December 2, 2020


CHICOPEE — The city will join the region’s bicycle sharing program in the spring, providing a link between multiple communities that have joined the service over the past two years.

City officials started the process to join ValleyBike last year, but the COVID-19 pandemic created multiple delays in getting it up and running.

“We jumped on board. We wanted to be part of it and a lot of people were asking about it,” said Nathan Moreau, associate city planner. “We are filling in a gap in service.”

ValleyBike began in 2018 with electric-assist bikes that can be rented from docking stations in several communities. People can pick up a bike from one place and drop it off at a different docking station when they reach their destination.

Bikes are rented often through a cellphone app. Rates range from $2 for 30 minutes to $90 a year to take unlimited rides of up to 60 minutes. There are a variety of membership plans people can use and discounts for students and those who live in public housing, said Wayne Feiden, Northampton’s director of planning and sustainability and one of the officials behind ValleyBike.

Last year the bikes were ridden about 196,000 miles. Some ride them for commuting, shopping or to do errands. They are used a lot for recreation based on the fact they are rented most often on the weekends, Feiden said.

“We want to give people transportation choices,” Feiden said. “There is no question it is reducing vehicle trips, and although it is electric-assisted, you have to peddle some so it is giving people exercise.”

ValleyBike now has a presence in Amherst, Easthampton, Holyoke, South Hadley, Northampton and Springfield, with the University of Massachusetts Amherst providing the most riders.

The addition of Chicopee is an important link in the program since it is in the middle of Springfield, Holyoke and South Hadley, Moreau said.

The three docking stations will be across from City Hall, at Rivers Park off Meadow Street and in the island at the intersection of Church Street and Broadway, where the monument topped by a giant granite ball honoring Gen. Arthur MacArthur sits.

The three locations were selected because they are crossroads that lead in multiple directions people may want to go, Moreau said.

The one at City Hall is at the start of a short bike path that runs along the Chicopee River. Past Grape Street the path turns into a gravel road that is not officially part of the bike path but is used as such and connects to Szot Park and the Chicopee Senior Center.

Rivers Park is a few streets over from a proposed bike path, scheduled to be completed in April 2022, that will run along the shore of the Connecticut River.

A $1.1 million federal traffic congestion mitigation grant is providing the money to expand ValleyBike into Chicopee as well as Hadley and West Springfield. It pays for things such as bikes and equipment for the docking stations, Feiden said.



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Safety Tips for Bicyclists and Motorists

Each year in California, more than 100 bicyclists are killed and over 10,000 are injured in collisions, commonly caused by bicyclists’ and/or motorists’ behavior, lack of skill, or attention. Although bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as motorists and are subject to the same rules and regulations, it is crucial that bicyclists pay attention to traffic signs and signals and follow all rules to reduce the risk of collisions, while on the road. Refer to the California Driver Handbook to become familiar with these rules.

In addition, the California Vehicle Code (CVC) contains specific laws pertaining to bicycle riders. It is unlawful to operate a bicycle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Convictions may be punishable by a fine (CVC §21200.5). If you are under 21 years old, but over 13 years old, and convicted of operating a bicycle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, your driving privilege may be suspended or delayed for 1 year once you are eligible to drive (CVC §13202.5).

Four Basic Safety Tips

Here are four basic bicycling tips:

  1. Maintain control.
  2. Protect yourself. Reduce the risk of head injury by always wearing a helmet.
  3. Be visible and alert. Use hand signals and eye contact to communicate your intentions.
  4. Ride in a safe lane position with traffic.

 1.) Maintain Control of Your Bicycle

The following are things you can do to maintain control of your bicycle, even in an emergency:

  • Ensure your bicycle is the right size and properly adjusted to fit you.
  • — A properly-fitted bicycle is more comfortable and easier to control.
    — A bicycle shop can help you choose the correct size bicycle.

  • Ensure your bicycle is in good working order by inspecting it regularly.
    — Per CVC §21201(a), it is unlawful to operate a bicycle that is not equipped with functioning brakes.

 2.) Protect Yourself

Properly-fitted helmets provide protection from a potentially life-threatening head injury. By law, bicycle riders under 18 years old must wear a bicycle helmet while riding on a public road (CVC §21212).

Wear your helmet per manufacturer directions.

Right and wrong way to wear a bicycle helmet.

 3.) Be Visible and Alert

Even if you obey all traffic laws, there is always a risk of a collision.

  • Be prepared to stop for vehicles waiting at stop signs, in driveways, or parking spaces, which may suddenly pull out in front of you.
  • Be prepared to take evasive action relating to vehicles that have just passed you and may turn right, as well as vehicles coming the opposite way that may turn left in front of you.
  • Use hand signals before making turns or changing lanes to warn traffic around you. You do not have to keep your arm extended while completing maneuvers; always have at least one hand on the handlebars to maintain control.

    — To signal a left turn, look behind you, over your left shoulder, and then extend your left arm