Selectmen: For Belmont Pedestrians Path Route Decision is Life and Death

Tomorrow evening, Monday February 25th, Belmont’s Board of Selectmen will make a final decision on the route for the first part of the Belmont Community Path, a ~2 mile pedestrian route connecting the existing Fitchburg Cutoff Path to Alewife Station to a similar pedestrian path running through Waltham. According to the posted agenda (PDF), the bike path and “possible vote” on the route will start around 7:40 PM in the Selectmen’s hearing room.

If you support the Community Path, we need you to show up and voice that support!! If you can’t make it, please email the Selectmen individually to express your support for a safe, buildable Community Path that stays on the north side of the Fitchburg Line to Belmont Center. I have written an open letter to the Selectmen and posted it here. I invite you to read it and to send your own. You can reach them with the following addresses:

As you know if you’ve followed Blogging Belmont over the past 7 years (and it has been that long), we are strong supporters of this safe, attractive, environmentally friendly off road pedestrian path. It is a subject of endless amazement to me why the town’s political leadership has agonized for the better part of the decade over this project, which has broad support within town.

Ghost bikes like this have popped up around Boston and neighboring communities. They memorialize the locations where cyclists who have been killed on the roads – often in collisions with motor vehicles.

Political considerations aside, however, the path is a matter of life and death for Belmont pedestrians, cyclists and children. Our crowded streets – filled with multi-ton steel vehicles piloted by distracted, smart phone addled drivers- are deadly. Pedestrians and cyclists – men, women and even children- are dying every day on our dangerous roads not because of personal failings, but because of political failings. Our built environment has not evolved to provide safe infrastructure for them to walk, jog or bike on that keeps them separate (and protected from) motor vehicles. We continue to design and plan like its the 1950s and 60s, when the automobile reigned supreme. But that’s not how people want to get around in 2019 and for good reason. The consequences of our failure to plan are often deadly.

If you don’t believe me, I’d urge you to attend the memorial service at the intersection of Brookline Avenue and Park Drive near the Fenway between 2 and 4 pm today in Boston. That’s when a memorial service will take place for Paula Sharaga, a cyclist who was struck and killed by a cement truck on February 15. The intersection has long been identified as a dangerous one for pedestrians and cyclists, but the City of Boston did little to address concerns. Now a Ghost Bike – an increasingly common fixture about Boston, Cambridge and other communities – will adorn the location where Paula died.

Belmont, also, has seen its share of collisions between walkers, cyclists and vehicles. In just the last year, we lost a wife and mother in Waverley Square. And, for every death, there are countless serious accidents that send residents to the hospital, result in months or weeks of lost work and painful recovery but (blessedly) fall short of being fatalities.

A ceremony today (Feb 24) will place a ghost bike at the Boston intersection where Paula Sharaga was struck and killed by a cement truck on February 15.

Why am I writing this? Because we need to send a message to the Selectmen that the stakes in the Community Path debate are about more than aesthetics or predictable, knee-jerk Not In My Back Yard objections to development. For Belmont residents, the Path is literally a matter of life and death and should be afforded the seriousness and determination that matters of life and death typically warrant.

Ostensibly, what’s delaying Belmont’s leadership is indecision about the best route for the path to take from Brighton Street to Belmont Center. The truth is that this segment of the proposed path is the least complicated part of the entire project and it is clear to just about everyone who isn’t a property owner with land abutting this important infrastructure project that a route running along the North Side of the Fitchburg Line is the most direct, affordable, safe and feasible route for the path.

As for the endless hand wringing and debate over this? I suppose its just Belmont being Belmont. But our leaders and residents can hardly afford such dithering. With luck, it will soon come to an end and the Path will transition from a point of contention to a ‘work in progress.’ That will be good for everyone and remove a point of division within our Town of Homes.

I’ll see you there!

— Paul