By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Sociopathy on wheels along the Minuteman Bikeway

The Minuteman Bikeway, looking west at Lake Street in East Arlington.

One of the best parts about living just north and west of Boston is easy access to the Minuteman Bikeway, a 10-mile paved path that extends from the Alewife T station, at the Cambridge-Arlington line, to Bedford Center. There are also spurs to Somerville, Belmont and Concord. I’ve biked, run and walked on it many times since we moved back to the area seven years ago.

On Saturday, though, I saw something I’d never witnessed before. I was running west, coming up to Lake Street in East Arlington, when the driver of a car pulled up to the path and proceeded to drive onto it, make a three-point turn, and then head off. I don’t think it was possible that he was confused about what he was doing. It was pure sociopathy.

I tweeted about it, and it went modestly viral:

It turns out that there are people in East Arlington who’ve been tracking such incidents — and that what I witnessed was actually predicted back in 2017, when plans were unveiled to improve the Minuteman crossing at Lake Street.

A couple of years ago I was running along a different stretch of the Minuteman at night, with a headlamp, when a driver lurched onto the path and started heading toward me. In that case I think he realized he’d made a mistake and appeared to be trying to figure out how to get off the path.

So what could be done? I suggested a couple of concrete barriers, but someone advised that you need to be able to get ambulances down the path. Someone else suggested collapsible bollards.

Certainly you need something. Riding your bike on a busy city street is dangerous, even when decent bike lanes have been established. You ought to feel as though you’re safe on a designated bike path.

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  1. Steve Ross

    Collapsible posts are the norm. Fire trucks and ambulances just push through them. Very common on playgrounds, actually.

    I haven’t been there but I see the problem for drivers new to the area. The highway dominates the scene and although there side streets that could be entered for a turnaround, they are not obvious. Heading toward the highway and across the bike path, it looks (on the map) like there is only highway on-ramps, even though Lake St.. goes through.

    As I have noted in the past, the Commonwealth does not obey its own regulations on this, or national standards (see “Highway Design Reference Guide,” McGraw-Hill, 1988). Also have noted that public meetings often involve a state engineer from India or Egypt. Very good engineers with absolutely no tradition of listening to the public at a hearing… especially women (although the chief engineer for state highways was a woman at one time).

    • Dan Kennedy

      I’m pretty sure this guy knew what he was doing. He stopped, looked it over and then drove up onto the bike path anyway.

      • Jim McCarthy

        Which he could still do if collapsible posts were there as a “barrier”?

  2. Steve Ross

    Dan, my point was one you made in your post. The state screwed up, did not listen to local stakehders, and that increases the likelihood these things happen. I have far more contempt for the state highway folks than I have for idiot drivers. Some idiots are to be expected. Design it right and fewer idiotic things happen.

    In Revere, the city approved a site plan for the shopping center built more than a decade ago at Suffolk Downs that actually REQUIRED bushes blocking sight lines exiting the parking lot!

    There are established practices for banning parking at intersection corners for the same reason. Our HOA was within hours of suing the state over this, as it wished to make the exit to our driveway (600 car movements a day) blind to car movements on Revere Beach Blvd. So they removed the striping that allowed the parking space … but a state police cruiser was often there anyway while new building next door was being built.

    If they don’t listen to drivers, do you really expect them to listen to bicyclists?

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