Letter to the Editor: Both Unpaved Trails and Paved Bikeways Have Value

By Bob Keane

Part of Bedford’s appeal when I moved into the town thirty years ago was the newly opened Minuteman Bikeway.  It’s a wonderful resource and I’ve ridden it hundreds of times recreationally and even commuted on it for five years when I was working in Boston.  I know it well.  I’ve also walked a least daily on the Branch Extension Trail, a dirt walking path that many want to convert into a Shared Bikeway Extension.  It is a topic for vote at the next town meeting.  

I think I’ve learned a few things about the Bikeway and the Branch Extension Trail over the years.  The most important is that they are very different from each other and that I value having both in Bedford.  

To be clear, a bikeway is a highway for cyclists.  It is not a bucolic pathway that can be shared equally between cyclists and pedestrians.  I know firsthand that pedestrians cannot stroll the bikeway safely and frankly, it is a dangerous place for kids to learn to ride bikes.  Most cyclists travel the Bikeway at high speeds.  They approach pedestrians quietly and give little advance notice of their passing.  In my years of riding it I’ve seen many accidents, most often with a cyclist hitting a startled pedestrian.  And with the growth of electric bikes which are capable of traveling at even higher speeds, the risk to pedestrians will grow.  While I enjoy the Minuteman Bikeway, it’s for cyclists.  Shared use is not reality.  

I value that Bedford also has access to unpaved trails through public land.  Paving those limited trails, which still accommodate a fair amount of cyclists (though a slower speed), would take away from the recreational options available to us.  I strongly encourage our citizens to consider other alternatives for safe cycling (there are many) and to vote against the Bikeway Extension Proposal.  Please preserve the limited walking trials we have.  

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The opinions expressed in Letters to the Editor are those of the writer, not The Bedford Citizen.

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Ann Kiessling
October 17, 2022 9:41 am

Thank you, Bob, for this thoughtful comparison. I, too, have used the Minuteman for commuting to work in Somerville, and loved it, but noted the distinct absence of wheelchairs, strollers and dog walkers, especially during “commuting hours.” Paving the pathway to Concord appears to be a state transportation project, not an improved nature trail project, and will not terminate in a dense population of people in need of a paved bikepath. Stone-dust paths provide safe, navigable, non-slippery pathways that accommodate wheelchairs and strollers as well as bicycles in all seasons.

October 14, 2022 9:32 pm

I have to disagree. I run strictly on the Minuteman every single day, somewhere between 7-20 miles roundtrip depending on the day. I don’t own a bike, nor will I ever. I LOVE it. It is always clear and safe for running. Sun, rain, snow…during every condition of weather it is usable. I never see speeding bikes and always feel safe. I am fine if we never pave the Reformatory path, but I must stick up for the Minuteman. It is my safe place for running and I mostly see walkers and casual bikers. It breaks my heart to hear anything negative about this path. As someone who has used it every day since I moved to Bedford, it is COMPLETELY safe and a happy place with kind people. I have never felt safer running there.

October 14, 2022 6:17 pm

I’m glad you’ve enjoyed both paths. What I will say is that I also know firsthand that it is possible and enjoyable to safely walk on the Minuteman and I do so with my husband in his wheelchair and our two small children without concern for our safety. There are a multitude of walking paths here that are totally inaccessible to my family and others in our community with mobility challenges. This project would give use more access and a choice of more than a single accessible place to visit in town.

Couvee Sandy
October 14, 2022 4:34 pm

Well said!

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