Notice: Community Path Kick Off Public Meeting is Sept. 21

Belmont's Board of Selectmen will hear from the Community Path Implementation Advisory Committee (CPIAC) on Monday evening. We need you to show your support for a Community Path in Belmont.

The Community Path Implementation Advisory Committee (CPIAC) will hold a meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 21 at Chenery Middle School to update the community on progress toward the Community Path in Belmont.

The town committee charged with building Belmont’s first off road bike path along an abandoned railroad line through the center of town will be holding a kick off meeting next Wednesday, September 21 at the Chenery Middle School. That according to a notice sent to all Belmont Town Meeting members last week.

I’m reprinting the notice, which I received from the Town Clerk on behalf of Jeff Wheeler jwheeler@belmont-ma.gov. The meeting is open to the public and anyone who has questions can email or call Jeff at 617-995-2666.

Here’s the public notice:

THE TOWN OF BELMONT COMMUNITY PATH IMPLEMENTATION ADVISORY COMMITTEE INTRODUCTORY KICK-OFF PUBLIC MEETING

A meeting for the Community Path Feasibility Study will be held by the Community Path Implementation Advisory Committee (CPIAC) to kick-off the formal public engagement component of the Feasibility Study process for the proposed Community Path through Belmont, MA.

WHERE: Chenery Middle School, 95 Washington St, Belmont, MA 02478

WHEN: Wednesday, September 21, 2016 at 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM Project materials will be available beginning at 5:30 PM

PURPOSE: The purpose of this meeting is to provide the public with information about the feasibility study process, to outline the consultant’s approach to guiding the study and to gather input from the community related to focus measures within the study. All views and comments made at the meeting will be reviewed and considered to the maximum extent possible. A series of meetings will be held in the future to gather input on specific route options.

PROPOSAL: The proposed path will follow, within relative proximity, the existing, active Fitchburg Line of the MBTA Commuter Rail Service, from the Town’s western border with Waltham near the Waverley Station to the Town’s eastern border with Cambridge, connecting to the existing Fitchburg Cutoff Path. In addition to serving the residents of Belmont, the path will become a segment along the proposed Mass Central Rail Trail (MCRT). This study seeks to determine the most feasible route, connections and attributes for the proposed path to progress to preliminary design.

Written views received by the Town of Belmont subsequent to the date of this notice and up to five (5) days prior to the date of the meeting shall be displayed for public inspection and copying at the time and date listed above. Project materials will be on display one-half hour before the meeting begins, with an engineer in attendance to answer questions regarding this project. A project handout will be made available on the Town’s website listed below.

Written statements and other exhibits in place of, or in addition to, comments made at the Public Meeting regarding the proposed undertaking are to be submitted to Office of Community Development, 19 Moore Street, Belmont, MA 02478, Attention: Jeffrey Wheeler, Senior Planner. Such submissions will also be accepted at the meeting. Mailed statements and exhibits intended for inclusion in the public meeting materials must be postmarked within five (5) business days of this Public Meeting. Project inquiries may be emailed to jwheeler@belmont-ma.gov. This location is accessible to people with disabilities. The Town of Belmont provides reasonable accommodations and/or language assistance free of charge upon request (including but not limited to interpreters in American Sign Language and languages other than English, open or closed captioning for videos, assistive listening devices and alternate material formats, such as audio tapes, Braille and large print), as available.

For accommodation or language assistance, please contact the Town’s Senior  Planner, Jeffrey Wheeler by phone (617-993-2666) or by email (jwheeler@belmont-ma.gov). Requests should be made as soon as possible prior to the meeting, and for more difficult to arrange services including sign-language, CART or language translation or interpretation, requests should be made at least five (5) business days before the meeting. In case of inclement weather, meeting cancellation announcements will be posted on the Town’s website at http://www.belmont-ma.gov/.

RUSSELL LEINO, CPIAC CHAIR

JEFFREY WHEELER,  SENIOR PLANNER

A Path to Transform Atlanta | The New York Times

An artist's rendering of the Atlanta Beltway, showing urban Atlanta at the center.

An artist’s rendering of the Atlanta Beltway, showing urban Atlanta at the center.

I thought of Belmont when reading today’s New York Times had a fascinating story on the Atlanta Beltline, a proposed 22 mile bike path that will circle Atlanta’s urban core and which, judging from the article, people are going bonkers over.

From the New York Times:

Could this traffic-clogged Southern city, long derided as the epitome of suburban sprawl, really be discovering its walkable, bike-friendly, density-embracing, streetcar-riding, human-scale soul?

The answer is evident in the outpouring of affection that residents here have showered on the Atlanta BeltLine, which aims to convert 22 miles of mostly disused railway beds circling the city’s urban core into a biking and pedestrian loop, a new streetcar line, and a staggeringly ambitious engine of urban revitalization.

Even though just a small fraction of the loop trail has been completed, Atlantans, in one of the purer expressions of America’s newly rekindled romance with city life, have already passionately embraced the project. And like any budding romance, it is full of high hopes — for an Atlanta that is more racially integrated, less congested and, in a change refreshing to many here, more focused on improving the lives of residents rather than just projecting a glittering New South image to the rest of the world.

It’s not just Atlantans who see something that is potentially transformative.“It’s the most important rail-transit project that’s been proposed in the country, possibly in the world,” said Christopher B. Leinberger of the George Washington University School of Business, who follows urban redesign projects and has for years called Atlanta “the poster child of sprawl.”

Of course calling this ambitious project the “most important rail transit project” in the world is probably a stretch. By the time it’s built, China will likely have added hundreds if not thousands of miles of rail to its infrastructure. Still, an extensive bike network in a city whose name is synonymous with suburban sprawl and soul crushing car commutes is certainly a sign of what’s to come.

More than 30,000 people have taken a three-hour bus tour of the proposed loop; the answer to “Have you taken the tour?” has become a kind of litmus test of Atlanta civic pride.

I think the excitement over this project is indicative of the hunger for folks all over the country – and not just in liberal bastions like Massachusetts- for more healthy, convenient and environmentally friendly infrastructure. With a meeting next week to update the town on Belmont’s own bike path – a future link in the Massachusetts Rail Trail – that’s a message to keep in mind.

Source: A Glorified Sidewalk, and the Path to Transform Atlanta – The New York Times

Western Ave Makes List of Top 10 Bike Projects

Western Ave in Cambridge was cited as one of North America's top 10 bike friendly projects.

Western Ave in Cambridge was cited as one of North America’s top 10 bike friendly projects.

The remake of Western Avenue in Cambridge has been cited as one of the top 10 bike projects in North America, joining projects in Salt Lake City, Chicago and Portland Oregon.

This article over at Next City notes that the Western Ave Protected Bike Lane, featuring a half-mile of curb-separated protected bike lane is one of a growing number of such projects nation-wide, which create physical separation between cars (and pedestrians) and cyclists. Often, bike lanes are created using painted lines only, which provides no barrier to cars and bikes switching back and forth between driving and cycling lanes (dangerous for both) or that create physical separation with flexible plastic bollards or parked cars. Not a terrible idea, but also not perfect. Western Ave separates bikes from cars with a cement curb (and bikes from pedestrians with street trees).

Protected bike lanes dominated the list of Top 10 projects, with similar developments in Lincoln, Nebraska, Redondo Beach, California, Vancouver, British Columbia, and downtown Calgary. An project to make intersections safer for cyclists in Austin, Texas also made the list.

Check out the full list here.

Rethinking the rotary (and other heresies)

More rotaries - that's one step that transportation officials in Boston and elsewhere are looking at to reduce serious or fatal accidents.

More rotaries – that’s one step that transportation officials in Boston and elsewhere are looking at to reduce serious or fatal accidents.

I’m an avid runner, which means that I spend a lot of time being a pedestrian. That has me thinking a lot about pedestrian safety – its hard not to when you almost get run over at a blind corner or the middle of a cross walk. Data shows that traffic deaths are on the rise – up 7.7% in 2015 to the highest number since 2008.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to pull up short at an intersection as a car brushes by me, the driver oblivious to pedestrians and focused only on on-coming automobile traffic. I’ve watched as cars accelerate toward me, standing in the middle of an intersection, as the driver looks left and right for cars, but not at the human standing directly in front of him.

My experience is that Belmont, as a community, is better and more walkable than most. Sidewalks are a common feature in town. And, while there are some busy arteries and roads, most of the town is spared from busy automobile traffic. That said: there are some dangerous spots. The corner by my house, where Cross Street meets Alexander is a common site of  accidents – some of them serious – as well as close calls with pedestrians. There’s, of course, the railroad overpass in Belmont Center. Cars, bikes and pedestrians jockey on Trapelo Road, even after its makeover and the addition of a (very skimpy) paint-only bike lane. So, good as we are, there is still much work to be done.

Which is why it is interesting to see what is afoot over in Boston, where Mayor Marty Walsh is pursuing a project called Vision Zero– an effort to “focus the city’s resources on proven strategies to eliminate fatal and serious traffic crashes in the city by 2030.”  That effort is similar (identical?) to an effort in New York City by Mayor Bill DeBlasio to eliminate fatal and serious traffic accidents there, as well.

The dangers of being a pedestrian in Boston are well known. Accidents involving cars and the growing number of cyclists are common and the death of endocrine surgeon Anita Kurmann on her bike at the corner of Massachusetts Ave and Beacon Street a year ago galvanized those who saw room for improvement in a city that has, for generations, put the priorities of motorists first. The Vision Zero model borrows from a road safety plan by the same name enacted in Sweden that became law in 1997. It seems to be working: Boston is one of the safest cities for pedestrians, statistically speaking, but you’re about three times more likely to be killed on the roads in Boston — walking, cycling or traveling in a car — than in Stockholm, where the government has invested heavily in systems to reduce the likelihood of serious accidents.

There are a bunch of different local groups that are pushing for changes  Livable Streets is one, Walk Boston is another. And, as this article over at PRI points out, the changes needed are often small and easily achieved.

For example, in the wake of the accident involving Anita Kurmann and complaints about other, serious accidents at the same intersection, the City placed flexible posts in the ground to mark off the bike lane. Other changes that cycling and pedestrian advocates say could help are changes to signals that give pedestrians a chance to get out in the intersection before any vehicles are allowed to move (turn, etc.) Boston is working to lower the speed limit in Boston from 30 to 25 mph – that’s borrowing from cities in Europe that have done the same in an effort to reduce the number and severity of accidents.

Another design feature coming back into vogue: rotaries (aka “traffic circles” or “roundabouts”). While rotaries might initially cause an increase in low speed collisions versus a traditional four way intersection, with a traffic light. However, those accidents are less serious and diminish over time, as drivers become accustomed to negotiating the rotary.

Speed bumps and raised cross walks, like those installed by Winn Brook School, are another strategy to force automobiles to drive more slowly.

Belmont already has a large (and growing) population of cyclists and walkers and a healthy conversation about the need to support other modes of transportation besides cars. There’s certainly work to be done to figure out where Belmont’s problem spots are and develop plans to address them. Hopefully, some of the ideas that Boston is piloting might also be applied here!