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Western Mass. Bikeshare In Limbo As Operator Enters Bankruptcy

A row of docked blue, white, and black ValleyBike shared bikes parked along a paved street under the shade of some leafy trees.

A ValleyBike station on the UMass-Amherst campus. Courtesy of the University of Massachusetts.

The firm that operates and manages ValleyBike, the Commonwealth's second-largest bikesharing system, is undergoing bankruptcy proceedings in an attempt to re-negotiate its contracts, according to officials from the City of Northampton.

ValleyBike is a municipally-owned bikesharing system. Participating cities and towns in the Connecticut River valley region own the bikes and stations, and under a contract, a private firm, Bewegen Technologies, has handled the day-to-day operations.

"Earlier this year, Bewegen gave notice to Northampton that it was initiating bankruptcy proceedings in its home country, Canada, in an effort to dissolve existing contracts with its bike-share communities around the world," according to a City of Northampton press release issued earlier today.

A map of the ValleyBike stations and its service area in the Pioneer Valley as of 2019.
A map of the ValleyBike stations and its service area in western Mass. in 2019.

The municipal owners of ValleyBike – Springfield, West Springfield, Holyoke, Chicopee, Easthampton, Northampton, South Hadley, and Amherst, plus the University of Massachusetts Amherst – are now "working on renegotiating a contract so that the system can reopen for users as soon as possible. We hope to have a solution under this new model so that bikes can go back on the street for users by May," according to the press release.

There were some signs that Bewegen was running into trouble last fall, when the operator announced that because of worker shortages, it would shut down ValleyBike for the winter for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic began.

Bewegen also laid off its local spokesperson, Shannon Bliven, who had been ValleyBike's Community Outreach and Business Development staffer.

In a phone call with StreetsblogMASS on Monday morning, Carolyn Misch, the City of Northampton's Director of Planning and Sustainability and the lead municipal liaison for the ValleyBike system, said that she's keeping an eye on how other bikesharing systems under Bewegen contracts are moving forward.

For instance, Summit County in Utah is considering taking on more bikesharing operations in-house by hiring new county employees to manage and maintain the system.

And Raleigh, North Carolina has negotiated a new operating contract for its bikesharing network with Corps Logistics, a veteran-owned company that also managed ValleyBike in its first few years of operation.

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