Sunday, November 8, 2009

Loops through Lexington

Arguably the best bikeway in Eastern Massachusetts is also the busiest. Especially on beautiful fall days, the Minuteman Bikeway has become almost too busy to enjoy.

Early in the morning, you mostly find runners, but later when the Minuteman gets busy - it is worth exploring the many quiet streets nearby.

There are even some (short) bike paths.

There are many of these short bike paths in Lexington. So I have set out to connect those in Lexington to the Minuteman and each other by quiet streets.

Here is a little map that shows the connections I found. (Quiet Streets are Green; Paved Paths are Orange; Unpaved paths are Pink)

View Lexington Loops in a larger map

I have ridden most of these routes and connections and I found them all quite comfortable. Though some could use bike lanes, most are quiet residential streets. You could easily cycle around Lexington all day long as comfortably as you would along the Minuteman, except with fewer people.

This is the north end of the Vine Brook Path. The pavement is a little bumpy in parts. But then I prefer bumpy pavement over sharing the road with cars.

I think the unpaved path in Willard Woods is the nicest. Though unpaved, it is smoother than the old bumpy pavement on Vine Brook. It also seems easier to go slowly and look at the scenery when riding on unpaved paths.

My current favorite spot in Lexington is Chelsea Meadow. I wish I had picnic fixins while I was there. It is one of the few places inside 128 that remind me of Western Mass or Vermont.

Most of the connections I found to the Minuteman are at quiet cross roads like Paul Revere Hill and Fletcher, but I did find a little cross path that connects to the Reed St and Valley Rd neighborhoods. I've never noticed the little crossing before; it must be from the railroad days, because there are old cross bucks:

But as you are riding down the Minuteman you can barely see it, but if you know the sign it is easy to find. So what, you may ask, is the sign to know you are at this little crossing, well it is a crab over a jellyfish:

On the path across Meagherville I found a little wooden bridge over a creek.

From Meagherville you could take the Paul Revere Hill Road back to the Minuteman, or go left out to the Battle Road, similar to our trip last week. The battle road is a wonderfully pleasant unpaved path. About half way out you can take Mill Road back to Lexington, which is a quiet back country road through the woods and along the headwaters of the Cambridge reservoir before returning to Lexington neighborhoods. The trip back to the Minuteman is then a bike path by the Lexington Reservoir and the Town's ball fields, which leaves you at the Town Center.

Of course such a nice story is not without some complaints, and mine is bike route signs that don't mean anything. I had to keep a map out the entire time to keep from getting lost, which is why I made the Google Map earlier in this post. Lexington at one time placed bike route signs along much of the route I describe, but it was really difficult to tell what they meant:

I know I must be on the bike route, but which way does it go? Along the sidewalk or along North Street which crosses the sidewalk? I hope it didn't go on the main road here as it is quite busy. All it would need is an arrow. If it had an arrow or I could divine the way to go, where would it take me? Both very important questions for someone who hasn't been here before.

This bike route problem reminded me of a solution used in the Netherlands. They have a nodal system where all of the pleasant cycle routes, both on & off road, are mapped and each route intersection is given a number (similar to many cross-country skiing trails here). The nodes look like this, sometimes with a map of the area (there's one in the background):

From Netherlands 2009; Veluwe to Zutphen

Then between nodes there are similar signs directing you to the next node. No matter how complicated the route between nodes, you probably won't get lost.

I think this would be a fun system to start here. It would allow cyclists to more comfortably leave the bike paths without fearing they will end up on an unexpected highway. It would reduce the crowds on the bike paths and probably encourage more cyclists in the area.

So if anyone wants to make a nodal system connecting to the Minuteman let me know. In the mean-time I'll be working on connecting other side routes to the Minuteman in Concord, Bedford, Winchester and Arlington. These will pop up here one day. Maybe even make some connections to the new Bruce Freeman Trail.

Enough of being practical, here is a random, artsy photo:

It seems most of my best photos I didn't intend to take, this one must have snapped while I was putting my camera away.

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