Cyclists living in Holyoke, Springfield, and neighboring communities would benefit from a bicycle sharing program, suggest statements released this year by the US Department of Transportation and the League of American Bicyclists. As described in a recent article on this site, “Bike sharing in Pioneer Valley could make cycling to campus even easier,” some of the advantages of a bike share program are:
- Not having to maintain and store one’s own bike
- Attractiveness for short-term use by students and tourists
- Shown to improve health in cities
More advantages of a bike share program are:
- People who don’t have bicycles would begin riding them
- Reduced total number of car trips
- Reduced wear on area roads
- Increased visibility of cyclists
Rental bikes like those supplied by Hubway have lights installed and are maintained by the company, making them safer to use than most privately owned bicycles, which may be indifferently maintained or lack safety equipment. As more people ride bicycles, more auto drivers are aware of cyclists and look for them. This increased visibility leads to greater cyclist safety where cars and bicycles share the road. And while Northampton already endorses a pedestrian lifestyle with their statement on transportation in the City of Northampton, Amherst, Easthampton, Holyoke, and Greenfield also have walkable downtowns and are connected by bike paths, making them potentially successful bicycle sharing sites.
With more trains coming to the Pioneer Valley and the Berkshires, bicycle rental should be poised to follow. According to local bicycle blog Pedal Paradise, Colin Pease, Vice President for Special Projects with the Housatonic Railroad said in an NPR interview recently that “one of the most important factors that people thought would attract them to the train is the availability of a bicycle.”
Bicycle sharing has come a step closer to western Massachusetts this summer with the introduction of the Hubway throughout Boston. Installed July 28 of this year, there are sixty-one racks of 600 multi-speed, solid state bicycles throughout the city. A rack of these cycles, outfitted with splash guards and front and rear lights, were spotted at lines of pay-racks abutting a rental kiosk outside South Station, a bus and train terminal. Terms and fees for bike rental were displayed nearby. South Station is on Atlantic Avenue, which is bordered by a greenway filled with farmers markets, the New England Aquarium, boat tours, and other walkable tourist destinations. Besides spotting the Duck Tour amphibious boats on the streets of Boston, the lucky day tripper may spot a gallant-looking man in Revolutionary attire, riding across town on a Hubway rental. If you’ve rented one too, you can follow him to find out if the British are coming by land or by sea.
If you plan to rent a bicycle, bring a helmet.