Winthrop Encourges Residents to Bike More

The Town of Winthrop announced that the Department of Public Works has completed the installation of twenty-six new bike racks throughout the town.

James McKenna, Winthrop Town Manager, thinks that the racks serve a variety of purposes, “Not only are we trying to get people to ride their bikes more but the racks make a real visual impression and bring an additional aesthetic value to the Town’s public spaces.”

Funding for these bright blue bike racks was secured through the Metropolitan Area Planning Council’s Regional Bike Parking program.  “With these new racks in place, the Town’s overall capacity for bike parking has been more than doubled with over two hundred spaces now available,” said Peter Lombardi, the Grants Administrator for Winthrop.

Working with the Parks and Recreation Director and Public Works personnel, their placement was carefully chosen to meet demand where the need was underserved.  “These bicycle racks have been situated strategically at a variety of locations to encourage people of all ages to use alternative modes of transportation, especially in the these beautiful summer months,” said Lombardi.

Their positioning also took into consideration resident feedback from the recently completed Walk Winthrop report.  “The Town commissioned a team of consultants from the Conway School of Landscape Design in Spring 2010 to draft a comprehensive and long-term strategic vision for recreational development.  Their report outlined a conceptual framework for the creation of a biking and walking network that will link public open space, civic, and commercial resources throughout the town,” said McKenna.

After a thorough assessment of the current Town facilities, it was apparent that some deficiencies existed in terms of the options available for people biking to Winthrop’s many parks, beaches, schools, trails, commercial districts, and municipal buildings. According to the Department of Public Works Operations Manager, Steve Calla, “There was an obvious lack of equipment to accommodate bicycle parking.”

In order to provide better infrastructure for secure bike parking in specific locations and to encourage a more bikeable community culture in general, the Town decided to move forward with this Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality funded program.  “The DPW staff was happy to be able to help out with the installation of these racks.  It was an exciting project to be involved with,” said Calla.

For those who have a eye toward making Winthrop a more bike- and pedestrian-friendly community, the opportunity was simply too good to pass up.  McKenna goes on, “The bike parking program provided the Town a chance to take the first small steps toward making the Walk Winthrop vision a reality.  The Town’s leadership is not only committed to supporting efforts to increase local recreational capacity but has also identified the larger regional transportation planning activities as an important discussion for Winthrop to be engaged in.”

The trend toward making the greater metropolitan area more amenable to biking is symbolized by the recent bike-sharing program, Hubway, being rolled out this summer.  As MAPC’s Transportation Planner, David Loutzenheiser, who has been working on the project explains, “Hubway provides easy access to a bicycle for everyone who is near a station.  As the system expands over time, more and more destinations will be available.  With more cyclists on the roads, there will be increased awareness among drivers and therefore increased safety for all road users.”

With 61 stations and 600 bikes opening this week and plans to extend the network to Brookline, Somerville, and Cambridge by this fall, Winthrop has been involved in preliminary conversations to be a part of the initiative as it expands over the course of the next few years.

Consistent with these efforts, the Town’s Grants Administrator, Peter Lombardi, submitted an application for District Local Technical Assistance this past spring.  “We were awarded funding to partner with the MAPC in mapping out how the goals of the Walk Winthrop report may be best translated to the streets, sidewalks, and trails around the community,” said Lombardi.

The Town is working with Loutzenheiser to leverage its public works projects in a coordinated manner and integrate its vision into its broader strategic community planning process.  Loutzenheiser, who prior to his work with the MAPC was involved in crafting the Massachusetts Bicycle Plan in 2008, thinks that Winthrop is well positioned to take advantage of the numerous regional connections being made due to its close proximity to both Boston and the North Shore.

As Loutzenheiser points out, “Winthrop, as a key anchor to Boston Harbor, provides a convenient and attractive destination to reach by bicycle, particularly from the existing transit stations on the MBTA Blue Line and Winthrop Ferry.  Developing a marked bicycle route between these transit hubs as well as a connection to the East Boston Greenway will put Winthrop on the map so to speak.”

While the new bike racks are a start in this direction, the planning efforts behind the District Local Technical Assistance program will help clarify the timing and scope of local transportation improvements as they arise so that the ideas behind the Walk Winthrop report can be translated in a meaningful way for residents and visitors alike.

“Winthrop is a close-knit seaside community with abundant natural resources and the more that we can do to encourage a broader appreciation of these strengths the better.  From Belle Isle Marsh to Yirrell Beach, there is a reason that the residents of this town have such a deep sense of pride in where they come from,” said McKenna. “What we are hoping to do is give them another way to enjoy the Town and expose residents from neighboring communities to all that Winthrop has to offer.”

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