Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Alternatives to the Bike Path

The Minuteman Bikeway is one of the best bike paths around. Unfortunately, this time of year I start avoiding it, especially on weekends. It is strange to say since the path helps us avoid traffic, but I don't feel safe. This comes from the fact that there are at least four distinct groups (pedestrians, families biking together, runners and adult cyclists) with widely varying ideas about what the rules are. The section from Lexington Center to Arlington Center is a particular problem because it is slightly down hill and cyclists can reach speeds well in excess of 20mph (Lucy looking all innocent and 'who me?'). You put all those groups together in a crowd and you have a problem. This problem came to a head for me last spring when I almost ran over a kid on a bike who popped out from behind a group of runners as I was trying to pass them. Since running over someone's child is not on my list of things to do, I decided to swear off that section of the path in good weather, especially on weekends. I feel like, if I want to ride that fast, I should be on the road anyway.
Which brings me to the lovely Mystic Valley Parkway. My friend Kit introduced me to this ride when we went camping in Andover last spring. It is wide and shady and, once rush hour is over, very quiet. It runs along parts of both sides of the Mystic River and Mystic Lake. You get there by taking a right in Arlington Center, going through the first stop light and taking a right at the second stop light. This heads you sort of south down one side of Mystic Lake. Take a left at the rotary and another left at the next rotary and you headed up the other side of the lake for several miles of quiet riding. A ways up, it takes a jog by taking a right on Bacon St, going under the railroad bridge and then left for another section of the parkway which will bring you to Winchesters Center. If you are feeling adventurous, you can climb the big hill up and over. This is Border Rd which goes through a whole bunch of state park land. The road ends at I93. I just tried to do a Google route but it doesn't seem to be working. You should be able to see the route if you look it up on Google maps. This is one of my go-to routes for an easy, relaxing ride. Give it a try sometime.


  1. I hear you re. the Minuteman. Years ago when I lived in Beacon Hill, I felt the same way about the Esplanade path along the Charles River, which is always choked with pedestrians, joggers, rollerbladers, etc. This all would be fine if said pedestrians, joggers, rollerbladers, etc. would behave predictably, choosing one side of the path or the other in order to let cyclists pass, but they either used the ENTIRE path, or they darted from side to side like panicked squirrels, making it impossible to pass without running someone over.

    Instead of the usual "Passing on the left," I was always tempted to call out, "Just pick a side!"

  2. Hahahahah! I totally feel like doing that too. A few weeks ago, Stef and I were trying to pass three women walking along across the entire path. I was really yelling at them that we were coming but they weren't paying attention until we were almost on them. When they finally saw us, they split like the Red Sea. Fortunately, we weren't going that fast but we definitely surprised them.