Racks seen as boon to cyclists

128 spots aimed at attracting riders

Among the 128 new bicycle racks installed is this one at the library. Among the 128 new bicycle racks installed is this one at the library. (City of Lynn)
By John Laidler
Globe Correspondent / January 9, 2011

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Lynn officials are hoping a new initiative will spur residents to hop on their bikes when going downtown, to parks, and the waterfront.

The city is completing installation of 128 new bicycle racks at various public spots, creating 280 convenient parking spaces for cyclists.

Lynn got help from the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, which has a program that reimburses communities for the racks.

James Marsh, Lynn’s community development director, said the city is providing the racks as a convenience to cyclists who would like secure, designated places to park bikes.

But he said the city also is hoping that the racks will encourage more residents to think about bicycling to get around the city, which would benefit their health and the local environment.

“I don’t think too many people will be using their bikes during the winter. But hopefully, come spring and summer, you’ll see bikes chained to these racks on a regular basis and more and more people will be utilizing them,’’ he said.

Marsh said the racks contribute to the city’s goal of making Lynn a more pedestrian and bicycle-friendly community.

As part of that effort, the city also is talking to Bike to the Sea about the possible inclusion of Lynn on the regional trail from Everett to Nahant Beach that the group is seeking to develop. The city also is exploring long-term options for pedestrians and bicyclists to cross safely over the Lynnway to the city’s waterfront.

The bike rack locations are the public library, City Hall, North Shore Community College, the MBTA bus and train terminal, the city’s Seaport Marina, Lynn Woods Reservation, and local athletic fields.

“The installation of these bike racks not only promotes safety, an alternative means of transportation, and a healthy environment, but also dovetails our current efforts to combat issues such as childhood obesity,’’ Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy said in a statement.

“In addition, we are providing an incentive to enjoy city amenities such as Lynn Shore Drive, Lynn Woods, and our library. The ancillary benefits of health, fitness, and promotion of city resources are just as important as securing the bikes,’’ she added.

A regional planning agency for 101 Greater Boston cities and towns, MAPC began offering its Regional Bike Parking Program in 2007, according to David Loutzenheiser, a transportation planner for the agency.

To date, 78 communities have enrolled in the program, of which 70 have ordered and/or installed racks, according to Loutzenheiser. In all, racks providing for 8,900 spaces have been ordered or installed across the MAPC region.

In addition to Lynn, communities installing the racks include Beverly, Chelsea, Danvers, Essex, Gloucester, Ipswich, Medford, Melrose, Nahant, Peabody, Reading, Rockport, Salem, Saugus, Somerville, Swampscott, Topsfield, Wilmington, Winchester, and Winthrop. Four other area communities — Everett, Revere, Stoneham, and Woburn — have enrolled in the program but not yet ordered racks.

The MAPC covers the cost of the racks with monies it has received through a federal program that supports projects that enhance air quality. Since 2007, the agency has received $931,000 in those funds, of which about $300,000 remains.

Participating communities request the racks through a uniform procurement process established by the MAPC, which reimburses for all the acquisition costs. Communities pay for shipping and installing the racks, which satisfies the local match required under the federal grant program.

The cost of the 128 racks for Lynn was $17,772. The city paid $1,324 for shipping, and $17,637 for installation.

“The mission of the program is to provide more transportation options for people, but also options that not only improve air quality but have important health benefits,’’ Loutzenheiser said. “Obviously, improving conditions for cycling is one way to do that.

“Cities like Cambridge, Boston, and Somerville are starting to see a critical mass of cyclists,’’ he said, noting that the ranks of bicyclists in those communities is larger and more diverse than it was a decade ago.

To give all communities a chance to benefit from the program, MAPC initially limited how many racks any one city or town could request.

But communities now can order as many racks as they would like while the federal funding lasts.

The City of Boston has placed about seven orders, requesting enough racks for 1,600 parking spaces.

While it varies by community, Loutzenheiser said the racks overall have been getting good usage.

“I get pictures of racks that have just been installed, with the concrete still wet, and there are already bikes on them,’’ he said.