Belmont Citizens Forum bike path pamphlet stirs controversy

BCH reported this week that the pamphlet distributed recently by the Belmont Citizens Forum is “stirring controversy.”

So, just FYI, if you’re wondering if your town has a NIMBY problem, terms like “controversial” and  “bike path” popping up in close proximity to one another in the town paper are a good sign that, in fact, you do!

That said, I suppose I can see Rep. Brownsberger’s point that the pamphlet (which I read and enjoyed) presents a vision of the finished path when, in reality, the details of what the path will look like and where it will run are very much open to study and debate. More distressing were the comments of Channing Road residents, which are filled with the kind of amorphous fears of  big city drug pushers and thugs that have  been used in chichi towns like Weston to veto or fight bike path- or commuter rail extensions into their towns. My favorite quote in the article comes from Channing Road resident Bruce MacKinnon in reference to the current unsightly scrub land that runs between his back yard and the tracks. “Kids drinking and the swearing back there goes with the territory, but now they want to put a bike path in there!” My GOD. They want to bring middle class people in to exercise back there! What’s next? Orgies?

Let me just say that I run the Minuteman Trail at least once a week. I’ve run it all the way from Alewife to Concord and here’s what i’ve seen – and in great numbers: People biking. People walking. Couples strolling with their kids. Teenagers  and younger children on bikes riding – free and unafraid of being hit and killed by clueless drivers. Businesses — bike shops and cafes — posting signs on the path to attract the crowds to their shops. Bird watchers. Here’s what I haven’t seen: anybody who looks even remotely like a drug dealer, homeless person or active member of the Crips, Bloods or MS-13. Bike paths are infrastructure – and they’re clean, beautiful, community building, good for business -good for the environment infrastructure. The short jump from the current bike path terminus on Brighton to Belmont Center might seem like a small matter, but it isn’t: there are plans for a shared-use bicycle and pedestrian path that extends beyond Belmont Center and running, someday, all the way west to Northhampton. Let’s put fear on the shelf just for once, Belmont, and actually make this happen. OK?

  • 7×4

    Well, the impacted homeowners and Channing Rd might feel differently.

    • Blue Angel

      Houses are not as close to the path as they will be along Channing Road.
      Your not thinking about the impact this will have on that neighborhood, and you are inviting kids to hang on live train tracks even more than they do now, how is this safe?

      • BellaFace

        The Minute Man Trail does not sit next to a dense neighborhood with easy access to back yards… It was originally a rail road line.

        30 ft from a train, despite a fence, is quite close. Despite all of those responsible adults that you think will “harass the kids directly” you say will be on the path, I am doubting that they will be out at 2am when everyone is sleeping and people are on the path either doing drugs, selling them, stealing from the back yards… etc. I could go on.

        Finally, the police do not have enough officers on staff due to budget cuts and officers serving our country oversea to have bicycle patrols. I don’t see motorcycles being safe on a path meant for walking, and scooters? That’s great that they have them in Arlington, but they don’t have them in Belmont and I doubt the town will buy any, as the economy and budgets are bad enough.

        This project has “BAD IDEA” written all over it. Why don’t you ride your bikes down Channing Road if you want to ride through Belmont? It is already there and you’re not inconveniencing anyone.

        • autonomy

          What a hilariously ignorant comment! The Minuteman does not sit next to a dense neighborhood with easy access to back yards? Doing drugs at 2am on the bike path? Have you ever even seen what the Minuteman looks like? Also, police officers serving our country overseas? Motorcycles and scooters on the bike path?

          People WOULD ride on Channing road, if they had easy access to it from Brighton st. But for some reason it ends in a dead-end. Face it, you’d love it if every single street in Belmont was cul-de-sac’ed and gated. Can’t have those commuters cutting through our town!

  • Blue Angel

    Can not compare proposed path route along Channing Road to the Minuteman Trail. A path along a live railway is an accident waiting to happen. There are alternate routes that should be explored.

    • Blue Angel

      The section of rail you refer to between Alewife and Brighton Street is next to the third rail that is not used for the commuter train, and is not nearly as close to the path as it would be along the Channing Road section. Do you care about what kind of impact this project will have on the people who live on Channing Road?

  • Anne Mahon

    I’m going to write in Bruce MacKinnon for Selectman!
    😉 Seriously – he couldn’t be more spot on! Too bad the people who live on Channing Road don’t take a stroll along an existing bike path to see what a wonderful enhancement they are to the communities that support them.

    • Blue Angel

      Too bad people who don’t live on Channing Road don’t take a stroll along the proposed bike path to see how close it will be to the live tracks and residents home, and what an intrusion, and danger, it will be . Abutters are not anti bike path, put in front of the homes on Channing Road, it’s a dead, not heavily traveled.

      • Anne Mahon

        So the fence separating the bike path from the train tracks isn’t enough to convince you of it’s safety?

        • Blue Angel

          No it isn’t any fence like that can be cut or climbed, a 12′ wall like you see along the highways might work! Beside the fact, that the abutters don’t want it there, we should be supporting them, they will be impacted the most.

          • BellaFace

            Has anyone looked into the number of deaths on this track? Suicides or not? I can think of at least two in the past 2 years and they would have occurred with or without a fence there. I guarantee there will be a hole in the fence as soon as it gets put up. Who is going to be responsible to pay for the fence repairs?

    • concerned neighbor

      I live on Channing Rd and grew up on a street along a bike path . My concerns are valid just like everyone’s in this beautiful Country. I would like to point out that the many bike paths in this state are along railtrails that no longer have live trains.

      • Anne Mahon

        So what we need to do is have another open discussion on the bike path and invite the public to share their ideas.
        It appears that some Channing Road residents welcome the bike path and others see it as harmful to the community (see Paul’s quoted comment).
        Can these issues be addressed? Can we instead create a bike lane on the road away from the tracks or is the road to narrow? I know Angelo has been looking at making Leonard Street a 1-Way – perhaps Channing could have a one way portion as well?
        Truth is, I don’t know enough about it – but I did live on the bike path in Arlington before moving to Belmont and really enjoyed the way it allowed people to commute without dirty fossil fuels, brought community together, and helped out the local business’. I know many people from Belmont use the Minuteman trail regularly for their safe commute on bicycle to/from work.

        • Blue Angel

          BCF want it along the tracks because they already purchased the land.
          Won’t listen to suggestions of alternative routes!

        • Jrandom

          BCF won’t listen to other ideas, they want it along the tracks, and won’t have it any other way. Whats the point.

        • 7×5

          It was Angelo who proposed a 1 way Leonard St? That is easily the most ridiculous and narrow sited suggestion I’ve ever heard. I’ve been to the redesign meetings, and thankfully, this is not even on the table (as it was too ridiculous and narrow sited to merit conversation). Fossil fuels really arent’ that dirty. You could run a vaccum line from the exhuast of your car to the interior, close the windows, run the car, and get nothing but a headache. Now MBTA busses. Commuter rail trains. Those are dirty.

  • concerned neighbor

    As a Channing Road resident I am in opposition to the bike path behind our homes. I have read and heard so many misunderstandings regarding our concerns, making a group of amazing people seem fearful. We are volunteers at our schools, churches,sports programs, senior center volunteers, town meeting members. We have real concerns that need to be addressed with solutions not slamming against a our concerns. What most people don’t know is that the property in question is on an incline and may pose flooding concerns to the homes, there are questions that soil may be contaminated, privacy concerns, crime concerns and currently a teen loitering on the tracks is considered to be tresspassing . If a bike path is created we are concerned that numerous teenagers, due to the proximity to the high school, will congregate on the bike path and we will have no recourse. We have many more concerns. We can not compare to other bike paths because they are not on a live trail. We tell our children to stay far awayfrom the railtrail, not bike or play next to it. I am asking that people people who read these blogs understand that our concerns are real and these are our homes that we are talking about.

  • Jrandom

    I would first like to ask, why can’t the bicyclists just ride ON Channing Road? It is not a very busy road, and it seems to be a waste to create a bike path there. There is a right of way where you can cut through the open lot at the end, and get right back on the trail on the other side of Brighton Street.

    I would also like to point out there on the Arlington bike path, there is a great deal of crime such as assaults, etc. And when this does occur in Belmont, how will the police respond. There will only be limited access for them to access, and there would be not way to access the path with a cruiser, or an ambulance if someone is injured on the path. The police resources have are limited due to them being short staffed, and I have not seen a police officer on bike patrol, or on a motorcycle in a long time. These seem to be the only ways which emergency personnel would be able to get onto the path in an emergency.

    I can tell you first hand there there are already areas along the tracks where teens go to drink, smoke pot, light fires, and get into other mischief. Last month I saw the fire department putting out a large fire along the tracks on the Cambridge side of the bike path, which was no doubt set by a mischievous teen. This kind of activity has been going on for years and I feel that building a bike path will only invite more of this activity. And to do so along an active train rail is a bad idea.

    I also find that the path will have a great impact on the way of life of the residents of Channing Road. They have live there, some for more that 30-40 years, with no neighbors behind their home. With the bike path built there, they will now have strangers passing through, being able to look into their yards and homes. I thinks the people for the bike path should open their back yards to the public during their next family cook out and see how they like it. The bike path is a bad idea, which was proposed by a group of selfish people who do not care about the impact or the opinions of those who will have to deal with it and look at it every day.

    • Blue-Angel

      Well said, you raise some interesting points.

    • Interesting point, mr. random. But is it really selfish to want to build new infrastructure that improves the quality of life in town for everyone? Was it “selfish” of the folks who pushed for and built roads, street car lines and railroad tracks?
      After all, those went through folks’ farms and yards and communities – hell, there were a lot of eminent domain takings, where home owners just got bought out and had to move. Hell, Newton and god knows how many other communities were bisected by Interstate 90. Period.
      Fortunately, those ended up being wise investments – that infrastructure allowed all our communities (and our economy) to grow and prosper. Individuals were disadvantaged, the community and society, as a whole, prospered. I’m sure there are some Channing Road residents who like the privacy of the unsightly scrub between their back yards and the noisy, intrusive railroad tracks. I’m sure there are others that would welcome some landscaping, a fence and the bike path. But, ultimately, its for Belmont as a whole to decide whether this bike path is a good thing for the town – you can’t govern by NIMBY, otherwise you get BANANA – Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything – and who wants to live in BANANAville? Not me!
      This path is gonna get built…and I’m gonna jog it!


      • concerned neighbor

        Selfish, are you aware that the MBTA at one time sprayed this area with known carcinogens and that in other cases the cleanup cost estimated approximately1.5 million dollars, the MBTA continues to insist on certain provisions during these trail developments, including the policy that municipalities must idemnify the MBTA from lawsuits. Who will pay for this clean up? Our children don’t have basic supplies in school or even updated books however you need new place to jog. I think that are alot more cost effective locations for this path and I will wave to you while I am jogging on them also.

        • Concerned Neighbor – as always, thanks for your comment. But…come on! Crack dealers on bicycles? MBTA carcinogen sprays? You know, I heard there was an ancient Indian burial ground under that land, and if we disrupt it to build the path, the spirits are gonna rise up and haunt all our houses, Poltergeist style!!

          This this is dangerous! Toxic waste is gonna start bubbling up into our basements if we break ground on it!! For G_d’s sake, do we have any idea what we’re getting into with this bike path!?!?

          Look, I know its Chapters 1,2,and 3 in the NIMBY playbook, but let’s stop fear mongering around this, can we? If you’re worried about carcinogens, get your Irish up about that fume-belching plating factory and whatever’s underneath it, or whatever lies under the High School or on Clay Pit pond and stop throwing up smoke and mirrors around what is -at the end of the day – a simple, 1 mile extension of an existing bike path that already runs along the same tracks on the other side of Brighton Street!!

          • Blue Angel

            No comparison to the section that goes from Brighton to Alewife, there are not any homes, and the third track is not used for commuter train.

          • The Minuteman Trail runs for more than 10 miles through back yards in Cambridge, Arlington, Lexington and Concord which, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, are very, very desirable towns to live in. In fact, proximity to MM trail actually enhances property values. I don’t recall, but I doubt whether abutters got a veto on that path – if they had, i’m sure fear of carcinogen spraying crack dealers on bicycles would have deep sixed it as well, to the detriment of the thousands of people who use it to exercise or get themselves down to Alewife in a carbon neutral way every day. Frankly, if every piece of infrastructure has to get OK’d by every individual who might be impacted by its construction or use, then NOTHING EVER GETS BUILT, right? Sheesh!

            OK. that’s it for now – I’m going out running. And I think I’ll run the Minuteman Trail . And FYI – I’m gonna leave my can of mace at home.


          • I think I’m stating the obvious by saying that, with a big buffer and a fence separating the tracks from the path, the only folks who are likely to get hit by trains are folks who are trying to get hit by trains, if you know what i mean.

          • sparrow

            What big buffer are you talking about. Have you walked the land the BFC only has approx 25 to 30 ft of land in some areas the entire area is at a decline. Exactly how much land do you think is back there. I am not sure you have done your homework on this one.

          • BellaFace

            Or kids who see an opening in the fence and want to go check out the tracks… Or, joggers perhaps taking a short cut to their homes on the other side of the track with their ipods on full blast without hearing the train. Rocks, debris, and whatever else can fly off of railroad tracks at any time. Those trains aren’t going slow near the end of Channing Rd., especially if they’re not stopping at the Belmont station. Have fun running on Minute Man… maybe you’ll get lost.

          • Bella face – you realize that the track is wide open to kids right now -right? I don’t see kids sniffing around 30 ton locomotives going 70mph. Call it native intelligence.

          • BellaFace

            Paul… Kids are always crossing the tracks. Every day.

            Shall I remind you of this:

            What do you have to say about native intelligence now?

          • I’d say that wasn’t an accident.

          • concerned neighbor

            Paul, Don’t recall mentioning crack dealers I think that might be your issue, however please do a little research and you will find all kinds of problems. If you indeed travel the minute man trail try heading towards the Somerville side and you will see a MA DEP sign with caution tape who know what they find. I was at those meeting regarding the plating company and I don’t recall seeing you at them represting our Winn Brook Area. If you do represent our district them maybe you should just how many people in BELMONT really want this path. I am not anti path just strongly believe that there are many alternate paths and I think that a those paths are being looked at right as we type. Are you aware of this. Again have not seen you at any of these meetings.

          • Have indeed walked the full length of the proposed path and am talking from experience. I agree – grading will be necessary in parts to make it level, no question. But that goes without saying and the same is true on the path on the other side of Brighton now. It is narrow at parts, but that’s true of minuteman as well, really.

            I don’t think we need to argue about this. Perhaps a solution for home owners along Channing would be for the town to erect some attractive fencing between the path and their yards, giving them privacy from passersby and a sound barrier for the trains? Its a short distance and not many properties. Might be a happy compromise?

          • BellaFace

            I agree on stopping the fear mongering, but can we tone down the sarcastic a-hole attitude as well, Paul? It will not help you get supporters. He/she is clearly not trying to promote fear, but is raising a legitimate concern.

            There are chemicals that come with trains, there are also chemicals that come out of the Cambridge Plating plant right next to the tracks. Crack may not be running rampant in Belmont, but I know pot is, as are prescription pills and alcohol. How many Belmont teens were taken to the hospital by the BPD over the summer for alcohol poisoning? How many suicides and accidental deaths have occurred on the tracks? Having an ill-conceived plan to put a bike path where one shouldn’t belong, just because you want some place for your probably overpriced running shoes to jog on every once in a while is not a valid reason to upset a large amount of people in the town who have not had the ability to be heard in public about this matter. Brownsberger, as usual, has his head in the clouds, as do BCF.

            Why don’t you buy a house on Channing Rd, Paul? That way you can enjoy your “simple” proposed trail every day… and the crime and headaches that come with it!

          • Nice BellaFace: “stop being sarcastic” followed by “Why don’t you buy a house on Channing Rd, Paul?” Takes two to tango, sister. Plus, folks seem to like the sarcasm. They keep on coming back and commenting. 🙂

          • BellaFace

            Paul… I wasn’t being sarcastic. I’m sure you’d never consider buying a house on Channing Rd due to the amount of people you’d see peering into your back yard at any given time due to them “enjoying” the bike path.

        • autonomy

          Then maybe Belmont should focus on fixing its roads first, eh?

      • A real American

        Mr. Roberts it is clear you know little about the real concerns of the abutters but are a communist at heart. There has been no claim of emminent domain and no offer to buy out the abutters. The abutters do have a constitutional right to private property and the quiet and safe enjoyment of that property. Therefore it is not up to the town as a whole to trample on the rights of a minority. This is not bananaville, its America try reading your constitution. Until you do, why don’t you stop embarrassing yourself and just keep quiet.

    • BellaFace

      Do people realize that the bike path will be raised so that people WILL be able to take a nice stroll along the back yards of Channing Road residents? Sex offenders with easy access to back yard pools, bicycles for the taking… hell, probably lawn mowers and other valuable things that people store in their backyard when there’s no room in the garage.
      The police have a lot to do in town… and they’re under a tight budget. I don’t see how having limited access to a mile-long bike path on Channing Rd. will help anyone out. A jogger will have a heart attack, kids will get into fights, spray paint GALORE, drug dealings (yes people of Belmont.. your children DO do drugs and DO drink.. shocking, I know!) and who knows what else with relatively no easy way for the BPD or BFD to get there in a reasonable amount of time… Unless, of course, they’d like to take a nice little jog.

      • Oh yeah – roving sex offenders. I forgot about them! GOd knows they’ll pass on belmont as long as we don’t build this bike path to the center. What are we thinking!

  • Captain America

    Bottom line the bike path has not been an open process. There are significantly better alternatives like along the high school. Where an open bike path would hinder crime. The only realistic option along the rail would be a ten foot high unclimbable stone wall. The pond area could be opened up which park benches for senior citizens and would be much more consistent with other town interests. The Belmont Citizens Forum only care about their personal agenda and are using political influence to circumvent the laws and the rights of the abutters. Bruce is 100% correct. There are many other concerns of the abutters but there has been no true public debate only behind the scenes dealings with the state and their bike friend Brownsberger. With much better alternatives to the rail the BCF could use their money to move an alternative path along quickly with the support of Channing Road. Instead they choose an arrogant path of they know better than everyone else. This will only end up with costly legal battles against the town and dragging it out for years in court. About 90% of the land along the Concord Street side is town land. This is not about unfounded fear, the facts support the fears of the abutters. The BCF and others like them like to quote unsupported facts, but this is irrelevant. The abutters are the stakeholders here not the bikers. The article in the Citizen Herald got one thing wrong. The Selectman did not support a letter to the National Park Service to help design the path, the support was for a letter to investigate alternatives, addressing abutter concerns and safety issues. This was never done. The abutter concerns were never properly evaluated. I can only guess that the National Park Service realized a path along the rail was unrealistic and decided not to waste their time.

    • BellaFace

      Captain America, you are my hero.

  • Blue Angel

    I do believe the BOS said they will support this project only if the abutters concerns have been addressed and the majority of them agree.

    • That’s a convenient way of not taking a stand on an important and contentious issue. That’s an art that the BOS seems to have mastered in the last decade, from what I’ve seen. But, as elected officials with an interest in self preservation, the BOS will do whatever the strong majority of Belmont voters want them to do – and – abutters and “concerned neighbors” aside, I think you’ll find a strong consensus for the extension of the path. My 2c.

  • Francesca B.

    Abutters’ concerns of increased crimes are valid– this is allowing access to their backyards to a number of people that wouldn’t normally have access. If you had a barbecue in your backyard, would you allow strangers to come? No, you wouldn’t. Just because someone is riding a bicycle doesn’t mean they are a good person.

    And this is aside from the fact that the whole idea of having a path next to a live rail is completely asinine. How will this be safe in any way? As a teenager, I lost a friend who was hit by a train. I cannot get past how this concern for safety is being overlooked.

  • 40+Years in Belmont

    Why do you feel it necessary to call a neighbor out for sharing his thoughts about what goes on in his backyard? Do you run the Minuteman Trail after dark, throughout the night, 24 hours a day? Don’t think so. But Mr. MacKinnon and his family live in his house 24 hours a day and his concerns are legitimate. Sorry the world is not just full of people innocently strolling about, gazing at birds. While I do not claim to speak for Mr. MacKinnon, I would venture to guess that it is not the “bird watchers” that concern him.

    • 40+ Years in Belmont: well, i only mentioned Mr. Mackinnon because he was quoted in a newspaper article – obviously, if it was just an opinion he shared privately, i’d respect that, but …well…this is in the public domain. didn’t he lose his right to privacy when he talked to that reporter, or am i missing something?

      i have nothing against the guy – i’m sure his concerns are legitimate and heartfelt. i just don’t think they should outweigh the desires/needs of the whole community which, i think, would like to see this path built.

      as i’ve said elsewhere – the tracks and scrubland are already there, and were when he bought his house. apparently, there’s already misconduct going on back there, as often happens in the area around tracks. i think a bike path will alleviate that situation – putting more eyes on the area and preventing crime.

      i can see not wanting people peering into your living room so – again – maybe the town agrees to erect a tall, but attractive fence to give mr. mackinnon, et al. some privacy?

      Paul (aka 40+ Years on Earth).

    • autonomy

      I bike and walk the Minutemen after dark, especially in the wintertime. I walked it in rain and snow, between 8pm and 11pm even though it’s supposed to be closed. There’s usually nobody there. No crack dealers. Maybe an occasional dog walker or a bike commuter. I love that I can leave my house and go for a walk without having to cross streets or deal with cars. Many people do the same. You should try it, it’s not as scary as everyone makes it sound.

  • Oh, i’m totally over the line. Path-ologic, you might say. 🙂
    As i suggest below – maybe the Town should do the path and agree to do some attractive fencing to give abutters some privacy and a nice sound barrier for the trains. Just a thought.

  • Concerned Family Man

    I don’t know where you bloggingbelmont grew up, but in my town, drinking swearing was not the precursor for the “orgies”. I am a resident of Channing Rd and also do not want the bike path for many reasons but if I had to underline the most important reason to me and my family, it would be SAFETY. I do not disagree that there could be a good place to build a community path to allow the public to walk, jog, or bike safely on. I do however strongly disagree with the location that has been forced upon us by the Belmont Citizen’s forum. The strip of land currently vacant purchased by the forum is not as wide as many believe. I invite you to walk up alongside the tracks, may be even enjoy the stray rock or debris that occasionally is projected by the 30-60 mph commuter rail trains while enjoying the thunderous sound of the passing train.
    Having a bike path located next to the commuter rail brings many other concerns from the local residents as well just to name a few:
    1. Additional parking for the “non residents” have not been considered. Seeing that the parking situation in Belmont is already severely stressed, where would those wanting to access the bike path park?
    2. Where will the path go when it reached Belmont Center? There is currently a bridge that has just enough room to fit one inbound and one outbound set of rails for the trains. The “idea” is to have the bike path exit before the bridge and then what…wait to cross over the already congested intersection of Leonard and Channing Rd to continue on the other side of the path? This is also an area that ALL who pass by at almost any time of the day, realize that this is not an extremely safe area to cross with out a traffic light present.
    3. It is my understanding that there was a promise to the residents of Belmont that a bridge over the train tracks was to be built many years ago to eliminate or reduce the temptation of crossing over the tracks directly to avoid the treacherous walk down Leonard or anywhere from the Winbrook area in general. This has never been built and has also become yet one more political promise unfulfilled.
    4. In a time when almost weekly you can open a newspaper, or hear on the news how there is another home invasion, isn’t it a wise choice to decide not to invite the potential for increasing the criminal activity by essentially providing those that wish to do God knows what to our children, families, friends, and neighbors, a very easy access into our community. If you don’t think that there is this element close by, PLEASE contact any resident in or around Lake St and ask them if they have had any break-ins, theft of any kind, or suspicious characters wandering around.
    I too have used the Minuteman trail and appreciate all it has to offer however placing a bike path along a live TRAIN is not comparable to what the Minutemen bike path has to offer in any way seeing that there is not a train abutting (NEXT TO) that trail. Unless you want to provide ear plugs to dampen the sound of the high speed trains, build a fence that is impenetrable to those wanting to cut it to make a “short cut” to get to school, have your already over taxed dollars spent maintaining and policing the path, I suggest we look at alternatives for everyone’s safety and well being.

  • My 2c

    Wow. Lots of healthy, vibrant discussion about this touchy topic. As “Paul” put it, here is my 2c. I am a resident, but not an abutter and I am pro-Bike paths. But not in this proposed location. Supporters, please correct me if I am wrong in whole or in part. The Minuteman Trail was built upon a, now stay with me here, DORMANT RAIL BED. No working rails, no cutting into anyone’s backyard, no altering terrain etc. Exactly how can you compare a logical unobtrusive progression of unused space with such an invasive, turbulent and potentially dangerous undertaking?
    This type of project should be implemented with a more logical and less fanatical approach. Here is a thought. The bike path people want a bike path; the abutters don’t want it in their backyards. What is the problem with THE OTHER SIDE OF THE TRACKS??
    Again, if I am uninformed (read: wrong) about something I have posted here please let me know (preferably like a mature adult like manner) but it seems to me that the pro-bike path side to this saga is not taking into account some basic principals of concern (i.e.: safety and property rights) while pontificating about beauty and public good.
    Public good isn’t any good if it is stuffed down ones throat.

    • Blue Angel

      Someone who gets it! Well said.

  • old lady on the hill

    Reply to bloggingbelmont –

    In reference to the Minuteman Trail and what he/she has seen there:
    “Teenagers and younger children in bikes riding – free and unafraid of being hit and killed by clueless drivers.
    Great – if the path goes in, they’ll be able to ride….free and afraid of being hit by a speeding train! Fences can be cut; walls can be climbed.
    “Businesses…posting signs on the path to attract the crowds to their shops.”
    Are you kidding me? I’m sure every resident on Channing Road wants to look out into their backyards to see mini billboards sticking out of the landscape. “A tall, attractive fence”, as Mr. Roberts suggested? That solution would only make every resident feel like they live at the bottom of a swimming pool.
    You’re not gaining any followers with those arguments.
    Now on to what belmontblogger doesn’t see on the Minuteman Trail:
    Drug dealers, homeless people or gang members.
    He/she seems to be quite skilled at profiling. Please tell me, what does a drug dealer look like? A homeless person? A gang member? Can you honestly say you could pick one out of a crowd?
    Let’s put in a nice, ¾ mile bike path for all to enjoy. Let’s line it with a soundproof wall on the abutters side and an impregnable fence on the live track side. Let’s hope the community gets great enjoyment from it for years, no, decades to come. That would be nice. On the other hand, with the good, sometimes comes the bad. Will you be able to sleep at night if just one young child using the long, isolated, un-patrolled corridor is assaulted, raped, molested or killed while walking, biking or bird watching along the pastoral stretch of beauty you intend on creating?
    I agree with Mr. MacKinnon. You open up that area to more people, unforeseen trouble follows.
    Everyone wants a bike path? Fine. Let’s just agree to put it in an appropriate area – not in people’s backyards or along a live running railroad.

    • autonomy

      Really? Your biggest argument against the path is that a young child might get assaulted/raped/molested if this path gets built? Think of the children! Like that couldn’t happen on the street. And speeding trains? On the path! Amazing.

      P.S. Homeless people are usually pretty easy to spot.

  • My 2c


  • My 2c


    Now, dr2chase et al, please take this into account and see if your last statement has any merit.

    Thank You.

    • My 2c

      ok. Let me look back…yes… you are the measurement nut. Well measure this. All railroad beds were generally the same dimension give or take depending on the number of tracks. Let’s say 60 feet just for the sake of argument. The Minuteman Trail USES ALL 60 FEET FOR THE PATH. Now we have that same 60 feet give or take right? And someone stated that the BCF parcel was not going to be used in the path but as a “buffer zone”, correct? So we aren’t going to use the 30 feet for the path and we are now going to squish the path into the CURRENTLY USED BY TRAINS 60 FEET???
      Ok Mr. Measurement tell me how that plan sounds like a good idea?

  • old lady on the hill

    You are skilled at profiling as well. How can you tell what a person is like by how they look?? What criteria do you use in determining if someone is a hooligan?? If someone doesn’t “look” like a hooligan or a drug dealer or a sexual predator, then he or she is a law abiding person? Come on! A bike path would provide access to many people – not just the law abiding people.

    • victim of the BCF

      I’m not interested in your opinion on the type of people using the bike path. Last year there was a sex offender using the bike path in Arlington to avoid capture after exposing himself to a girls softball team. The bushes provided a nice cover for him. I have talked to people from Arlington and Somerville and have heard there is lots of reported and unreported crime. I abut the rail not you. This is an unacceptable risk to me. This is why we have zoning laws. When you are subject to the same risk then you can talk about it.

    • old lady on the hill

      “No crime wave associated with the bike path in Arlington”?? Wrong!! I spoke with an Arlington police officer. This is what the Arlington police officers deal with on a daily basis on that bike path: graffitti on buildings, muggings, robberies of homes and businesses along the path (with the path used as an escape route), drug use, sickos exposing themselves. To quote the officer, “We have plenty of crime on our bike path.” Would you want all that 30 feet from your backyard?? I think not.

  • Blue Angel

    Incident reports from Arlington and Lexington police departments show an increase of reported crime along the paths in the past five years. It’s public information check it out yourself.

    • Anonymous

      Pointer? I would like to know about this. And is this change any different from the larger communities? If crime increases everywhere, it’s no surprise if it also increases on the path.

      • autonomy

        Don’t let cherry-picked statistics get in the way of their reasoning.

  • old lady on the hill

    My last comments were in response to dr2chase who said there was no crome wave associated with the bike path in Arlington.

  • Blue Angel

    If I remember correctly this same proposal was rejected many years ago by both local and state officials. Why is it still being forced down our throats?
    It was a bad idea then, and it is a bad idea now.
    There are alternative routes. Some will provide better access, be done at a fraction of the cost, keep neighbors happy, not divide neighborhoods, destroy back yard privacy, and maybe get every one, to work together!

  • Anonymous

    Regarding crime, if you want information, Arlington adds theirs to

    In a six-month sample (July-January, I wanted to get some summer in there) it’s easy to see stripes of crime along major roads, plus some more spattered around the town. There’s no stripe along the bike path. I added quality of life and property crimes, still no stripe, maybe a cluster right at the end closest to Alewife — but we’ve got a mile of open space where they have homes.

    Lexington doesn’t appear to use this, so no data for them, Belmont does, it’s worth looking and comparing. It’s not like we’re starting from zero crime.

    • old lady on the hill

      Thanks for the info, but I’ll stand by the Arlington police officer, who has first hand knowledge of what goes on along the bike path. I take more stock in what he says versus statistics and maps on a website.

      • Old Lady: this is called “anecdotal evidence.” It’s nice – cause its all personal. But its also highly unreliable and subject to distortion. I agree with your call to consult with Lexington, Arlington, Concord on their crime stats and see if there’s a correlation to proximity to the bike path. But if there is no correlation, my sense is you’ll still be convinced that such a correlation exists ’cause “this guy who’s a cop told me its so.” Ah well.

        • old lady on the hill

          Go talk to the Arlington Police for yourself…when they tell you there IS a correlation between the bike path and crime, and they will, maybe that will shut you up.

          • Oh, God, nothing’s gonna shut me up, Old Lady. I’ve been doing this for more than 3 years (or haven’t you noticed?) And you know what, I get a little better at it every day! I do hope we can reach some consensus on the facts re: crime increase or not and honestly weigh the pros/cons of this, not make a decision based on fear mongering, rumors and NIMBYism. I appreciate the feelings of Channing Road residents, but they’re just one constituency in this, not the final arbiters. That may not be what people want to hear…but its the truth. If the town really doesn’t want the path, well, then the path will end at Brighton Street and that will be the end of it. It’ll hardly be the first or the last bike path to fall to local opposition. I just think that it will be a loss for Belmont – that the path would bring more folks into Belmont Center to shop, and make it easier for those of us who don’t want to drive to Alewife and park to get to public transportation in a way that’s green and healthy and really enjoyable.

          • autonomy

            So because some cop says there is a correlation, we should shut up and not trust data and statisticians? Gosh, I wish there was an exam for letting people vote in this country.

    • crime stoppers

      Most crimes go unreported. In fact if its less than $1000 police discourage reporting. There are also horrible crimes in the victims are too embarrased to report. Cars along Channing Road are broken into all the time but no one reports them because they nothing will be done. Sooner or later one of these criminals will be caught by a private citizen and it won’t be pleasant. Do you want to increase this likely hood by adding access to people’s back yards. Abutters will start adding traps or razor wire.

      • Anonymous

        Two things — notice that crimes are reported in other parts of Arlington — why would they be more or less reported along their bike path? And second, given that things are not perfect now, why are you so certain that change would absolutely, positively, be negative? A paved path creates the possibility of a police patrol, where it is now essentially impossible. Perhaps we cannot afford it — but it is certain that we won’t have one now.

        And, once more — this is not a certain choice for the path, it is merely a good-looking option.

      • Love it – check the facts. Oh, the fact don’t comport with my point of view – well, disregard the facts. I’m right anyway. Great job, Crime Stopper!

  • Blue Angel

    Try going back further. I checked a five year span, and as I stated before incidents along the path were up in both Arlington and Lexington. Information was optioned by a public servant, that has no ties to any of this. I am sorry to say that BCF members have a special way of distorting things, (I have experienced this first hand)

    • Anonymous

      The site I found didn’t (seem to) allow me to go back further than July of last year. I tried. I didn’t see much in the way of incidents. If there’s nothing happening now, how could there be an increase?

      If you think you’ve been fed distorted information, maybe you could provide details. Perhaps it was just a misunderstanding? Why attribute malice, when it human error abounds?

      • old lady on the hill

        There is crime on the bike path happening now! I talked with an Arlington police officer…..a real live person who has first hand knowledge of it all! I agree with “concerned family man”…..go talk to an Arlington police officer. Maybe then you’ll believe it.

        • I’ll take you up on that , Old Lady. And Lexington, as well. Maybe we can post some maps of property crime in the communities along the path. My prediction: no real correlation to the bike path. As we know from Belmont, proximity to a highway like Route 2 makes you a lot more likely to be burgaled than to a pedestrian path. Criminals want to drive up, do the job and get away. Not stroll/bike up, do the job, then figure out how to carry/cycle their loot from the crime scene without getting noticed. Check out this story from a couple years back:

  • Concerned Family Man

    Dr. Chase, instead of going on a website which apparently you live attached to this one, please go to “in person” or call the Arlington/Lexinton police stations and ask them in person if there are any increased crimes associated with bike paths. You might be surprised by what you actually hear!

    • Bloggingbelmont will do this for you, Family Guy. Promise (and stay tuned). Seems like a question in need of answering.

  • My 2c

    Dr2chase you are aggravating, not like, how did that lady refer to “Paul”…oh yes…he is an a-hole, but rather in the can’t (or won’t) see the forest through the trees type of aggravating. You are well spoken (typed?) and level headed and you even try and use facts and reason up on your soap-box. The trouble is that your are stubborn and evasive. You will not admit that there is a chance that crime will increase even though Law Enforcement Officers have personally told us that it would. Burglary, Assault, Rape and Murder already exist. The Path will not create those social ills. It will however provide MORE OF AN OPPORTUNITY for them to happen both on the path itself and potentially in the abutter’s backyards. . Period, end, no argument. . You will not even acquiesce to this line of thinking and you are therefore shortsighted. If you crossed through a beautiful and picturesque swamp that was filled with alligators and poisonous snakes and came out unharmed would you do it again, and again, and again just because you got lucky once? Probably not. You never answered the “Old Lady on the Hill” when she asked if you would be able to sleep if your child, niece, nephew or close friend fell victim to the miscreants and low life’s that MAY DECIDE to make the path their own personal swamp. You never addressed my distinction between a dormant railway and a live railway. You simply pushed the topic aside.
    Yes there is already crime on our streets. Yes there are already bad people in the world. If you put the Path in the proposed location you are just adding a more attractive venue for crime and worse to fester and breed.
    I said before that I am pro-bike path and I still am. Just in a more appropriate location. Try seeing both sides of an argument once in a while. It is very refreshing.

    • My 2c. Seems like an effort by you and Old Lady to “Mike Dukakis” this argument …”if your wife were raped and murdered…” To me, that’s the sure sign that you can’t win on the facts.

      Belmont shouldn’t base our planning or policing on what the visceral reaction of crime victims might be. We should do it based on real data on crime and a factual understanding of the risks and the costs of protection. I would hope that Belmont would look at the facts in deciding the pros-cons of a path – not fear mongering of the type you offer.

      Oh, and thanks for calling me an a-hole for not seeing the crystal clarity of your cloudy logic…on my own blog, no less. way to bring up the level of discourse, mr 2 cents. keep it up.

    • autonomy

      The posts from you, old lady on the hill, and other opposition on here are ripe with logical fallacies. “This bike path is bad because… would you be able to sleep if your child fell victim” – that is appeal to fear and emotion, not a valid reason. Talking to a police officer is anecdotal, so far no one has provided any actual statistics linking bike path use to increased crime rates. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, but claiming that it provides more of an opportunity is not enough – let’s see some evidence.

      And if you think the bike path will run next to the railway without a fence inbetween, you are mistaken. Fences can be cut into, blah blah, but why? And how is that a reason for not building the path?

  • Anonymous

    Paul, you are so not helping. People like the status quo, and will happily overlook its flaws. This a normal human tendency, and the only way I know to counteract it is to patiently work on pointing out that change might not be bad. I can think back to a housing development surrounding the home where I grew up; I surely did not like it. (And unsightly scrub, snakes, swamps, and alligators all figure into it. So did negotiation, and there were problems, and there was mitigation for those problems). Being snarky is not how you win friends and influence people. (I am better at this now than I used to be, partly because of advice from my father.)

    • Herr Doctor. You’re one of my oldest and most loyal readers and I agree with almost everything you say. Thanks, as always, for trying to inject some fairness and accuracy into this discussion.

      Once again, you’re almost certainly right. But I really and truly don’t care. This is my blog. These are my opinions, not anyone else’s. I can’t tell you how many people in Belmont have told me, at various times over the years, to keep my mouth shut and not irritate [fill in the blank]. That, if I go along and play nice and don’t say what’s on my mind, then things will get better. The change I and so many others want to see will happen.

      So I tried that approach and, you know what? Those people (and you and I know who they are) were totally full of sh**. Things have only gotten worse and the voices of intolerance and bigotry and narrow-mindedness in this town have only grown louder and more confident. This post was really just about saying that there was a lot of fear mongering around this bike path proposal – I think that goes without saying, and the comments here on B2 – roving rapists, drug dealers, carcinogens – really only reinforce how right I was in my post.

      As for my comments, I’m occasionally sarcastic but, as you can see, also try to be constructive and forward looking – often in the face of personal attacks and insults. Nothing new there. But, really, if folks don’t like what I’m saying, they can go read the Drudge Report…or whatever. I’m here. I sneer. Get used to it. 🙂

  • My 2c


    I did not call you an a-hole. That was someone else’s observation that I was merely pointing out. Truth be told there would be no way to mask what I think of your goading and childish approach to debating a topic. All bluster, no substance. It would be stretch of the First Amendment for me to actually get into print what I really think. Just to be “crystal” clear as you put it I would like to point out that it was your earlier hostile and antagonistic posts that started the freefall into what this blog has become. I read the earlier posts and was intrigued, then you came along and I was incensed. It is of no surprise to me that this is “your blog”. You probably get your kicks by putting forth a topic and then throwing gasoline onto everyone else’s views.
    I said it earlier. Seeing both side of a topic is refreshing. You need to see both sides of an argument and then break down the good and bad points, not throw cherry bombs at anyone with an opinion.
    Not one person on the side of the proposed location has addressed my question about “build it and they will come”. There is crime etc, I have already admitted that. Why won’t you admit that more access and opportunity to crime is a bad idea? Why won’t anyone come to grips with the reality that a raised path sandwiched between a live railway and a bunch of backyards isn’t the best choice of locations? Easy questions that are left unanswered or avoided.
    There, a nice polite response to your last 8 potshots. Oh and by the way, visceral is a nice word. Glad you are getting good use out of the Thesaurus you bought yourself for Christmas.

    • Anonymous

      My2c – the path improves access in two ways, and there’s a crucial difference. For everyone, physical ability to access is somewhat improved. Pedestrians, it’s about the same, mountain bikes, a little better, baby strollers, quite a lot. For “good guys” (but not bad guys) the legitimacy of access is improved. All the people who would hike or bike the existing unimproved path, but don’t, because they know they’re not supposed to go there, will now go there. The theory is, those good guys (and their eyes, ears, and cell phones) make it less attractive to bad guys. The statistics (at least the ones I’ve seen, including the ones that I referenced on the web) suggest that this works — there’s nothing special about the crime rate on the Minuteman Trail.

      And I also understand the half of the criticism that says — who the heck will want to go walking on this? “Unsightly scrub” on one side, train tracks on the other. And, again, I’d point to the minuteman trail — a lot of it is “scrub”, and there are places, where one side or the other, is not exactly a picture of beauty, and there have been things like Eagle Scout projects (I saw one in Lexington) to improve alongside it (and some Arlington abutters appear to have spontaneously done some of this themselves). The near train comes once an hour or less, and at 30 feet, it is more impressive, than intimidating (there are parents who camp out on the Clark St. bridge with their little kids to watch the train go by — I’m just trying to give some reference, for what people seem to think is acceptable).

      I think there’s also a very good chance of generating some commute-demand; it’s a straight shot in to Alewife, flat, no traffic, no waiting for traffic or parking when you get there. An access at Alexander Avenue would help, a tunnel there would help even more — but a tunnel almost certainly creates traffic/parking problems with high school access.

      You need to understand one other thing — I’m not doing this for me. I tolerate objectively insane amounts of traffic and rotten conditions. I get a pile of exercise (more would be better, but that would require improvements in the Burlington Mall area, not here). For me, the roads are already comfortable enough, and if I have to get myself to Alewife, or Fresh Pond, or most destinations in Cambridge, I ride my bike. I always find “parking”, I don’t get stuck in traffic, I get there quickly enough, and I am in much better shape than I was five years ago. But, most people are scared of traffic, and drive instead, creating more traffic (which nobody in Belmont complains about, not at all :-). If you knew what you were missing, you would be furious.

      • Good points – all. I can especially see some tie in commerce when/if the electric light building gets developed. I also rode the old dirt path into Alewife when I worked downtown – a very cool commute when the weather allows.

    • mr. two penny: i think we need to look at the bike paths that already exist and the crime stats and see if there’s a connection. if there is, then that’s a totally valid argument against. not the end of the debate – just a legitimate argument. in the absence of the data though, its just wrong to say “there has to be a connection.” as i’ve written, there certainly is a connection between access to major routes, like route 2, and property crime. i don’t know if a similar connection exists between pedestrian walkways or bike paths, but will look into it and report back to the bloggingbelmont readers. i’m a big boy and fully prepared to admit that i’m wrong if the facts point that way. really.

  • Pjlooneyjr

    This path gets my support under 3 conditions… 1) a minimum of 75% of property owning abutters sign a petition in support of the path location and 2) the path construction costs is borne by private or State funds not Belmont property tax and 3) the BCF privately raises $1m that is transferred into a trust fund controlled by the Town for maintenance and policing of the path.

    I think the path would be a nice addition to the Town but I wouldn’t want it in my backyard and the Town can’t afford the maintenance of the path without taking from the operating budget which means cuts to Education and Safety which I don’t support but little choice is left after the disastrous CPA passage (money that should have gone to the Schools and Public Safety wasted on special interests) and the failure to sell the Benton (again special interests).

    Nice work on the meter project Paul. I’d support transferring money from free cash at TM to do a trial. It seems to be a good ROI and a targeted fee to those looking to take advantage of a service for which the Town is charged by the MBTA.

    • Thanks, PJ. Good suggestions.

    • Anonymous

      PJ – I’m reluctant to prolong this thread, but isn’t 75% of abutters a pretty high threshold to meet? Perhaps there’s an implicit value-to-town estimate built in to this (please, not now, not here), but how many land-use issues do you think would move forward, if that is the bar? (And I think I generally want them to move forward — if we’re not willing to pay the tax rates that go with being a town of homes, then we had better get some more development.)

      Or to put it differently, what’s the difference between abutters and special interests? Wasn’t most of the pressure not to sell the Benton Branch, from the neighborhood it was in?

  • Michael Crowley

    Paul, I’m glad to see that you’re blogging about issues in our community, and I’m very satisfied with your coverage of the Community Path. As the study you provided a link to highlights, these kinds of bike paths bring real value to communities, and not just from improved amenities. Property values increase, and also for abutters. Providing secure fencing for those abutters who don’t want access to the path seems a good solution to mitigate any worries about crime. However, it is important to note that bike paths are not especially attractive places for crime to occur other than occasional litter. Studies also underscore that point.

    • Totally agree, Michael! Privacy fencing, landscaping, etc. should all be offered for abutters in any final plan (given that the North side of the tracks is the recommended route, as opposed to the South side of the tracks). I think the current plan is for the path to be depressed from track level, as well. Its worth nothing that many abutters in Arlington and Lexington have gates that open onto the path (for easy access) as well as lawn furniture, potted plants, etc. But – yes – for abutters who want total privacy from the path, that should be available and doable with design and landscaping/hardscaping. Thanks.