South End LDC Puts a Brake on Artistic Bike Racks

June 12, 2018
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It’s been two years since Washington Gateway Main Street began preparing for its Washington Street Artistic Bike Racks Project. With a goal to revitalize Washington Street and support the businesses on the street, the project plans to install bike racks with designs that “evoke the South End spirit.”

Those plans, however, will have to wait a little longer. The South End Landmark District Commission (SELDC) rejected Washington Gateway’s application at a public hearing held on Tuesday, June 5, at the Piemonte Room in Boston City Hall.

The SELDC suggested that Washington Gateway return in the future with changes.

“Some of the comments had to do with revising the design a bit. I think to some extent that’s going to help,” said Tom Parks, of Washington Gateway. “It’s just a timeline how long you want to wait. … We want to get something done during the summer.”

The three proposed locations included two areas near Mike’s City Diner and one by Flour Bakery. Parks said Washington Gateway also hoped for a fourth location, while the long-term goal is to install four to six bike racks on Washington Street.

Public concerns noted if the proposed locations were appropriate. There are already pre-existing bike racks or nearby Blue Bikes, formerly known as Hubway, stations in the proposed locations.

“The city might have experience in this, but those who live there know that back corner is incredibly busy,” SELDC member Catherine Hunt said.

Parks said Washington Gateway may consider different locations altogether, should the currently proposed location not work out.

Parks added the application met the Boston Transportation Department’s (BTD) requirements, although it wasn’t shown to the Inspectional Services Department. It also received support from Seiyo Boston and Myers + Chang, two restaurants neighboring the proposed install locations.

The white bike racks, which have a wrought iron railing-inspired swirly design, would be built with stainless steel for its durability and low maintenance. Up to two bikes may be mounted to the bike racks.

Concerned with the design’s large dimensions—38 inches tall-by-36 inches wide—SELDC member John Amodeo questioned if people may not use the bike racks as intended and try to mount more than the maximum capacity.

John Monacelli, of the BTD, said he wasn’t worried people would overuse the bike rack.

Amodeo suggested that WGMS should decrease the proposed size and present a model that can help the committee get a better sense of the bike rack’s impact on public space.

When issues of public safety were mentioned, Amodeo noted the code requires the gap to either be smaller than four inches or greater than nine inches in case of entrapment issues. He said the design did not pose danger in that regard.

South End residents should still expect additional bike racks in the neighborhood, however, as Washington Gateway was not the only organization looking to add new bike racks in the city.

The BTD also proposed installation of additional bike racks at three now-approved locations in Rutland Square: one at Columbus Avenue, another in front of the Titus Sparrow Park Courts and the last near Titus Sparrow Garden.

Other applications included HDR Engineering Inc.’s proposal to install two wheelchair ramps and two warning panels on Herald Street between Harrison and Albany; and Villa Victoria Center for the Arts’ proposal to install exterior lighting and signage.

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