By Bera Dunua
With a vendor selected and funding lined up, some of the Valley’s largest urban centers and the University of Massachusetts are set to launch a regional bike share program.
Set to debut next spring, ValleyBike Share is a collaboration among Amherst, Northampton, South Hadley, Holyoke, Springfield and UMass. Funded by a $1.3 million federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality grant, the program will make bikes available in these areas through a process that Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz likens to the workings of the car-sharing company Zipcar.
In a bike share, users can purchase long-term memberships that allow them to take out a bike from any station in the system and then return it to any station in the system. Users can also pay to use the bikes without a membership.
To select the vendor, a request for proposals was developed by the Pioneer Valley Regional Bikeshare Committee, an organization convened by the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission that has representation for UMass and all five participating communities on it. Northampton then issued and administered the RFP, which got four responses. The committee then interviewed two companies, and chose Bewegen by consensus.
The RFP sought the creation of a 290-bike system. However, Bewegen will be contributing 210 more bikes, for a total of 500 bikes in the system. Narkewicz said this decision was made to better ensure the system’s success.
Because of the grant money, along with the investment put forward by Bewegen, the capital costs for the communities participating in ValleyBike Share will come to zero. The costs for operations and maintenance will be taken on by Bewegen, with some of that paid for by sponsorship of individual bike stations by private organizations such as Florence Bank and Mount Holyoke College.