To the Editor:
I feel as though I am shouting in the middle of a forest somewhere off the coast of Alaska. No one seems to be listening. After spending innumerable hours attempting to understand why a shared use path (SUP) would or would not be beneficial on Beach Road, I came to the undeniable conclusion that for a vast multitude of reasons it would not. But still, there is the question of what should be its replacement for the stated goal of serving as a path for the inexperienced cyclists.
There is not much sense in criticizing a solution if you do not have one to replace it, and so I have tried as well to find a solution, and I believe that there is one. But when I send the idea by email to everyone on my email list — and if you have followed me on Facebook you know who they are — then it may come as a shock to you that not one of these people has responded.
It would be nice if a citizen who is trying to help to find a solution could get a little feedback. For example, “I don’t think this will work because ….” I can take it. It opens up dialogue. Or even better, “That idea could work; let’s look at it more closely.” But no. Silence. Nothing.
So what’s a person to do in this situation? Is there a rule (unwritten) that citizens cannot participate in town government? If so, then we are lost.
So I am resorting to a Letter to the Editor, something I do not take lightly, as a last resort to try to engage the public in this issue of Beach Road.
The problems with the SUP are so numerous, and the attempts at the hybrid, the hybrid-hybrid, and the hybrid-hybrid-Tristan, and the many votes and vote delays with a final rush to try to secure funding without any consideration of the impact of the hybrid-hybrid-Tristan, all smack of desperation to bring something to Beach Road that clearly, most people oppose (Oct. 8, “Selectmen change course on Beach Road design”).
But there is a solution, and I have proposed it, and no one in power is listening, or at least not responding, so I would like to propose it here, in this public forum.
It is very simple, it is easy to do, safe, and will accomplish the goals in a way that is the least disruptive, least costly, most environmentally benign, and least intrusive to properties, including expanses of sand sloping to the inner harbor.
In both the Martha’s Vineyard and the Nantucket studies done by the consultants hired by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, there was mention of using a 6-foot sidewalk with a 4-foot-wide shoulder to accommodate both inexperienced cyclists and proficient cyclists. The idea is to have a sort of hybrid road, with this scheme replacing the SUP for the distance that the SUP would have covered.
As a person who lives in the exact middle of this zone and can observe what is presently going on with cyclists, it is clear that those who are inexperienced use the sidewalk as it is. But as it is, the sidewalks are crumbling; they are of odd sizes. In front of the Tisbury Marketplace the sidewalk is a scant 3 feet wide. On the north side it barely exists, or is awkwardly placed and pockmarked with crumbling materials, and blocked by utility poles.
I suggest that if we had proper sidewalks, 6 feet wide, and shoulders 4 feet wide from the Marketplace to the drawbridge, that we would achieve our goal of providing safe passage for inexperienced cyclists.
From Five Corners to the Tisbury Marketplace I would not change the dimensions suggested in all of the proposals of 5.5-foot sidewalks, 4.5-foot shoulders and 10.5-foot travel lanes, and I support the Ralph Packer petition to have the speed limit reduced to 20 mph.
The massive advantage to this scheme is that cyclists are advised by signage to walk their bikes for the distance to the Tisbury Marketplace and back. This works in Edgartown. From there, they are free to use the sidewalks. If 4.5 feet of shoulder is not enough for them, or it is too crowded with faster riders, then walk! It won’t kill you. It’s a pleasant distance. After that, take your choice. Ride on the sidewalk on a painted area designated for bikes. The curbstone can be low to make it easier to hop on or off. It is a simple solution; it would work; I would like some feedback.
I will send this to my usual email list of a gaggle of addresses. I expect no response. I hope that this letter will encourage the silent majority to speak up, and attend the meeting that is proposed in a few weeks, and I hope that we can arrive at a sensible solution to the problem of Beach Road that will be safe, beautiful, and spend a few million dollars less than that which would have to be spent to achieve nothing.