ValleyBike likely grounded until spring

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Published: 5/25/2023 4:36:33 PM

Modified: 5/25/2023 4:36:18 PM

NORTHAMPTON — It looks like the popular ValleyBike share program will remain grounded until next spring.

Northampton officials announced Thursday that they are on the hunt for a new vendor to run the regional bike share program after the main service provider, Bewegen Technologies Inc., of Saint-georges, Quebec, Canada, defaulted on its contract.

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

Northampton Mayor Gina-Louise Sciarra said last month that Bewegen had initiated bankruptcy proceedings in its home country in an effort to dissolve existing contracts with its bike-share communities around the world. At the time, Sciarra said she had hoped to have the service up and running in May.

Bewegen stated on its Twitter account in an April 19 post that the company had not filed for bankruptcy and that any articles indicating such were “fake news.” The company did not immediately return a request for comment.

Northampton officials said they attempted to negotiate a short-term contract in an effort to reopen the service this summer. Since then, however, city officials have indicated that continuing in that effort would be risky and not guarantee a sustainable solution.

Northampton and participating communities agreed that the best way forward would be to open a competitive procurement process to select a bike share partner with more financial stability and better terms for participating communities, said Carolyn Misch, Northampton’s director of planning and sustainability.

“We know that bike share is a critical component of our transportation system in the Valley for all communities, and we want to ensure that we take steps to guarantee a long and uninterrupted service for our residents,” Misch said in a statement.

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 at Northampton’s City Hall.

Misch said the city is now working to come up with a plan for issuing proposals and going to bid.

While it’s possible to get a new vendor in the short-term — with the earliest date likely being July or August — Misch said that a more realistic timeline is early next season.

Still, Sciarra emphasized that the regional program would be back.

“We need to find a partner that can reliably provide this important transportation service for Northampton and the coalition communities,” she said in a statement. “By ending this relationship with Bewegen, we can now focus on finding the best operational partner to help us restart the program, and restructure it for long-term success.”

Emily Thurlow can be reached at ethurlow@gazettenet.com.

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