Letter to the Editor: Reformatory Trail Issues Can be Fixed Without Paving, Widening

~Submitted by Jacqueline (Jaci) Edwards

Sometimes less is more.

Issues on the dirt trail can be addressed without destroying a natural environment sought by diverse users– walkers, runners, bicyclists, those with assistive devices –as a healthy refuge from a busy, noisy world, or forcing an unprecedented hostile takeover of our neighbors’ private sanctuaries – their yards. 

Assertions are that a wider, faster, paved trail will make it safer. Demonstrably, it will not. The Bicycle Advisory Committees and Select Boards of the three “bikeway” towns—including Bedford’s—have known about serious safety concerns on the Minuteman Bikeway for years and called for a research study, which was executed by Daniel Amstutz, Arlington Senior Transportation Planner and his team (https://www.arlingtonma.gov/home/showpublisheddocument/56160).

What did our local professionals find about the paved bikeway? Concerns about safety conditions on the MMBikeway became increasingly serious as the number of users and speeding increased.

Direct quotations from their findings follow:

  • Issues of user conflict and safety between different user types are frequently raised . . .  Most conflicts appear to be between pedestrians and people bicycling, especially in terms of the speed . . . bicyclists passing pedestrians too quickly or too close, or getting frustrated at being unable to pass pedestrians or other cyclists so they can move faster
  • Higher speeds of some bicyclists are making lower-speed users uncomfortable and creating hazardous conditions for all users of the Bikeway. 
  • Lower-speed users feel unsafe and uncomfortable on the Bikeway . . . fear[ing] they will be struck and injured [especially since] the fatal crash that occurred on the Bikeway in Lexington in March 2019, when two cyclists collided with each other and one was killed. [emphasis added; also in Boston Globe]

The professionals’ report says the dirt paths (Bedford, Concord) don’t suffer these serious concerns about personal safety. Issues about today’s RBT can be fixed for a lot less money, disruption and community division – if our town wants to, and it should, because the RBT is safer–AS A DIRT PATH.

Editor’s Note: Edwards is speaking for herself, not as a representative of BARC

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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
November 4, 2022 8:23 pm

The professionals’ report says the dirt paths (Bedford, Concord) don’t suffer these serious concerns about personal safety.” I am having trouble finding where the linked report makes any such assertion about dirt paths. Can you direct me to this?

McClain, John
November 3, 2022 12:46 pm

While a prescriptive easement would most likely allow the town to maintain the path (and buried utilities) as is, such an easement won’t allow the town to make improvements. Not clear what safety fixes are being proposed here, but we should’t assume town would be legally allowed to make them without purchasing much of the land outlined in Article 10.

Nancy Wolk
November 1, 2022 7:41 pm

A public path needs to be owned by the public. Not private landowners

Molly L Haskell
November 3, 2022 12:53 pm
Reply to  Nancy Wolk

There are three big private property issues in the Extension vote. Do not conflate them. They are:

1–Fixing a mistake: This time last year, everyone believed that the Town owned the RBT, and perhaps a few feet to the North and South of it. In January, we learned that a 150-year-old title error puts that in question. The solution is to purchase those slivers of land. Only the tinfoil hat brigade opposes making the Town whole on this matter.

2–Hostile taking of private property–The Town will also execute eminent domain on big chunks of private property that strip owners of their personal sanctuaries, and impede operations for local businesses. It takes a special level of indifference to dismiss the harm to one’s neighbors when you halve their front yard, or their back yard, and remove the shade and privacy they work to pay off every month.

3–Temporary Easements–Last, the Extension gives MassDOT (who will run this project, and NOT the Town) permission to borrow private land from abutters along the length of the project. This land will not be purchased. MassDOT will have leave to clear timber, store and stage equipment and materials for four years, and then leave. There is no documented plan to refurbish cleared timber. The Town has not made available any diagrams or measurements of these parcels, so we can add that tree clearance to what was reported in the Landscape and Tree Removal Plan.

Keep your peas out of your mashed potatoes. Fixing a title error is one thing. Stripping people of their property, or altering it in a fundamental way is quite another.

Suzanne Koller
November 6, 2022 3:10 am
Reply to  Nancy Wolk

Nancy are you a town officiial? Board of assessors member? This deeply concerns me. Eminent domain is a HUGE issue not to be taken lightly.

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