Tag: walkway

Comments on the Charles River Resource Management Plan

Comments on the Charles River Resource Management Plan

October 31, 2014

Secretary Maeve Vallely Bartlett
Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA)
100 Cambridge St., Suite 900
Boston MA 02114

RE: Comments on the Charles River Resource Management Plan

Dear Secretary Vallely Bartlett:

WalkBoston reviews public planning documents to identify potential implications for pedestrians. The following comments are based on our review of this document:

We are very excited about the opportunities presented for potential improvements in the 3- mile long section of riverfront between the Harbor and the BU Bridge. Because the document gives each proposed improvement a priority ranking, we are able to sense where DCR is moving in its schedule to improve the Lower Charles River Basin.

Many of the improvements proposed are essential for all users of the parks and nearby neighborhoods. We commend DCR for its foresight in working toward protection from flooding that might be anticipated in the wake of Hurricane Sandy two years ago. Improvements to the dam between the river and the harbor will protect the basin, and much of the Back Bay and portions of Cambridge, from flooding.

We are also happy that DCR has been active in working on both the proposed South Bank Bridge behind North Station and the “drawbridge walkway” to be constructed as part of an MBTA replacement bridge. These measures will complete the connection of the riverfront paths with the Harbor Walk.

A related improvement is the proposed walkway behind the Science Museum that would provide connections into the museum, pass over the locks with a new bridge and perhaps through the state police barracks to connect with riverside paths and the existing sidewalk in front of the Museum. This improvement would add capacity of the paths around the basin by providing a new pathway for walkers and runners who currently have no option other than the narrow sidewalk that lies along the reconstructed Craigie Dam roadway.

The partnership of DCR and The Esplanade Association has resulted in proposals that are also moving forward. The relocation of Storrow Drive under one of the Longfellow Bridge arches will provide new park space. Overall goals of the Association’s Esplanade 2020 proposals include revitalizing the area around the Hatch Shell with redesigned paths, a café, and areas for audiences attending Hatch Shell performances. One of the recurring issues in the Hatch Shell work has been the mixing of pedestrians and bicycles at the proposed café that cannot be avoided until a high-speed bicycle path, separated from pedestrian ways, is provided under the Fiedler Footbridge.

We are very pleased the concept of providing separate paths for pedestrians and cyclists is a major feature of the report. In some cases, this kind of separation already exists, as in portions of the Boston Esplanade. In others, such as the Cambridge Esplanade, it will be a major improvement to separate paths for a substantial portion of the riverfront. This design provides high-speed bicycle commuters a special route away from quieter activities, such as strolling or playing with children. We trust that the users of the Cambridge Esplanade will benefit from a proposed greensward with trees and a slight differential in elevation that promotes safety by discouraging a mix of fast cyclists and slower users of the paths.

The report also cites several management issues that require relatively small expenditures. For example, the attention given to removing or controlling geese is important because the birds have become dominant in some sections of the Basin, interfering with safe, healthy and pleasant walking on paths near the River. Snow removal is extremely important to walkers and runners who use the riverside facilities during all months of the year.

However, WalkBoston is concerned that the aspirations expressed in the document do not extend as far as they might. We hope that DCR will explore giving more attention to the following issues.

Minimum widths for paths
The report points out that some stretches of paved paths are only five feet wide. This is insufficient to serve the mix and volume of users, often including both pedestrians and bicyclists. It is clearly inadequate for a multi-use path.

Reliance on multi-use facilities
Pedestrian volumes in the riverfront between the BU Bridge and Boston Harbor are significant. These volumes are reflected in user surveys undertaken by DCR and others, where “walking for pleasure” was shown to be the single most important purpose for many people using the parkland. In another survey, 55% of the respondents cited “congested pathways” as an issue they hoped would be addressed. In the same survey 86% of the respondents would support “separating paths by user types.” 67% of respondents reported a negative experience in using the park, with the majority citing the conflict of pedestrians and cyclists.

These surveys indicate that walkers desire safe and pleasant alternatives to multi-use paths. While it is not feasible to provide separate pedestrian paths along the full length of the corridor, it is clearly a desirable feature to include throughout the wider portions of the park. Multi-use paths would thus be limited to those locations where there are no other options such as narrow stretches of parkland or the recently completed North Bank Bridge.

Provisions for runners and joggers
One of the goals stated in the report calls for safe and continuous bicycle, skating and pedestrian access along the entire length of the park. We would add to that list of users the many runners and joggers who use River paths because they are relatively safe and removed from vehicular traffic.

While runners and joggers do not directly compete with pedestrians for space, they are better served by softer surfaces than asphalt or concrete. “Soft surface” paths have been discussed in locations such as the Greenough Boulevard reconstruction, where separate paths are proposed to serve cycling, walking and running. While the separation of walking and cycling paths is a recurring theme in the report, the possibility of also providing a separate path for runners is not. We would suggest including it in any revisions that might be forthcoming. The presence of so many “goat paths” adjacent to the paved paths clearly point to the need.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this important project. Please feel free to contact us with any questions.


Robert Sloane
Senior Planner

Winthrop Harborwalk Comment Letter

Winthrop Harborwalk Comment Letter

May 27, 2014

Richard K. Sullivan, Jr.
Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs
Attn: Nicholas Zavolas
100 Cambridge St., Suite 900
Boston MA 02114

RE: Comments on the Environmental Notification Form for the Winthrop Harborwalk, Winthrop, MA
MEPA# 15202

Dear Secretary Sullivan:

WalkBoston works across Massachusetts advocating for improved and safe pedestrian facilities. We are very enthusiastic about local efforts that enhance the pedestrian environment, and where possible help residents and municipalities implement new walking facilities.

With delight, WalkBoston reviewed the ENF for the Winthrop Harborwalk, which has been designed to connect many of the water-related land uses in the former main harbor area of the town. It proposes recreating some of the original waterfront by reconstructing of a portion of the railroad trestle that once curved through Winthrop Harbor.

It’s very exciting to see a relatively small town take on a major pedestrian improvement that is focused on the waterfront. The Harborwalk will link the many nearby small businesses and local sidewalks to a new facility designed to offer residents a new way of looking at their harbor and at their town. The basic elements of the project include a new walkway designed to encourage walking along the current harborfront in areas that are primarily devoted to car parking and it opens up close views of several boatyards and marinas that are very close to the walkway.

We offer these comments:

Design the trail for extension to other areas

The proposed facility includes a 25-foot wide path – wider than most 10’-12’ wide joint use trails in Massachusetts. The right-of-way for the trail does not take away from existing parking or sidewalks, but instead adds space for walking through a proposed reuse of a former rail trestle in the harbor. Within this generous space, plans recognize the varying needs of the potential users of the path – for example, sitting spaces, strolling routes, and shade for sunny days. Many trails and viewing platforms are not as extensive or inclusive as this one. It suggests that there will be many users of this attractive facility, which is unique for the town and easily accessible to most residents. Given this likely success, it may be useful to think about extension of the trail to other areas along the waterfront, either where there are existing sidewalks that could perhaps be widened to allow more space or other alternative locations for walking and sitting at the harbor’s edge.

Design the trail to include runners
Joint use rail trails are a success in Massachusetts. Concurrent with the growth in use, new paths need to be carefully designed to serve a wide variety of users. In plans for the future (whether within this right-of-way or in trail extensions), it would be well to consider the needs of runners, who are frequent users of the trails. Runners often prefer a softer surface than that favored by cyclists and walkers; stone dust has frequently been used because it is more resilient and provides a more comfortable running surface.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this important project.


Robert Sloane
Senior Planner

Cc  James McKenna, Town Manager