Chappy bike path survey shows an Island divided

A survey of Chappaquiddick property owners conducted by a group of Northeastern University engineering students shows that 38 percent of those who responded favor a mixed-use path for bicycles and pedestrians. The path would follow a route from the ferry, along Chappaquiddick Road and Dike Bridge Road, to Dike Bridge.

The survey is the latest salvo in a long running debate over bike paths on the small island connected by a three-vehicle ferry. The results were released on July 10 during a presentation at the Chappy Community Center and presented to town selectmen.

The survey was designed by the students as part of their college studies with input and funding from members of the Chappy Path Committee, which favors construction of a path.

The survey indicates 54 percent of those who responded want to create either a dedicated bike path, a mixed-use path, or sharrows (marked bike lanes within the roadway). Of those who responded, 46 percent want to do nothing.

Richard Knight, who is a member of the Chappy Path Committee and a proponent of a bike path, said the survey results were favorable.

“It certainly doesn’t persuade me we’re on the wrong course,” Mr. Knight said. He was critical of the way some of the questions were worded. “Adding the option of ‘do nothing’ was a bad choice. Anytime people are offered the option of do something or do nothing, they’ll pick do nothing.”

The students say they took the assessor’s list of individual property owners, removed not-for-profit and government owners, as well as properties owned by the same individuals or trusts on behalf of individuals. The survey was mailed to 498 distinct individual property owners, and 44 percent of those responded to the survey.

Norma Costain Kontje, who is active in the Sharing Chappy Roads Committee, opposes construction of a new bike path, and disputes the objectivity of the poll. “The survey was an assignment for a group of undergraduate students,” Ms. Kontje said. “A survey done by those with a goal in mind, the questions can point to the answers favored by those who designed the survey.”

The student group said opponents of the bike path declined an offer to participate in the survey and help design the questions.

“We’re not professional survey designers either,” Ms. Kontje said. “It’s an excellent intention, and we support the intention of a survey, but the result was very poor, it was unprofessional.”

The proposed bike path is a divisive issue on Chappy, the subject of several contentious community meetings. Residents of the Island have squabbled for more than 30 years about safety, aesthetic, and legal issues related to a path.