Tag: running

Comments on the Environmental Notification form for Bruce Freeman Rail Trail Phase 2A MEPA# 15196

Comments on the Environmental Notification form for Bruce Freeman Rail Trail Phase 2A MEPA# 15196

May 12, 2014

Richard K. Sullivan, Jr.
Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs
Attn: Holly Johnson
100 Cambridge St., Suite 900
Boston MA 02114

RE: Comments on the Environmental Notification form for Bruce Freeman Rail Trail Phase 2A MEPA# 15196

Dear Secretary Sullivan:

WalkBoston has reviewed the Environmental Notification Form for the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail Phase 2A. The project will extend the existing rail trail 4.88 miles further than the existing trail that begins in Lowell. The new segment passes through Westford, Carlisle and Acton, with much of the project in the Town of Acton. It is encouraging to see this facility being extended into additional communities.

We are especially thankful that the proposed construction includes 2-foot wide shoulders on both sides of the 12-foot wide path, and that an adjacent 6-foot wide stone dust trail is a feature of the project. Both of these additions to the trail will add immeasurably to the use and enjoyment of the path by pedestrians and, in particular, by runners.

Rail trails are a growing success in Massachusetts. Concurrent with the growth in use, the paths have become somewhat overcrowded with conflicts between users, particularly between pedestrians and bicycles. Runners have too often not even been considered for a special facility in prior path designs.

The new 2-foot wide shoulders on both sides of the 12-foot wide path will provide space for pedestrians to step aside from other users of the path if they feel the need to let them pass (a possibility if bicycles are passing).

The 6-foot wide stone dust path that will be constructed alongside the rail trail is a very worthwhile addition to the facility. This, too, is a significant advancement for rail trail construction in Massachusetts. Runners will now have their own space, removed somewhat from walkers and totally separate from bicycles, rendering a path that is likely to be unobstructed by other users. The use of stone dust for this portion of the trail is also a distinct advancement beyond most other trails in the state. This material is softer and more resilient for use by runners, and helps in providing a more comfortable way to run, thereby enhancing the experience for runners who use it.

The new construction techniques incorporated into this trail set a standard that certainly bodes well for future construction of rail trails and other running/walking/biking facilities in the Commonwealth. We advocate for the issues of pedestrian safety and comfort in crowded rail trails, and have additionally been advocating for specific facilities for runners in each of the trail corridors for runners’ safety and comfort. These new standards of trail construction will lead to facilities that can accommodate additional users and help them be confident that their specific concerns are reflected and that a mix of users will feel  comfortable and secure in using the trails.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this important project.


Robert Sloane
Senior Planner

Can you please describe how you are planning to help educate bicyclists, walkers, runners and drivers about the new ways in which they will interact as the built environment is changed to provide a richer set of separated bicycle facilities? In particular, can you tell us about the lessons that were learned in such cities as Copenhagen and Amsterdam as they made a similar transition several decades ago?

WalkBoston question asked at #BostonBikeUpdate – March 31, 2014 

Nicole Freedman from Boston Bikes’ summarized response: Will soon be working with two volunteers from Mullen to help with that process. There’s a need for all of us to be more responsible in order to have pedestrians & cyclists be supportive of each other and make streets safer for everyone. That makes the process of asking for more changes easier if the everyday interactions are less confrontational.

Mass Central Rail Trail – Wayside Branch, MEPA # 15133

Mass Central Rail Trail – Wayside Branch, MEPA # 15133

December 16, 2013
Richard K. Sullivan, Jr.
Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs
Attn: Purvi Patel
100 Cambridge St., Suite 900
Boston MA 02114

RE: Comments on the Expanded Environmental Notification Form for the Mass Central Rail Trail – Wayside Branch, MEPA # 15133

Dear Secretary Sullivan:

WalkBoston has reviewed the Expanded Environmental Notification Form for the Mass Central Rail Trail – Wayside Branch. We are very pleased that this facility is being seriously examined for construction, as it is essentially the spine of a trail network that will eventually extend east-west across the full width of the state. As proposed, the new trail will extend 23 miles through eight communities, through a 19 feet wide corridor reserved for construction. The proposed trail will be 10’ wide. Its importance cannot be understated: it will serve as the main stem of a network of state-wide greenways.

Our analysis of this proposal suggests that design of the rail trail should ensure that it includes features attractive to a wide range of users, including more than pedestrians, cyclists, and in-line skaters. The trail should be designed to encourage extensive use by runners and joggers. We bring this suggestion into the current review process because it may lead to a consideration of additional width and different materials on a trail surface that provides the best possible conditions for runners and joggers.

Why is WalkBoston involved with runners and joggers? WalkBoston has become involved with runners and joggers because we work for all people on foot –whether they walk slow or run fast – all using the same facilities. For 6 years, WalkBoston has been the recipient of support from the running community through the Boston Marathon Charity program, first as a Boston Athletic Association team and subsequently with charity bibs provided by the John Hancock Insurance Corporation. Our runners have enjoyed partnerships with us and with our coaching team under a program we have called RunBoston. Our staff includes competitors who have run the Marathon and we now have a staff person who is a United States Track & Field (USATF) Certified Level 1 Coach and an Executive Board member of the Mass State Track & Field Coaches Association (MSTCA).

Why add space for runners and joggers? Running and jogging are growth industries. In 2012 over 29,000,000 people ran 50 or more days per year. Evidence of runners is often seen near pathways throughout the state, where they have made their own parallel trails, running in the grass until a semi-permanent dirt path becomes established. Recognizing that such running paths are beneficial to runners, the state Department of Conservation and Recreation has not only retained the informal paths, but is also thinking of new ways to add permanence to running paths that would fully incorporate runners and joggers in their path-making.

Why are runners different from other trail users? Runners prefer a ‘soft’ running surface, yet rail trails are most frequently constructed with a firm surface such as asphalt or concrete, chosen because these surfaces can serve the maximum number of potential users. But nearly all runners agree that a softer surface would be preferable. Concrete is uniformly cited by runners as the hardest surface – the most harmful surface for runners who want to avoid physical injuries. Paths constructed of grass, dirt, wood chips or stone dust are the four top preferred options for surfaces for running, because these surfaces are less likely to result in physical injuries such as a twisted ankle, shin-splints, sprains, Achilles tendonitis or other impact-related injuries. Soft surfaces, such as stone dust, lacking pebbles or rocks that might make running dangerous, also provide runners with greater traction and more control over pace and muscle use.

What design features could encourage running? Parallel running paths could be on both sides of the trail or on only one side, where a path would need to provide for two-way running traffic. The running path could be immediately adjacent to the paved trail or separated from it by a few feet. The path could be from 2-6 feet wide and should be as nearly free of camber in cross-section as possible. The former use of the corridor for rail service means that the gradient of the trail will be easily manageable for runners. Special signage is not necessary, as the alternative trail surface provide explanation for the existence of the addition to the trail.

A separate, parallel path would be useful for runners and possibly walkers as well. Such a path could not only provide the running surface runners prefer, it would also remove runners from the stream of bicycle and pedestrian traffic on the principal portion of the trail. Walkers could also use the path if they prefer a soft walking surface or would like to be somewhat removed from other trail traffic.

Where have running surfaces and separate facilities been provided? The 10 mile long Battle Road footpath is the best-known example in Massachusetts, as it provides a stone dust surface for its entire length between Lexington and Concord.

In Janesville, WI, off-street sections of the proposed bicycle path system are designed to meet AASHTO guidelines and WisDOT recommendations. A 10-foot two-directional paved path is the intended design for most sections. These off-street path segments are required through local regulations to include a two foot wide crushed gravel shoulder on at least one side to accommodate runners and walkers.

In Colorado Springs, CO, the Design Guidelines for US 24 Rural Section 25 include two types of trails paralleling the highway: primary trails, usually 12’ wide and paved with concrete; and secondary trails, adjacent soft surface trails, varying in width and designed to accommodate walkers, joggers and equestrian users.

In Denver, CO, several local trails provide both hard-surface and soft-surface parallel trails. The same approach has also been used in St.Louis, MO, Scottsdale, AZ., Minneapolis, MN, Newark, DE, at several locations in Florida, and along the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal in Maryland.

How can a soft surface be added to the Massachusetts Central Rail Trail project?
The proposal for this rail trail includes a specified right-of-way (negotiated with the MBTA) 
that is 19 feet wide. Within this right-of-way, a 10-foot wide path is proposed to be constructed. The 9-foot space that remains will provide a buffer to neighboring land uses, but a portion of it might be used for a running path, which could be constructed at the same time as the proposed rail trail. This space may vary in width as the rail trail passes over or under bridges, or near physically dangerous, precipitous banks. Locations where it is impossible to construct a parallel path might be avoided by requiring runners to rejoin the main path for a limited distance.

What costs might be incurred? Anticipated costs for construction of a running path vary considerably, but brief research suggests that the use of stone dust appears to cost less than asphalt. This would need to be corroborated.

Adding separate elements for runners fits with the state’s self-image as the most well- known and important marathon running state in the country. The running trail would clearly support the burgeoning running shoe industry that includes three shoe-building companies with headquarters in Massachusetts. Because of its considerable length, the rail trail could well serve as a training facility for runners who are vying for a running bib for the Boston Marathon. It could serve the Boston Athletic Association, which has just declared its intention to form a high-performance elite team to dig in and focus on creating a national-caliber and, hopefully, a world-class-caliber team that lives and trains in the Boston area. The trail just might also provide the setting for preparing a winner for the annual race in April!!

We appreciate your consideration of our comments and look forward to your responses to them. Please feel free to contact WalkBoston with questions you may have.


Wendy Landman
Executive Director

Cc Joe Orfant, DCR
Dan Driscoll, DCR
Paul Jahnige, DCR
Craig Della Penna, Mass Central Rail Trail , Coordinator 

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Comments on Charles River Basin Connectivity Study

Comments on Charles River Basin Connectivity Study

December 16, 2013

Richard K. Sullivan, Jr.
Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs
Attn: Dan Driscoll
100 Cambridge St., Suite 900
Boston MA 02114

RE: Comments on the Charles River Basin Connectivity Study

Dear Secretary Sullivan:

WalkBoston has reviewed the Charles River Basin Pedestrian and Bicycle Study for Pathways and Bridges, the so-called Connectivity Study. Our comments arise from the document and from the recent presentation of the study to the public.

The Connectivity Study is very exciting work, as it assembles the issues of movement along the basin very effectively, and points out the possibilities for positive changes in the paths, walkways and running facilities along the River. DCR should be very proud of this feat, and should proceed into implementation of priority aspects of the planning effort as soon as possible.

We were particularly heartened by the Study’s general recommendations for the Basin: “DCR should strive to develop a 10’-wide paved path with a parallel soft-surface trail or shoulder for runners (emphasis added) where possible….. In “pinch point” conditions, a minimum 8’ paved path, with 3’ shoulder on one side, should be incorporated.”

This acceptance of separate paths for runners and joggers – and also pedestrians – is a very important aspect of the planning and represents continuity with past planning efforts.

In the 2002 Master Plan for the Basin a stated goal was to provide safe and continuous bicycle, skating, and pedestrian access along the entire length of the Basin, with a “separation of footpaths and bike paths where doing so will not create excessive pavement near the shoreline.” The master plan also called for reducing congestion and minimizing conflicts on the paths (presumably conflicts between bicycles and pedestrians).

In 2005, users were surveyed to discern attitudes about the river facilities. The survey asked respondents to list and rank how they used the Basin. The top twelve responses were, in order of frequency:
Walking for pleasure
Attending concerts or events
Relaxing in the park
Driving on the parkways
Running or walking for exercise
Using Riverbend Park in summer
Enjoying the outdoors with children
Inline skating
Informal sports

More than sixty percent of those surveyed used the Basin more than once a week for strolling, relaxing, attending concerts or attending special events. Eighty-six percent asked for easier and safer pedestrian access to the Basin, and an equal proportion recommended separating pathways by user types. Users also frequently called for more benches and places to sit, more wildlife areas, more park rangers, and more convenient parking.

If the Continuity Study can be regarded as an update to the Master Plan, we think it may be leaving out some of the emphasis that the authors of the two planning documents clearly stated. In particular, the separation of bicycle and pedestrian paths does not seem to be as important an aspect of the plan as the users of the park suggested to be of high importance. WalkBoston believes that path separation should be integral to all elements of the plan, as it will help deal with the many problems inherent in an area that is so heavily used with so many potential conflicts between users.

We urge consideration of the following:
1. The elimination of conflicts between users of the paths should be uppermost as a safety precaution. Conflicts arise where bicycle traffic is moving rapidly through areas where pedestrians are strolling, causing dangerous situations for all. The conflicts are particularly difficult for commuting cyclists, some of whom are loath to slow down.

2. An expansion of the definition of ‘multi-use path’ would open options that are not clearly included at the moment. Multi-use pathways in the Basin should have an element – probably a parallel, separate path – that would cater to slow-moving walkers, runners and joggers. The foot traffic path could be built entirely separated from the paved path or built as a non-cambered shoulder.

3. Multi-use paths are appropriate for areas where there is low density of use by walkers, runners and cyclists, but should not dominate planning for the heart of the very heavily used park system in the center of Boston. Instead, the overriding goal should be provision of facilities in which space is plentiful for all park users and potential conflicts between users are minimized using methods that are appropriate to each location.

4. Existing multi-use paths should be expanded all along the river to meet the definition of separation between paths based on user needs.

5. Recognition of what runners and joggers show about their desires for facilities would help in planning new paths. Narrow dirt paths that exist informally alongside many of the paved paths in the Basin demonstrate a clear desire for a softer surface preferred by runners. The softer surfaces can also be used by pedestrians and will clearly help separate cyclists from people on foot.

6. A demonstration of the path separation is included in the proposal for the Greenough Boulevard narrowing. The effects on users would be an important element to explore.

7. Path separation in the near term may only be possible on one side of the river. The Greenough Boulevard proposal and the Memorial Drive narrowing between the Eliot and Anderson Bridges point in the direction of path separation as a major feature on the north bank. Continuation of path separation both west and east of these two segments would be a next logical step. Except at intersections, parkland seems to be available for new or modified paths.

8. An unfortunate aspect of all path planning along the river is the intersections with streets at the bridges. The narrow paths that exist at many of the bridges will be a major feature of riverfront paths for a long time, but should not preclude path separation away from the bridge intersections.

9. As long-term improvements, underpasses at bridge intersections are appropriate and important options that will enhance the recreational and transportation options for many Basin users.

We appreciate your consideration of our comments and look forward to your responses to them. Please feel free to contact WalkBoston with questions you may have.


Wendy Landman                                    Bob Sloane
Executive Director                                  Senior Project Manager

Cc Nicole Freedman, Boston Bikes
Cara Seiderman, City of Cambridge
Steve McLaughlin, MassDOT
Margo Levine Newman, The Esplanade Association
Renata von Tscharner, Charles River Conservancy
Herb Nolan, Solomon Fund
Jackie Douglas, LivableStreets Alliance
Pete Stidman, Boston Cyclists Union
David Watson, MassBike
Tom Grilk, Boston Athletic Association

Boston: South End Running Route

Boston: South End Running Route

The South End is a favorite of locals and visitors. It’s a compact, lively neighborhood that is easy to access from Downtown, Back Bay, and many hotels and tourist destinations. Running or walking along the flat, shady streets of the South End, you’ll be charmed by this “historic district”—the largest group of Victorian structures in the country. Long an immigrant neighborhood, the South End still retains its diversity. Its distinctive architecture is invigorated by an array of unique restaurants, art galleries clothing and furniture shops. The streets of the South End are flat, much like the Back Bay; both areas were created by filling in tidal marshes. Unlike the legendary crooked streets of Downtown, South End streets were laid out in a grid pattern, making it easier to get around.

Click for “WalkBoston’s South End Running Routes” PDF