ValleyBike to roll again by end of May in eight communities throughout Valley

ValleyBike Share's Florence Center station is located in front of Cooper's Corner at Chestnut and Main Streets. Photographed on Thursday, June 25, 2020.

ValleyBike Share's Florence Center station is located in front of Cooper's Corner at Chestnut and Main Streets. Photographed on Thursday, June 25, 2020. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

By ALEXANDER MACDOUGALL

Staff Writer

Published: 05-02-2024 3:18 PM

NORTHAMPTON — After nearly a year of inactivity, the ValleyBike Share program is poised to roll again throughout the Pioneer Valley.

After Mayor Gina-Louise Sciarra teased an announcement regarding ValleyBike on Monday, the city announced Thursday it had found a new provider to operate the regional short-term bicycle rental program offered in eight communities and at the UMass campus. Drop Mobility, a Toronto-based company that has operations in other U.S. cities such as New Orleans, Kansas City and Colorado Springs, is expected to reboot the program by the end of May, and will provide services through 2027.

Sciarra said in a statement that Drop Mobility was selected due to its “deep understanding of micro-mobility as an important component of our transportation system and their experience in rescuing and operating e-assist bike shares around the country.” The mayor expects the service to expand to other communities in the region.

Though the ValleyBike program is the responsibility of the city of Northampton, it also serves Easthampton, Holyoke, South Hadley, Amherst, Chicopee, Springfield, West Springfield and the UMass Amherst campus. Currently, there are 750 bikes and 79 stations in the ValleyBike system.

ValleyBike was suspended about a year ago after Bewegen, the company that provided the service, declared bankruptcy. Northampton officials attempted to negotiate a short-term contract to reopen the service last summer, but eventually decided such an effort was too risky to pursue.

In January, Northampton’s Office of Planning & Sustainability put out a request for proposals for a new owner. The request stipulates that the new operator of the program must resume existing operations and add additional bicycles and stations.

Drop Mobility must also provide the city with a method for ensuring access to low-income riders and those who don’t have bank accounts, as well as individuals without smartphones and credit cards. The company will also be required to provide ValleyBike with monthly data regarding the performance of the system for future evaluation.

Dipesh Dar, a co-founder and chief operating officer of Drop Mobility, reiterated in a statement that the company was committed to expanding the bikeshare service.

Article continues after...

Yesterday's Most Read Articles

Former social studies teacher returns as principal at Northampton High School
Leading lights: Four Hampshire County women receive state honor as ‘heroines’
Father’s Day 2024: South Hadley’s Rich Marjanski cherishes era coaching his three daughters on the soccer pitch
A ‘Refuse to Lose’ reunion: UMass stars gather to talk about Final Four run for new documentary
Judge denies Rintala’s motion to reduce prison sentence
Columnist Rev. Andrea Ayvazian: The co-op at the heart of the community

“We plan to both revive existing bikes and equipment and bring in the latest Drop hardware and software solutions,” Dar said in a statement. “We are proud to power the next chapter of e-bike share in the Pioneer Valley.”

Carolyn Misch, the city’s director for Planning & Sustainability, said the contract with Drop Mobility is for $1,200 per bike, with a maximum of 500 bikes, or $600,000 for the first year. The funding will come from various grants, although Misch said the city is looking for ways to fund the program more permanently.

“Our next goal is to find a sustainable funding source,” Misch said. “We can’t rely one-time payments for this.”

Misch also said the membership prices for the program are still being worked out, although they are likely to be comparable to previous rates, which charged $20 for a monthly membership and $80 annual membership.

Bike-sharing is intended for recreational trips or short commutes, generally an hour or less. The bikes can be picked up and returned at any of the stations. In addition to providing a secure dock for the electric-assisted bicycles, the stations charge the motors that assist riders in pedaling. The motors, which can be turned off, do not propel the bikes on their own.

The ValleyBike share program began in 2018. Communities served by the program combine to cover more than $70,000 in administrative costs to run the service. The Massachusetts Department of Transportation and the Pioneer Valley Metropolitan Planning Organization also provide capital funding for equipment, and local sponsors such as Smith College and Cooley Dickinson Hospital also underwrite certain costs.

Alexander MacDougall can be reached at amacdougall@gazettenet.com.