By Kim Siebert MacPhail
A preliminary tally of the first “Toward a Healthier Bedford”survey shows that respondents view “Community” and “Trails and Nature” contribute positively toward their quality of life. Walkability in thecenter of town and quality of the schools also received highly positive ratings. On the negative side, “Traffic” and “Lack of Sidewalks” dominate the list of obstacles to healthy living. Lack of affordable housing, property taxes, lack of adequate public transportation, and lack of good restaurants/ shops allreceived a high number of negative rankings as well.
At last week’s Bedford Youth and Family Services Committee meeting, Director Sue Baldauf, whose office initiated the survey, said, “Our focus, of course, is on the challenges. With [transportation related issues] and housing being two of the things that pop to the top of what makes it difficult to live in Bedford, we’re a little daunted for how to begin to address it.
“We’re going to be meeting with the Healthy Bedford Task Force and I’ve also started letting town leaders know the results [of the survey]. Given that it’s transportation and housing at the top of the list, I think our plan is to sit down with the various committees that work on these things and find out what they’re doing, what the concerns are, and bring the groups together.”
Some of the groups Baldauf plans to work with include the Traffic Advisory Committee, the Sidewalk Committee and the Department of Public Works. The DPW also has representatives on the Healthy Bedford Task Force.
“We haven’t started doing publicity about this yet but it is information that we’re beginning to talk to groups about.
Baldauf emphasized that the question was open-ended that survey respondents were asked to address: “What impacts your healthy lifestyle in Bedford?”
“It wasn’t the survey’s job to define what [aspects of ‘traffic’ were the problem.] We got various comments that all related to traffic.”
Bedford Youth and Family Services Committee chair Kristina Philipson provided some examples of what the response “traffic” might refer to: “Traffic could mean, ‘it’s dangerous crossing the street’; ‘it’s very stressful sitting in my car and going three blocks”; “it takes too long to get to work.”
Baldauf said that the survey did not request demographic information so it is impossible to say who, exactly, the respondents were. “Some people answered online, some at Bedford Day, some of it was mailed in as a hard copy form.”
“For the next round, It could be we would ask for that kind of information,”Baldauf said.
For more information about the Healthy Bedford initiative, visit the “Bedford in Motion” website at: https://www.bedfordma.gov/index.php/bedford-in-motion-mission