After Easthampton rail trail issue, Springfield eyes Pedal N’ Party

  • Pedal N’ Party, an Easthampton-based business, had offered visitors a new way to cruise through the city and visit local breweries. The electric-assisted bicycle seats 14 passenger-pedalers, plus a steering bike driver and a host. FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 7/11/2019 12:08:18 AM

EASTHAMPTON — A month after Pedal N’ Party was ordered to stop operating on the Manhan Rail Trail after concerns were raised about the appropriate use of an electric-assisted vehicle on the path, the mayor of Springfield has announced his interest in allowing the business to operate in the city.

Springfield Mayor Domenic J. Sarno said in a statement Tuesday that Springfield will explore bringing back riverboat excursions and Pedal N’ Party to the city’s downtown and riverfront areas.

“With our continued investment in reinvigorating and reinventing our downtown and riverfront areas, these eclectic options would continue to enhance our entertainment landscape,” Sarno said in the statement.

Pedal N’ Party, which carried pedaling riders around Easthampton to local breweries and other businesses on a large, electric-assisted four-wheel vehicle, was issued a cease-and-desist order by Police Chief Robert Alberti on June 7, though this was delayed to June 9.

According to Nick Vautrin, the owner of Pedal N’ Party, his business was told to stop operation on the trail because the vehicle was assisted with an electric motor and did not meet the requirements of a bicycle due to its four wheels — even though he said the idea was met positively by the Manhan Rail Trail Committee last July.

Vautrin said Springfield city officials had initially reached out to him, and that their interest was welcome. He said the business has scheduled a meeting with Springfield officials “very soon” to pitch Pedal N’ Party.

“It opened up a whole new light. And it’s nice, because having a city that wants to do it rather than having city officials that were against it is night and day,” Vautrin said.

Though Vautrin said he was still pursuing Easthampton as a potential location for Pedal N’ Party, he was unsure what was happening behind closed doors. No one from the city had contacted him following Springfield’s announcement of interest, he said.

“They’re waiting on advice from the city attorney,” he said of the Easthampton City Council. “Dealing with Easthampton is an absolute mess.”

Vautrin named Councilor Owen Zaret as the main figure behind Pedal N’ Party’s problems with the town. He said Zaret has been actively pushing for ordinances to keep his business’s electric vehicle off the trail.

“It’s one city official over there leading a calvary against us,” he said of Zaret.

Zaret said that even though he thought the business was a “really cool” idea, there was a lack of information presented to the City Council in regard to public safety and accessibility concerns. He said he brought up these concerns because he wanted to make an informed decision on allowing the business since he said it was new to Massachusetts.

“I’ve tried to lead a fact-finding mission,” Zaret said.

He said he believed that allowing the business on the trail without being properly vetted by the City Council might inhibit members of the public from using the trail at their leisure.

“My worry was that basically allowing this vehicle on the trail would create exclusive use for them and not the general public,” he said.

Zaret said Vautrin may have had a misunderstanding of the process when he went to the Manhan Rail Trail Committee looking for approval. When he was given their well-wishes, Zaret said he may have misinterpreted that as city approval.

“They don’t have any permitting authority or any approval ability,” he said.

The City Council is still evaluating different uses of the rail trail, which is an ongoing discussion, Zaret said.

“At the end of the day I support the concept of the business, but I have to ask tough questions,” he said.

Wishing that Easthampton city officials were “in our shoes,” Vautrin said he was just trying to operate his business without any issue. He said his time was running out, as Pedal N’ Party is a seasonal business due to its outside operation.

“I’m a business owner with a large investment in a business that the city doesn’t really care for,” Vautrin said.

Vautrin said the debacle had cast a negative light on his business, creating a misconception in the city that Pedal N’ Party was trying to cause problems.

“We’re not rebels — we did everything by the books,” he said. “We’re trying to help people, we’re trying to bring people together and we’re trying to help businesses.”

Michael Connors can be reached at mconnors@gazettenet.com.


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