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.