Letter to the Editor: Traffic Changes Impact Bikeway Decision

~Submitted by Deb Edinger

Traffic patterns have changed significantly since the pandemic. Many people no longer commute into offices or only go in part time and that is not likely to change. The Boston Globe recently published a letter that described these changing traffic patterns (John Hancock How traffic has changed through the pandemic 8/12/2021). The pandemic changed the predictability of traffic congestion. Instead of occurring during regular commuting hours it now occurs much more randomly. The commuters who used to be in offices full time are now working from homes that they frequently leave in cars to run errands.  The bulk of the cyclists on the Minuteman Pathway especially on weekends are not commuters they are recreational users.

Today all users are accommodated on the two different trail types. Faster more athletic cyclists can use the Minuteman trail. Walkers, dog walkers, casual cyclists, runners, cross country skiers, and families with young children predominate on the slower more rural Reformatory trail. Paving the trail adds less than two miles for the athletic users but makes the trail much less attractive to slower users.

If the Reformatory trail does end up being paved it would be dominated by a single class of recreational users and some commuters.  A narrow-angled gravel path designed for drainage is not ideal for runners knees or walkers who do not want to walk single file. How ironic if the slower users are forced to drive to more accommodating trails. The state may provide funding but its’ goals are not the town’s goals. Please vote no on paving the Reformatory Trail.

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Patty Dahlgren
November 5, 2022 7:54 am

Thank you Deb – very thoughtful. Vote NO on 10.

Tim Bennett
November 2, 2022 11:26 pm

I’m pretty sure “Walkers, dog walkers, casual cyclists, runners, cross country skiers, and families with young children predominate” on whatever trail is closest to them. I see no reason why a casual runner or dog walker would drive from one side of town to other to the Reformatory Trail just to walk or run. My experience with the Minuteman Trail proven this. Dogs and strollers abound. I even saw a cross country skier once while sledding at Four Seasons in Lexington.

Angela Winter
November 3, 2022 4:35 pm
Reply to  Tim Bennett

I am actually someone who sometimes drives to a specific path for “casual” use. In my experience on the RBT, MM and the Narrow Gauge, I have seen plenty of people drive to trail heads to pick them up by foot, bike or otherwise. Sometimes I am pressed for time, and rather than walk down to a specific trail, I hop in my car. Or if I have a place to be afterwards, I will take my car. Or if I feel like going to a trail in Concord or Carlisle, I take my car. And I suspect that many people who live on the far edges of town will have to drive to the trails. The notion that paving this trail will cut down on car trips does not seem like it will actually manifest itself. And if you saw someone cross country skiing on the MM, that makes me think that the MM wasn’t plowed down to pavement, which I have also witnessed in my times using it.

November 2, 2022 9:55 pm

We are in the category of said “slower” users (children, wheelchair) and can only use the minuteman. If we want to access another option we have to drive out of town. It would be so lovely to have more than one accessible space here in town.

Chris Wojnar
November 2, 2022 9:25 pm

You’ve made such a good point about how traffic patterns have changed, as well as work life and the way of the commute. Another thing that has changed over the last few years during pandemic time is the need so many of us have to de-stress By slowing down, being outdoors, and connecting to nature.

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