Valley Bike Share program wraps up first season, eyes expansion

  • Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz welcomes about 160 people to the ValleyBike Share launch event held at the Smith College Indoor Track and Tennis Facility in Northampton on Thursday, June 28, 2018. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Dakota DesRochers of Leverett takes off on one of the 52 Bewegen electric assist bicycles on hand for the public to try out during the ValleyBike Share launch event held at the Smith College Indoor Track and Tennis Facility in Northampton on Thursday, June 28, 2018. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 12/10/2018 10:13:02 PM

NORTHAMPTON — With the first season of ValleyBike Share concluded, the program’s bikes have covered 84,127 miles over the course of 43,057 trips, according to statistics released by the organization.

ValleyBike project manager and Northampton Director of Planning and Sustainability Wayne Feiden said that miles traveled this season exceeded expectations, although membership figures fell somewhat short of original hopes.

The electric-assist bike share program launched in June and has stations in Northampton, Amherst, South Hadley, Holyoke and Springfield, and will also expand to Easthampton in June 2019.

“We’ve been really happy the system seems to keep growing,” Feiden said. “There seems to be more demand.”

The program saw 1,173 all-time members, 883 active members and 6,305 occasional members.

Active members hold an ongoing annual membership, founding membership or “go pass,” which charges $2 per ride after a $5 registration fee. Regular memberships are offered on a yearly basis, while occasional members can sign up for a monthly membership, single-trip pass, day pass or go pass.

The stations closed on Nov. 30 and will reopen on April 1.

Of the 50 stations initially slated to open this season, 47 were ready for use, providing 470 bikes. The remaining three stations should be set to open next season, Feiden said, in addition to four new stations in Easthampton, bringing next season’s anticipated total to 54 stations stocked with 540 bikes.

Stations in Northampton, UMass Amherst, and the downtown Springfield area have seen the heaviest use, according to Feiden.

The program launched with a variety of pricing and usage options, ranging from a $90 annual founding membership to a $2 single-trip pass. Bikes may be checked out and returned to any station within the ValleyBike system.

The average ride lasts for about 2 miles, Feiden said, which is around the national average for electric-assist bike shares. Non-electric-assist bike shares see approximately 1-mile rides on average.

The electric-assist bikes were chosen for the program to make it easier for users to travel longer distances, Feiden said, noting that this feature also increases accessibility for older users and less experienced cyclists. While non-electric-assist bikes require greater physical exertion, the longer average distance traveled with electric-assist bikes works out to more exercise overall, according to Feiden.

In addition to the health benefits of biking, Feiden said the program aims to create more transportation options for low-income communities and reduce the greenhouse emissions associated with motor vehicles.

Although each community has also seen cyclists take trips longer than the average, with a Northampton-to-Amherst ride “used somewhat heavily,” Feiden said the system was mainly designed to accommodate shorter trips.

“These bikes are 75-pound, heavy bikes,” he added. “If you want to go a mile or two, great. But if you want to take a bike out for the entire day, you’re better off using the bike in your basement for that.”

Feiden said he hopes the bikes will eventually be available year-round, although this development is “probably four or five years out.”

“Our higher priority is extending the bikes out… We’d like to have additional towns, we’d like to get additional sponsors,” Feiden said, highlighting towns that border other ValleyBike communities, such as Hadley and Chicopee, as potential areas for expansion.

ValleyBike will still be ironing out some maintenance issues over its off-season, Feiden said, with damages most prominently arising from kids sitting in baskets and breaking them. However, the bikes should all be ready by next season.

Jacquelyn Voghel can be reached at jvoghel@gazettenet.com.


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