Regional bike share program may make return

ValleyBike share program may be in operation next year if the city of Northampton receives a successful bidder to resume operations. The regional service has been inactive for more than a year.

ValleyBike share program may be in operation next year if the city of Northampton receives a successful bidder to resume operations. The regional service has been inactive for more than a year. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

By ALEXANDER MACDOUGALL

Staff Writer

Published: 01-25-2024 11:00 AM

NORTHAMPTON — After being inactive for more than a year, the city of Northampton is hoping to get the ValleyBike share program up and running again by putting the service out to bid.

The city put out a request for proposals for interested bidders in late December with a Jan. 31 deadline. ValleyBike has been dormant since last year, when the Canadian company operating it, Bewegen Technologies, declared bankruptcy and defaulted on its contract with the city of Northampton.

Northampton is the lead community and is responsible for the program, which also has stations in Easthampton, Holyoke, South Hadley, Amherst, Chicopee, Springfield, West Springfield and the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

The bid is for a three-year contract that would last into 2027. In the request for proposals, the city states that it expects a new owner not just to resume operations, but to add additional bicycles and stations as part of the transfer.

“The successful bidder will operate and maintain the existing fleet of 750 electronically-assisted bicycles (“e-assist bikes”) at the existing 79 stations throughout the regional ValleyBike Share system,” the request states. “The owner anticipates that the expansion of the system will take place during the contract.”

The RFP also lists several requirements for vendors to be eligible, such as having the software and technology to support ValleyBike’s operations and 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.

Potential buyers will also be evaluated based on six different criteria, including experience, operational size, maintenance and operations, e-assist software development, data management and customer service. There is no minimum requirement to bid.

The ValleyBike share program was launched in 2018. Communities served by the program combine to cover more than $70,000 in administrative costs to oversee the service from program headquarters in Northampton.

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At an Amherst Energy and Climate Action Committee meeting held on Jan. 3, the town’s Director of Sustainability Stephanie Ciccarello said the goal was for the ValleyBike program to be running again by this spring. She also said she contacted Amherst state Rep. Mindy Domb about the matter, and that Domb had reached out to fellow state legislators in the region to discuss the long-term sustainability of the bike share program.

“It’ll be an opportunity for us to hopefully do some brainstorming to sort of see what we can come up with,” Ciccarello said.

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