~Submitted by Craig Jackson
The Reformatory Branch Trail can be a pleasant walk but there are a number of safety problems. These have caused me to avoid the trail at times. Here are a few of the issues:
The narrow width. Most of the trail is reasonably wide, but at each end, there are pieces that are too narrow for two cyclists to pass. West of Concord Rd, it can be a problem for two pedestrians to pass.
The rocks. There are rocks up to a foot across in the surface of the path. These rocks can disturb the path of a less experienced cyclist and can cause a walker or runner to turn an ankle.
The mud. This is mostly a cosmetic issue for pedestrians but a safety issue for cyclists. If a cyclist hits mud, their wheel basically stops. Strong cyclists may be able to power through, but less experienced cyclists can easily fall.
The drop-offs. Portions of the path are on fill, with ditches on either side. The drop at Mongo Brook is 6 feet. Combined with the narrowness of the path these drop-offs require vigilance to avoid falling.
Road crossings. The entrance at Railroad Ave is a known danger area. The Hartwell Rd crossing can be hard to cross when busy. Bad sightlines and fast traffic make Concord Rd always difficult. Steep slopes on both sides require a cyclist to power up the hill, then stop abruptly to find the break in the traffic. Again, this favors experienced cyclists.
The Minuteman Extension addresses each of these problems. The path will be at least 12 feet wide throughout its length, allowing two walkers and two cyclists to pass at the same time. The path will be a firm, stable surface in all weather conditions. The drop-offs will be addressed with elbow height railings. Crossings will be addressed by signals at the Railroad Ave entrance and Hartwell Rd, and an underpass at Concord Rd will eliminate conflicts between path and road users.
Opponents have suggested that the paved trail will be unsafe because it will bring lots of fast cyclists. I think that can be stated as “it will bring lots of users.” That would be a success, not a problem. The trail is for everyone and should be shared! I recommend support for the Minuteman Extension.
Editor’s note: Craig Jackson is a member of the Bedford Bicycle Advisory Committee.