Citing Worker Shortages, ValleyBike Will Shut Down for the Winter
ValleyBike, the Commonwealth's second-largest bikesharing system in the Connecticut River valley of western Massachusetts, will shut down for the winter on November 30th, allegedly because the system's operator can't hire enough workers.
Carolyn Misch, the City of Northampton's Director of Planning and Sustainability and the lead municipal liaison for the ValleyBike system, told StreetsblogMASS that the system's operator, Bewegen, has been struggling to recruit enough employees to keep the system going.
"As you can imagine, there’s more maintenance in the winter. They have to clear stations, there are more issues with the bikes," Misch told StreetsblogMASS in a phone call last week. "They’re not fully staffed now, and they’re realizing, they’ve been trying to hire up, and they can not find employees."
Bewegen has also laid off its local spokesperson. Shannon Bliven, who was, until recently, ValleyBike's Community Outreach and Business Development staffer, confirmed in an email to StreetsblogMASS that her position had been eliminated, and referred all questions to Misch.
Misch pointed out that Bewegen's contract does not require the company to operate year-round, and that it regularly closed for the winter before the pandemic.
In December 2020, however, ValleyBike announced that it would remain open through the winter for the first time ever, in part because local workers were using bikes more often during the pandemic's disruption to local bus services.
Like the Boston region's Bluebikes system, ValleyBike is a municipally-owned bikesharing system. Cities and towns own the bikes and stations, and under a contract, Bewegen handles to day-to-day operations.
Misch says that, in spite of Bewegen's staffing issues, the region is moving ahead with plans to expand the system into more places. Two new ValleyBike stations are being planned for the City of Westfield, and the system is in conversations to add stations in the Town of Hadley, which is currently a gap in the network.