To the Editor:
At the risk of turning off readers, the Chappaquiddick bike path battle continues. While our committee, Sharing Chappy Roads, is tired of fighting, our problem is that despite a clear majority opposed to a side-road path, the Chappy Path Committee continues to try to shift public opinion.
There is every reason to think that the path committee and Stuart Fuller, highway superintendent, plan to take this issue to Edgartown town meeting in 2011. If they prevail, we believe that every dollar spent on this project, whether they are local, state, or federal funds, will be taxpayer money poorly spent.
Keeping Edgartown taxpayers in the loop of information would mean a well-informed public, if the issue ever comes to a vote. For those of you who rarely, if ever, visit Chappy, we urge you to spend time in the next months walking, driving, or biking the roads and wooded paths. Chappaquiddick is still mostly rural and emits a feeling of the past. The construction of a bike path here will forever and negatively change what has worked well for years and what is cherished by many Edgartonians. Chappaquiddick is a small island. Forcing a project of this magnitude on friends and neighbors is unkind and thoughtless.
We don’t believe that Edgartown needs a bike path on Chappy. There is no reason to move traffic along the road. It is three cars on, three cars off. There is nowhere to go except to the beach at one end and to wait in the ferry line at the other end. There have only been eight reported bicycle accidents here since 1991, none involving cars or trucks. Still, the path committee continues to claim significant, but unspecified, safety issues.
As has been reported in both newspapers in December, the path commitee hired Daniel Dulaski, a civil engineer, and some of his Northeastern University undergraduate students to do an objective study of the Chappy road and ferry parking lot. The path committee announced to the community that this engineering group would collect data, get input from the community, identify significant safety issues, and then make recommendations based upon the data collected and a thorough engineering study.
What actually happened is that the students visited Chappy for two days in late January and immediately recommended building a side-road path on the north side of the road, eight feet wide with a buffer strip only wide enough to allow a little grass to grow (with luck) along most of the way. This was done prior to compiling any traffic or safety data or getting input from any members of the community other than Stuart Fuller and the path committee.
On April 19, the path committee held a public meeting presented by instructor Dulaski and the students. An advertised purpose of the meeting was to disclose the results of a Chappy public opinion survey that the path committee claimed to have been sent to every Chappy property owner and only one person per property, and not including year-round renters; the due date for returns was April 12. But the results were not disclosed, and the path committee has since sent out an email to a select list — perhaps mostly supporters — saying that it wasn’t too late to mail in their survey responses. We can’t help but believe that the path committee didn’t like the initial results.
After the formal presentation at the April 19 meeting, public discussion revealed the following: There was no safety or traffic data collected by the students, and the Edgartown police reports still indicate only eight bicycle accidents on Chappy in 18 years. And the Martha’s Vineyard Commission still reports a traffic count on Chappy that is just a small portion of the traffic counts on most of the other count sites across the Vineyard. The undergraduate students have done no significant research relating to published bicycle safety studies. The only engineering that took place was done to show how best to cram a side-road path along the Chappaquiddick road and to reconstruct the ferry parking lot and ferry waiting area.
The students could not provide any basis for their recommendations of a side-road path despite several audience questions. Mr. Dulaski is supposed to be an objective engineer leading this study; however, all of the photos included in their PowerPoint presentation were provided by the path committee, and depicted cars passing on curves and beachgoers strolling along the Chappy roads.
Perhaps there is some town laughter at our expense — “another Chappy controversy” — but we cannot stop our opposition unless or until the Chappy Path Committee recognizes the will of the community and stops their nonsense.
Bob and Fran Clay
The Sharing Chappy Roads Committee