Letter to the Editor: Negative Impacts of Paving the Reformatory Branch Trail

Submitted by Kathy Doherty 

Paving of the Reformatory Branch Trail is not a good choice.

First, the temperature will increase because the removal of so much of the tree canopy will allow more heat to enter the area above and beside the path, making the path a hotter environment for those along the path and living beside it. Furthermore, walking dogs along the asphalt on a hot day may become prohibitive because, for example, when the air temperature is 77, the asphalt temperature will now be 125. 

Second, adding asphalt to the forest floor will not necessarily make the path safer and may even make it worse. Arlington’s Minuteman Bikeway Planning Project Final Report concludes that “. . . the Bikeway faces challenges related to crowding, differences in speed between users and expectations of user behavior.” The information in this report pertains to their end of the path, but consider that “Between January 2017 and September 2021” there were 35 crashes along Arlington’s stretch of the bikeway. I am not aware of any crashes on our end of the trail. When people are forced to slow down and be attentive as happens on dirt, they are far less likely to crash. 

Third, if the path is paved, won’t it require maintenance, signage, and lights? Will we need traffic officers? Indeed, Arlington police issued 84 citations on one day alone, which tells us that people speed on pavement much more often than we know. 

Fourth, what of the charm of the path and our enjoyment of nature? Some of the trees living there are old and beautiful, but if they are removed, we will lose their charm and the aesthetic beauty they provide. The path will probably be made more linear, angular, and artificial-looking. We’re being told new trees will be planted, but they will take years to grow anywhere near the height of the ones slated to be taken down, meaning it will be years before we can enjoy the path as we do now. 

Has anyone actually complained about the path as it is now? People already bike, walk and push carriages along this path without difficulty all the time. Are puddles a problem as the town’s pictures suggest? How detrimental can puddles be when children love them? 

This would be an irrevocable change, which would take a natural, “rural” environment and turn it into something more citylike.

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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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McClain, John
October 29, 2022 2:46 pm

“there were 35 crashes along Arlington’s stretch of the bikeway.” More context from the report “Of these crashes, 27 involved [ motor ] vehicles and eight solely involved path users.”

Not clear how many of the remaining 8 crashes involved more than one person. Most of the incidents in the same period in Lexington were single bike accidents…sometimes people fall off bikes.

As for the issuance of citations, also from the report “information on whether citations were given to path users or drivers was not included. These citations were often issued in clusters, with several on the same day, so it can be assumed they were likely part of a focused patrol effort preceding the Fall 2020 intersection improvements.”

Last edited 1 year ago by McClain, John
Frank P Richichi
October 16, 2022 10:28 am

I believe the concerns about tree cover are misleading and overstated. The Minuteman Bikeway and the Bruce Freeman Bikeway are examples of well covered trails. If you stand in the middle of the proposed trail and look up you will see tree cover provided by larger trees well outside the area to be cut. Most of the trees to be cut are small invasive, weak and young saplings. As with any arborist maintenance, removing invasive trees and vines from around healthy trees will improve tree health and tree canopy. This was true for the above mentioned trails as it will be for these trails.

Robin Steele
October 18, 2022 11:44 am

BARC voted unanimously to NOT support the project because of their concerns about the trees. Also before they voted they went through a discussion about how the Bruce Freeman is like the path is now without the pavement. They felt that comparing the Bruce Freeman is misleading.

McClain, John
October 29, 2022 2:36 pm
Reply to  Robin Steele

My memory of their last meeting it is was asserted the Bruce Freeman was different, but there was no explanation of how it was different.

Emily Wade
October 14, 2022 12:40 pm

Although I don’t live near the path and don’t bike or hike anymore, I strongly suggest that the path not be paved. The letter in todays issue says it all. Sincerely ,Paddy (Emily Wade resident since 1951.

loretta stacchi
October 14, 2022 9:02 am

Well said. I walk the path with a cane and my dog. Many times bicyclists go zooming by. It startles myself and dog I walk on the very edge of the path. Leave it the way it is and request that the bicyclists announce when they approach walkers. Thank you

October 14, 2022 1:28 am

Those Arlington stats are actually pretty awesome. Thank you for sharing them.

Arlington has 3x Bedford’s population crammed into about 40% of the space. The community revolves around the Bike Path. It’s in use around the clock: kids walk and bike to school, adults commute to work, folks even drive in from out-of-town to park in East Arlington and then walk to Alewife. All on a skinnier path than what we’ll have in Bedford.

And despite all this activity there’s less than 1 accident a month.

That’s fantastic! I’ve been hearing a lot about how unsafe things will be. You’ve put my fears to rest.

Between these stats and the safety improvements on the roadways, like the dedicated bike path and crosswalk on Railroad Ave, the underpass at the Concord Road crossing, and the separation of bike path and driveway at Hartwell, it sounds like a winner to me! (That underpass is important, what with last May’s car accident where the bike path crosses the road.)

And with the new access points and parking along the way, maybe people who can’t use the path now, like Sarah Blackman who wrote an op-ed last week, will be able to use the path. It didn’t sound like she was complaining, but she had valid concerns.

And with the news that new trees will be planted, it sounds like your remaining concerns are that the pavement might be hot and folks might not like the look.

If this helps, I walk my dog on streets and sidewalks in full sun in the summer. He’s never seemed concerned about the heat. And he loves the sparse shaded Jenks Trail; those chipmunks in the rocks are great and sometimes the students leave snacks. (Though, I admit that I’m less excited about the snacks that he finds.)

And as for the aesthetics, that’s a personal decision. But I hope you’ll weigh the safety and accessibility improvements in your decision.

Thanks again for the statistics! They were really quite helpful.

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