Hadley Select Board uncertain about joining ValleyBike Share system

  • ValleyBike Share’s Florence Center station is located in front of Cooper’s Corner at Chestnut and Main streets. Hadley’s first station, if approved, would be near the shopping malls on South Maple Street. STAFF FILE PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 6/20/2022 2:59:38 PM
Modified: 6/20/2022 2:59:18 PM

HADLEY — Representatives from ValleyBike Share, calling Hadley the missing piece in the regional puzzle, are again trying to get a bike station established in town.

But the Select Board voted 5-0 last week to postpone a decision on becoming the ninth community to join the ValleyBike system, seeking more time to mull over whether residents at Town Meeting in the fall should be asked to cover the $4,518 in annual administrative costs for membership.

The town might also have to cover the costs of installing the concrete pad and electricity payments.

The main concern for the Select Board on Wednesday, as it was two years ago when it voted against joining, is placing Hadley’s first station near the shopping malls on South Maple Street.

Board member Randy Izer said he wonders what percentage of Hadley residents would use such a station, noting that their participation might be limited because they would have to drive to the site.

Similarly, board member Amy Parsons said an existing station in Amherst on East Hadley Road is less than a half-mile from the Hadley town line, and that the town already supports alternate modes of transportation through the Norwottuck Rail Trail.

Chris Curtis, the original coordinator for ValleyBike, told the Select Board that he has had promising conversations with businesses at and near the shopping malls, including LL Bean, and that a station for the electric-assist bikes should happen so long as there is town support.

“I think the location will work if we are able to cover the administrative costs, and we would arrive at that destination by securing agreements from all the parties more or less simultaneously,” Curtis said.

Since its launch in 2018, eight communities have become members, including Northampton, Amherst, Easthampton, Holyoke, South Hadley, West Springfield, Springfield and Chicopee. They combine to cover the more than $70,000 in administrative costs of overseeing ValleyBike Share from Northampton City Hall.

Wayne Feiden, the Northampton’s director of planning and sustainability and the current coordinator for ValleyBike, said there would be an additional $463 cost for two more stations in Hadley that could come online within 18 months of the initial one.

“We think this service provides a great benefit for the residents of every town of that it’s in,” Feiden said.

The 69 stations that are part of ValleyBike are spread throughout the participating communities, and on the University of Massachusetts campus, and promote green transportation and active lifestyles, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and extending the regional transportation system.

Adding Hadley would fill a gap and create new synergy, Curtis said.

“This is a system that was created by and for the Valley municipalities, and in essence it’s a cooperative with shared costs and shared overhead,” Curtis said.

In February 2020, town officials rejected joining the program when the first station would not be located in town center. The Select Board said that meant there was less benefit to residents than to commuters.

Board member Molly Keegan agreed that more conversations need to be had before a decision can be made.

Feiden explained that it costs $50,000, on average, to get a station set up with the bikes and the chargers, but most of this would be covered by a Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality federal grant.

Westfield, he said, is committed to becoming a member through a Shared Streets grant.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.
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