Widening the Somerville Community Path Extension

The letter, from MassBike's Executive Director Galen Mook, is as follows:

Governor Charlie Baker
Massachusetts State House
Office 280
Boston, MA 02133

May 3, 2018
Dear Governor Baker,

MassBike joins bicyclists across the Commonwealth in support of your MassTrails initiative. Thank you for your commitment to building multi-use trails, and establishing comprehensive regional path networks throughout the commonwealth.

I am writing to request that the Community Path Extension (CPX), being designed and built as part of the Green Line Extension (GLX) project in Somerville, be widened to meet the MassDOT and FHWA standard of 11 to 14 feet in width. Current design calls for a 10’ width.

When built, the Community Path Extension will be an incredible asset as an active-transportation link for some of the densest areas in the commonwealth. It will provide a crucial connection for Greater Boston’s regional pathway network; from the Paul Dudley White Charles River Paths, to the future Grand Junction Path, to the future Northern Strand, to the residentially dense neighborhoods of Somerville and Medford, and to the Minuteman Bikeway -- one of the most used bikeways in the country, with the number of users on the path increasing every year.

Each of these pathways serve cities and towns that are experiencing ever-increasing housing and commercial development growth. Due to the urgently needed shift of transportation modes by Massachusetts residents, to combat congestion and greenhouse gas emissions, these pathways have become important assets for commuters and recreational users alike. Of course, we should encourage heavy usage of these trails, and thus the project teams should be designing our network to accommodate its expected use. Yet, despite the season and weather, and especially during rush hour and warm weekends, our region’s paths are reliably crowded.

As you may be aware, Cary Coovert of Arlington died this March in a head-on collision between bicycles on the Minuteman Commuter Path in Lexington. The Minuteman Commuter Path is 12 feet wide where the crash occurred. It is not clear that this particular crash was caused due to pathway narrowness. However, we do know that wider widths mitigate the often rough conflict between users of the pathways; bikers, pedestrians, joggers, strollers, dog walkers, kids learning to ride bikes, and now the emergence of low speed e-mobility devices, and more. Each of these users should be out enjoying the pathway safely. And 10’ is not enough.

We understand there is complexity with the GLX project and we applaud recent advances in the plan. Yet, as linking the regional trail network is the nexus of MassTrails’ mission, now is the time to build a safe capacity for CPX.

Thank you for your consideration of this request, and we look forward to the great work of the MassTrails team as
you continue to connect paths and trails across Massachusetts.

Galen Mook
Executive Director
50 Milk St
Boston, MA 02109