By Meredith McCulloch
A preliminary design for the connection between the Minuteman Bikeway along Railroad Avenue to the planned Reformatory Trail extension was presented to the Selectmen on November 2 by Patricia Domigan from the consultant firm VHB (Vaneasse, Hangen, Brustlin, Inc.) The proposal calls for a ten-foot wide shared-use path on the South side of Railroad Avenue. A four and one-half foot sidewalk on the north side would include a three-foot grass buffer strip. The sidewalk would continue around the corner on Commercial Avenue with an expectation that it would be extended down the road in the future. A wooden guardrail would protect pedestrians from overhang by parked trucks.
Terry Gleason, chair of the Bicycle Advisory Committee, reported that the committee is very happy with the design and especially pleased that the planners worked with Mass DOT and MPAC to develop the plan.
Concerns from the Selectmen and the audience centered on safety issues. Several speakers challenged the location of the crosswalk, suggesting that it would be better located off the curve. The planners said the location provided the best sightlines from either direction and is in fact where people cross now without the benefit of a marked crosswalk.
Another concern was that users would mistakenly feel that they have the same level of safety provided by the wide Minuteman Bikeway which has no competing traffic and natural buffers on either side. Domigan said the connector is not intended to be a seamless bikeway duplicating the Minutemen Bikeway experience on Railroad Avenue.
Several commercial abutters attended the meeting. In response to a comment about the number of curb cuts, Domigan explained that most of the curb cuts lead to loading docks so many changes cannot be done without impacting private properties. E.B. Lloyd of Lloyd and Taylor, Inc. said he was willing to work on changes in curb cuts at his property, but cautioned that trucks require a wide swing.
John Martines, whose bus company supplies Bedford school buses, said parking on his site is very tight. School buses are now four-feet longer than they were previously.
Selectman Mark Siegenthaler echoed concerns about safety as the bike riders moved from the security of the bikeway to a more vulnerable path down Railroad Avenue. He wondered if is there a way to put the connector to the rear of the properties where the experience of the bikeway can be duplicated.
At the conclusion of the meeting VHB agreed to look at the possibility of a path behind the buildings and to hold individual meetings with the abutters to review the safety concerns that were raised. The Selectmen must approve the preliminary design before the design development can go forward.
To see the design as presented November 2:
For more information see previous articles in The Bedford Citizen:
Previous informational meetings on the plan, including details of two previous public presentations from June 9 and August 4, can be found on the DPW site at: https://www.bedfordma.gov/department-of-public-works