×

ValleyBike Share service expands into Easthampton

  • Amherst District 3 Town Councilor Dorothy Pam, center, and Town Manager Paul Bockelman, right, chat near an Amherst ValleyBike Share docking station on July 23.



Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 07, 2019

EASTHAMPTON — ValleyBike Share is continuing to roll out across the Pioneer Valley, recently landing in Easthampton, where four new stations were installed in the past two months. The expansion brings the number of cities and towns to six, as Easthampton joins Amherst (and the UMass campus), Holyoke, Northampton, South Hadley and Springfield.

The four new stations are at City Hall, the Rail Trail at Millside Park, Old Town Hall and 90 Union St. Stations were slowly installed, starting with the City Hall station on June 6 and ending with the Old Town Hall station on July 8, said City Planner Jeffrey Bagg. 

Each station is fully functional, though Bagg said the pay stations at City Hall and Millside Park were damaged and are subject to repairs. Riders can still rent bikes from those stations, but they can not sign up using a credit card until the pay stations are fixed, Bagg said. 

The station on Union Street, he said, is operating on battery power since the city is waiting for permanent power to be brought to the site, he said. 

“We encountered a few challenges,” he said. 

The stations and bikes were funded by a $225,000 state Housing Choice capital grant awarded to the city in 2018. Bagg said this grant also allows for 40 new bikes that the city expects to receive sometime in August.

Mayor Nicole LaChapelle said bringing ValleyBike to Easthampton fits in the city’s master plan to improve cycling and walkability.

She also said the bike share system brings tourism to the area, as riders using the electric-assist bikes could dock their bikes at any of the ValleyBike locations.

“I already think it has a foothold for people who are commuting,” LaChapelle said.

Bagg explained that a lot of the challenges they faced during installation had prevented the city from fully publicizing the bike share program. But the city has started to slowly introduce the service to residents, most recently on Saturday through a raffle for a free ValleyBike membership at the Easthampton Farmers Market.

Bagg said he would be interested to see the comparison between ridership data for ValleyBike​​​​​​s in the city for the small amount of time they’ve been operational against when the service is fully publicized.

According to the ValleyBike website, riders across western Massachusetts have traveled a total 116,274 total miles so far in 2019, and 200,402 miles since its initial rollout in 2018.

Both LaChapelle and Bagg said that the city is already exploring options to expand ValleyBike. Easthampton has been recently collaborating with Northampton, Hadley, Chicopee and West Springfield on another state grant that could allow for more stations and develop the system across a larger area, Bagg said.

LaChapelle said the city was also considering partnering with corporate sponsors for additional stations across Easthampton.

“I would like to figure out how to get one in the New City area, the upper end of Cottage Street and one near Nonotuck Park,” she said.

Having stations that span across the city will allow for greater connectivity between residents and businesses, Bagg said. Even the sites of the stations currently operational were chosen based on general location, he said.

“We picked all of these for specific reasons,” he said of the sites.

Catherine Ratté, manager of the land use and environment section of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, which is involved with the partnership, said a focus of connectivity between all participating municipalities was a main goal of ValleyBike.

“The idea is to have the communities connected because bike share is part of our efforts to connect,” she said. “It makes sense for regional bike share, it makes sense to get bike share and it makes sense to have communities connected.”

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