I write letters (in support of the Belmont Community Path)

March 17, 2021

Dear Mr. Matt Genova,

I support the Belmont Community Path and request that the Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization provide Transportation Improvement Program funding for the project as soon as possible.

This path should be funded for many reasons, among them:

It provides a safe, shorter route for kids from many parts of Belmont to reach the new combined middle-high school; in years past many students took an unsafe shortcut across the commuter rail tracks. The tunnel under the tracks will eliminate the unsafe shortcuts, and the path through town bypasses several busy roads and intersections. Not only will this be safer, it will also provide an alternative to driving to the high school, which causes traffic backups every morning.

For commuters to and from Alewife station, and between Belmont, Cambridge, and Somerville, it adds to the existing local network of bicycle trails and provides a safe and comfortable route that allows people to bypass area traffic instead of adding to it. People working in Belmont Center will have another option for getting to work; people who live in Belmont and commute into Cambridge/Somerville/Boston will have another option for their commute.

For recreation, right now, it will give Belmont residents a better option for reaching the Minuteman Bikeway and the community path in Cambridge and Somerville. Eventually it will connect to Waltham and beyond, and will provide that option for people in Cambridge and Somerville.

Around rush hour, Belmont can be completely stuffed full of cars, making short trips across town (in a car) impractical. Getting to/from Alewife can be particularly difficult at those times. This path provides a comfortable, practical alternative for many of these trips.

I will enjoy riding on this path and it will save me a little time and make my life a little better, but this path is really for other people who aren’t biking much now because they don’t feel safe. I already bike to work in Kendall Square every day; when I started biking to work, my health, in all measurable ways, got noticeably better, and the one-year hiatus imposed by Covid and work-from-home has made it clear, again measurable at an annual physical, what I lose when I don’t bike to work. Friends and colleagues, who themselves worry about health, parking, climate change, whatever, ask me questions about routes and bikes, and the one problem that crops up again and again is not feeling safe on the road, not wanting to be honked at, etc. This path would solve that problem for a lot of people in Belmont, and for people nearby who travel into or through Belmont. They’d save time, money, and end up healthier too. Even people who still drive in Belmont would benefit, because each person who travels through Belmont not-in-a-car, whether they walk, skate, scoot, or bike, makes traffic slightly better, and doesn’t take up a parking space, either.

I should add, some of the backyard abutters along Channing Road have objected to this path because they think it will promote crime. I don’t know their logic, but I’ve certainly heard their worry at many public meetings. However, I’ve been biking on the Fitchburg Cutoff to Alewife since it was just a muddy path through the woods, and back then it was substantially creepier and sketchier than it is today with a well-designed multi-use path. Kids used to gather there to drink and spray graffiti, my kids tell me that it was one of the places to go for drug deals, and I didn’t feel super comfortable there after dark. Now, with a path there, it feels safe. No more drinking. No more weird trash campfires. No more suspicion that I just rode my bike through a drug deal. Instead, I see lots of families walking to and from Alewife and beyond, some biking, and quite a few people walking to or from Alewife after dark. It feels safe because people use it, and people use it because it feels safe.

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