Letter to the Editor: Paving Will Provide All-weather Access to the Reformatory Branch Trail

~Submitted by Matthew Black

I regularly bike with my kids, now 3 and 5 years old, from our home near Fawn Lake to the LEAP and Davis schools in west Bedford. I get exercise, my kids are exposed to the outdoors, and we get to reduce our family carbon footprint. We are able to do this because of the off-road biking routes we have in town. 

The Minuteman, Narrow Gauge, and Reformatory branch rail trails were the main reason that we moved to Bedford. These trails allow us, as a family, to bike, run, and walk with safety and ease for fun, exercise, shopping, and commuting.

I want to share the joy and benefits of biking and walking on these trails with as many people as possible. While many enjoy biking and walking on the Reformatory Branch when the weather is nice, travel on the path is not possible in all weather and many are excluded regardless of the weather.  We would love to bike year-round, but rain floods the path and any more than a dusting of snow makes the trail impassable. With rain covers and puffy blankets, we’re ready for the weather, but the trail is not and often forces us into a car as there is not an alternative safe biking route across town.

My parents, in their 70s, opted to get off the Reformatory Branch after having difficulty navigating the ruts on the trail. Biking on Railroad Ave to get to the Reformatory Branch feels unsafe as cars often speed around the bend. These concerns prevent many from enjoying the benefits of our trails. 

A paved path, the majority with stone dust shoulders for walking, and safe access via Railroad Ave will increase safety and make the path more accessible for all, regardless of their ability or the weather. With an improved multi-use trail, more people (myself included) will be able to get out of the cars and bike instead. I love to run and ride on dirt trails, but with 30+ miles of dirt trails in Bedford, there will continue to be plenty to explore. 

Let’s give as many of our kids, our fellow community members, and our planet the joy and benefits of biking, running, and walking on this amazing trail. Please join me in voting in favor of the proposed upgrades to the Minuteman Extension to increase the accessibility and safety of Bedford’s rail trails! 

Rain, snow or shine, we’d love to be on the bike paths.

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EMcClung
October 19, 2022 7:52 am

Is there a plan to put salt along the asphalt in the woods/wetlands to melt black ice once the temperature drops below freezing? It is dangerous walking or biking on untreated pavement once the temperature falls.

Angela Winter
October 20, 2022 12:18 pm
Reply to  EMcClung

According to item 10 on the Towns FAQ, there are currently no plans to plow the trail in the winter. I know that they did not use salt or ice melt on the Minuteman when I used to use it frequently in the winter, and it got very ice in spots.

Terry Gleason
October 18, 2022 10:29 pm

I actually met Matthew biking his young kid on the dirt rail trail to day care last summer, and saw him again Friday during a heavy rain – so I can vouch that he and the kids are ‘all-weather’ bikers.

Bedford, let’s make it easier for people like Matthew, and the many others who do bike or wish to bike more if only our rail trails and roads were safer and easier to use. People who wish to drive less should not have to choose between biking on 40 mph Concord Rd with distracted drivers and a wet, muddy, or icy rutted rail trail.

To the Board of Health member who sought ‘data’ Monday night for why Bedford should pave the only viable off-road connection between Town Center and West Bedford:

  • Half of household daily trips are less than 3 miles (Bureau of Transportation Statistics)
  • 55% of adults would bike more if conditions were better (multiple surveys, cited in recent Globe article by Shirley Leung)
  • Town center, sports fields, library, BHS, JGMS are less than 3 miles for residents in West Bedford

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