×

ValleyBike program ready for 1st spin; launch set for Thursday

  • In this September 2017 file photo, Mayor David Narkewicz points out the prototype for the bike share program. The program’s launch is set for Thursday. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO



@BeraDunau
Sunday, June 24, 2018

NORTHAMPTON — ValleyBike Share will have its formal launch at Pulaski Park on Thursday, a regional bike share program that will add 500 pedal-assist bicycles to the Pioneer Valley.

“I’m really excited,” Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz said.

Narkewicz will be one the public officials on hand for the ceremony, which is also set to be attended by Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno and Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse. The speaking program will begin at 11 a.m. and will be followed by an 11:45 a.m. bike parade, which will feature officials in attendance and those involved in the ValleyBike Share program taking to the road on pedal-assist bikes.

One of the people will be Northampton Planning and Sustainability Director Wayne Feiden. “I wouldn’t miss this,” he said.

Feiden said that people can participate in the parade with their own bikes, or use available pedal-assist bikes.

“It should be fun,” he said.

The program is a partnership between Northampton, Holyoke, Amherst, Springfield, the University of Massachusetts, South Hadley and the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission. The program will consist of 50 bike share stations across the five communities involved, where people will be able to rent bikes. These stations serve as both locking devices and charging stations for the pedal-assist bikes, which can use electricity to help people bike more easily.

Northampton and Springfield will have 14 bike share stations each, while South Hadley will have three and Holyoke will have nine. Amherst will have 10 stations — five in town and five at UMass.

Feiden said that most of the stations will be in place by Thursday’s launch, with the remaining ones coming online in the next month.

A $1.3 million federal grant, secured by Northampton, is paying for most of the capital costs associated with the project. Northampton is serving as the coordinator for the program.

Narkewicz likened the program to ride sharing, and he said that he expected it to be popular in the city, asserting that it fits in with Northampton “on every level.”

“Totally,” said Narkewicz, when asked if he’d seen anticipation for the program in the community. “People have been really excited about it.”

Feiden said that the biggest criticism he’s received about the program is that the stations can’t be everywhere.

“A lot of neighborhoods want it,” he said.

To use the service, people can sign up for individual trips, or unlimited trips by the day, month, or year. Pricing for a year of 45-minute bike rides will be $80, while a month of rides will be $20. Under these plans, people can ride as many times per day as they want, with the first 45 minutes included in their membership.

An individual trip of up to 45 minutes can be purchased for $2, while day passes can be purchased for $6. Each additional 30 minutes will cost an additional $2. A bike must be returned to one of the stations before 24 hours has passed, however, or it will be considered stolen.

Payment can be made via credit card at individual bike stations, and an app for the program is also available.

Founding memberships are also currently available. These memberships will cost $90 a year, but will provide the holders with unlimited one-hour bike rides. They are available until the June 28 launch.

More information can be found at valleybike.org.

While Bewegen Technologies is providing the infrastructure for the program, it is being put together and maintained by Corps Logistics, a veteran-owned service company, which rented a warehouse in Florence to put the bikes together.

“I’ve had a chance to meet some of the folks,” said Narkewicz.

“It’s been great,” said Feiden, on working with the two companies.

Narkewicz said that he has used the pedal-assist bikes himself, using one to go to work events on May 16 while he was in his suit.

“The electric assist was really helpful,” he said.

He also said that at the June 7 celebration of the completion of Northampton’s rail trail underpass, a Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority official who hadn’t ridden a bike in years tried one of the pedal-assist bikes at the mayor’s urging.

“He said he wanted to buy one,” said Narkewicz.

The mayor also said that he hopes that Northampton residents would, “Give Valley Bike share a spin.”

Narkewicz said that another reason why the pedal-assist bikes were chosen was because it makes the bikes more accessible to more people. This was also a sentiment shared by Feiden.

“I think it’s a game changer in some ways,” he said.

Feiden also noted that he’d been able to go to a meeting in Florence with a pedal-assist bike in less time than it would take him to walk to his car and drive there.

Amherst will also hold a launch event next Thursday at the corner of South Pleasant and Main streets. The event, which is set to run from 3 to 4 p.m., will allow people the opportunity to try out the pedal-assist bikes for free.