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Regional bike sharing network will remain open through the winter

Valleybike_kiosk.jpg
Paul Tuthill
/
WAMC
Bicycles available for short-term rentals at a station in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Only big storms will temporarily shutdown ValleyBike

A regional bicycle sharing system in western Massachusetts is going to pedal straight through the winter months.

ValleyBike plans to stay open except in severe weather.

The pedal-assist bikes are available for rent for short-distance rides in eight communities in Hampden and Hampshire Counties and on the UMass Amherst campus.

WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill spoke with Shannon Bliven, the community outreach director for ValleyBike Share, about the decision to operate through the winter.

Shannon Bliven

It's not standard operating procedure. But we did do a trial last year. And we found it was successful. After doing some studies, we decided to try it again this year. Now that Springfield is open.

Paul Tuthill 

So what will the procedures be for folks who, who want to take a bike out over the cold weather months?

Shannon Bliven

So a couple of things to know -- we're going to have all of our regular memberships, so they can sign up on our app, the official ValleyBike app, and sign up for a membership there and take a bike out. We will be reducing, so we can adjust the speed of the assist on the bike. So we'll be bringing it down to medium which is a maximum speed around 12 to 13 miles an hour.

Paul Tuthill 

And the purpose of that is what?

Shannon Bliven

So that people will have better traction if they happen to encounter snow or slick, wet conditions on the roads or sidewalks.

Paul Tuthill 

During extreme weather, though, you'll shut down completely that's the plan, correct?

Shannon Bliven

Yes, absolutely. So we normally shut down until the snow stops. And the streets have been salted and start to clear up. So a big snowstorm last year, we had to be closed for about a week. That would probably be the maximum.

Paul Tuthill 

Now will all of the stations be open during this during this winter?

Shannon Bliven

No. We're going to have a few stations going into hibernation. The ones we know about right now are the rail trail in Northampton. on State Street, yes, Jackson Street will also be closed. We also have a couple stations scattered throughout the system that may have been opened last year, but they're deciding to close them because there's too much snow piled up on the station. We'll be notifying people on our social media. We have Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. And we'll also be sending out emails to people who have signed up to receive them.

Paul Tuthill 

Will people be able to to rent a bike at the at the kiosks at the stations or will that not be available during the winter?

Shannon Bliven

No, the kiosks are going to be shut in the winter because they are sensitive. The parts inside the payment kiosks are very sensitive to temperature. So we will not be able to keep those payment kiosks. Open, the station will be open for bikes to be taken out.

Paul Tuthill 

So people will have to use the website or their or their mobile app in order to access a bicycle. Right?

Shannon Bliven

Absolutely, yes, that's what they're going to have to do. If they have if they already have a membership and have a key fob. They can also use that.

Paul Tuthill 

ValleyBike, this year, saw some expansion saw some growth you moved into a couple of new communities, right?

Shannon Bliven

Yeah, we added West Springfield and Chicopee. And we've seen great numbers in West Springfield. It's very much an extension of Springfield. There's a station at the library. And there's a station down across the street from Big Y in West Springfield. So people from Springfield can go to to a grocery store and all the different types of stores out there

Paul Tuthill 

Is more expansion planed? Are you looking at to go into additional communities?

Shannon Bliven

Well, that is that is the long term goal. They are talking about it. Westfield and Agawam have been in touch with us about joining the system. And of course we want to make it as available to as many people as possible so we're taking considerations from other communities.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.