, 2015

AMHERST — Town officials this week gave their approval to continue studying how to bring a regional bike-sharing system to Amherst, Northampton, Holyoke and Springfield.

The Select Board Monday endorsed a feasibility study for the program, which commits the town to remaining a partner in the proposed Pioneer Valley Bike Share System.

The system would be similar to programs operating in Boston and San Francisco, where riders pay fees to access bicycles for commuting and recreation.

Interim Town Manager David Ziomek said the biggest hurdle, once the next study is complete, is the capital investment.

“None of the communities will proceed until we know we have a reasonable chance of getting capital money,” Ziomek said.

The vote by the Select Board this week does not commit the town into any expenditures.

Alta Planning + Design of Cambridge will complete the feasibility study as the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission continues to work with communities, and the University of Massachusetts, to seek grants for capital equipment, develop a collaborative business plan, select and engage a vendor and designate a lead community or agency to oversee operations.

The system is envisioned as supplementing the existing transportation infrastructure by putting bicycle kiosks in strategic places. In Amherst, for instance, they might be located downtown and on the UMass campus.

Those who support the system see it as a way for people to more easily use bicycles to commute between Northampton and Amherst. In addition, visitors who want to enjoy attractions, such as the Norwottuck Rail Trail, would be able to do so without bringing their own bicycles with them.

“The strength of the program will be in the collaboration between cities and towns,” Ziomek said.

Estimates indicate capital costs systemwide would be between $436,000 and $1.1 million, with annual operating costs at about $400,000 to $500,000 a year.

Regional officials intend to seek federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality grants and advertisers to cover some or all of the costs.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at


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