~ Submitted by Sandra Hackman
I just returned from my second bike outing this week on the existing Minuteman shared-used path heading from Bedford to Lexington and Arlington during midday. Here is what I saw:
The paved path was wide, green, and cool, with overhanging trees set back from an unpaved shoulder on both sides. At least half the users were older bicyclists moseying along. Mothers and fathers were pushing one- and two-child strollers. Younger adults politely passed numerous walkers. A mother jogged alongside a wobbly eight-year-old on in-line skates. An adult surrounded by preschoolers rested on a boulder next to the path. Individuals were running. A small group of middle-school students walked together.
The overall experience was one of community and joy. The path did not feel crowded or unsafe. I would really like such an opportunity for Bedford. Fortunately, we are on the cusp of realizing that dream.
Dozens of volunteers have worked with town staff for 15 years to extend the Minuteman shared-use path through the center of Bedford. Unlike the existing dirt path, this extension would accommodate users of all ages and abilities. The path would connect East and West Bedford and Depot Park to schools, the library, playing fields, and Town Center.
Town Meeting voted to invest close to $1 million to design the project. The state held public meetings to obtain feedback and modified the plan accordingly.
After long advocacy, the state agreed to contribute $11 million to create not only the Minuteman extension but to invest in sorely needed sidewalks and drainage systems on Railroad Ave. An underpass at Concord Rd. would allow safe crossing where an accident recently sent a bicyclist to the hospital. The safe crossing would allow easier access to Great Meadows National Wildlife Sanctuary.
In November we will have the chance to make this vision a reality by voting to acquire the necessary easements. Because the town has extensive infrastructure beneath the existing path, it needs to acquire those easements no matter what. Having the state pay for all these benefits would save taxpayers millions of dollars.
I urge you to join me in voting to bring this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to fruition at Special Town Meeting on November 14. To find out more about the project, please see the FAQ just posted on the DPW website, https://www.bedfordma.gov/minuteman-extension
Thank you for this article!
Given the rapidly accelerating climate crisis, I believe it is absolutely essential for suburban communities to create more safe, separated, multi-use paths where walkers and cyclists of all ages and abilities can reliably and comfortably travel without a car.
In its current form, this path serves fair-weather recreational walkers, runners, and cyclists well, but it does not provide a safe and reliable path for those of us seeking reliable alternatives to single-occupancy vehicles.
I gave up my car and shifted nearly all of my local trips to bike one year ago. I am a mother with a young child, and we do nearly everything by bike. We ride our bike to buy groceries, to AFC Urgent Care for Covid testing, for daily preschool drop-off & pick-up, and event to Lexington for back-to-school shoes.
Our family rides bikes for transport year round, even in winter, so I am intimately familiar with this trail’s limitations when the weather is poor. When there is heavy rain, ice, or snow, this path is impassable. That means when riding conditions are most dangerous, I am forced to grit my teeth and ride on 62. No one should have to do that!
The transportation sector is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Massachusetts (37%). We need to do more to reduce vehicle miles traveled, and the only way we can do that is to make traveling without a car safe and reliable – regardless of the weather.
Why doesn’t the Citizen hold a poll to ascertain potential use, especially of those in the western side of town to, perhaps, ride or walk or otherwise travel in to work, school, shop, do errands, etc. Also general opinions could be asked, rather than wait for the vote to be the first and yet final poll on the topic?
The Trail is delightful as is. How, in view of climate change, can one consider taking out over 4 acres of lovely trees that shade the path now, and remove the underbrush that holds water, with thousands of pounds of asphalt and consider it a “good thing” for Bedford is beyond me.
Agreed. Paving and driving wildlife further out of this sanctuary won’t bode well for State Highway Rt. 62. Expect deer crossings and coyote incursions to residential areas.
Thank you so much for your perspective, Sandra!
Just curious and I mean no disrespect but what do the bikers do when they reach the concord line and it’s not paved ? If you really need pavement why not go all they way to Arlington ? I see both sides but the path is accessible in its current format this was voted down once does the vote keep happening until it passes ?
Independent of what Concord does, paving the path out to Concord Rd gives people in Bedford more options. Those in West Bedford can more easily get to the town center / the 62 Bus / Great Road Shopping Center, etc. Those of us in the Center / East Bedford can get to Chip-n-Farm. Those on South Rd south of Elm Brook. have a safer route to JGMS, and the Hight School.
The current path is only accessible when it isn’t too wet, and / or you have the right equipment (e.g. it mostly leaves out those in wheel chairs). Railroad Ave in its current configuration with both bicycle and pedestrian hostile.
The path is quiet on a Friday in August. My husband and son rode to Arlington today (Saturday) and they said it had quite a few people on it. In the Fall it’s a madhouse, often unsafe with bikers riding at top speed or double …
Agreed. Cycling the path from Great Meadows to Arlington Center is illustrative of transitioning from a bucolic to a metropolitan immersion. Each experience offers its own value. Eliminating Bedford’s transition into Concord’s wildlife sanctuary of Great Meadows and beyond will be irreversible.
I fully agree. I had the good fortune to live in Chelmsford on the Bruce Freeman trail when it was built. There was a lot of fear from some members of the community (worries about shade, wildlife, crime) and none of those worries came to fruition. So many folks of all ages and abilities enjoyed the lovely, shaded path. It improved access to a number of town trails and open conservation areas, and it was a wonderful way to take my kids out and explore meadows and streams in the area. I have enjoyed the path as it stands, but it is a real mess in the spring, and I can certainly see how it will become inaccessible as I age.
Thank you for sharing your experience. This is the Minuteman I know and love.
Why does the path need to be paved ? I rode my mountain bike over to concord and had no issues. There were dog walkers, joggers, and a dude on a one wheel skateboard
“I rode my specialized bike that is uniquely suited for unpaved trails and had no issue on the unpaved trails. Do we really need to pave this trails?”
The town voted to pave the path in 2010 because the upkeep is cheaper, it will keep the path usable more of the year (e.g. though mud season), and it makes the path accessible to those with various mobility issues (not just wheelchairs but also people that have trouble walking on uneven surfaces.)
I know personally I find biking on the RPT hard on my bad knee
I definitely endorse the extension, but I still don’t understand why we nopw call bike paths “shared-use” paths. I might be an old fuddy-duddy, but I’m a firm believer that the bike path should be reserved for people on bikes, roller blades, and scooters – those who are restricted from sidewalks. (Notice the word “walks” in sidewalks?) There are plenty of leafy streets (or even trails in the woods) where folks can take walks, commune with their dogs, and mothers can push strollers. I don’t know the bylaws for using wheelchairs, but I assume they are welcome on sidewalks as well as the bike path. As a biker, I was always annoyed at having to weave in and out of walkers two and three abreast. As a walker, I never clogged the bike path. Just sayin’. :-)
Calling the Minuteman Bikeway a shared-use path is an attempt to make the path sound like it’s wonderful for everyone. Asphalt advocates don’t want to talk about the danger of mixing pedestrians with high speed cyclists, even though it is implied by the term “shared-use”.
Bikers may experience sheer delight on paved paths, but the pedestrians and children who are forced to dodge them will most certainly not.
The Reformatory Branch Trail is a true shared-use path NOW. It’s enjoyed by walkers, runners, nature lovers, cross-country skiers, bikers, seniors, commuters and school children. And most tellingly, many of the people on the RBT now are former users of the Minuteman Bikeway who are tired of having to be constantly vigilant about high speed cyclists.
In the particular case of the RPT there are lots of existing walkers / runners who shouldn’t and don’t need to be displaced to extended the Minuteman. The goal here is to make the RPT accessible to more people, not fewer.
As Ms. Hackman so nicely describes, this doesn’t have to be zero sum, there is enough room on the path for bikes, dogs, pedestrians, etc.
The Minuteman was always intended to be a shared use path. In Lexington, walking down Mass. Ave. is a completely different experience than taking the path from, say, downtown to a neighborhood somewhere off Bedford St., especially with your dog or child. I covered the path from its inception to opening for the Lexington Minuteman and it always was a shared use path, not for bikes only, by the will of the bikers as well as townspeople. In Bedford, on the other hand, we don’t even have as many sidewalks, and allowing your child to walk to school, or even walking yourself, can be a risk. I personally would love to see and be happy to pay for sidewalk routes to school for every kid in town with crossing guards where needed, as we had when I grew up in Lexington. With schools placed all over town, I don’t remember many buses, but kids who lived two or more miles from school got to ride. (You couldn’t buy a pass.) Walking to school has multiple benefits, for increased ability to pay attention, socialization, empowerment and confidence, and straight up health.
Thank you, Sandra!