The View From Prospect Hill – May 25

On May 25, 2011, in Latest News, by The Somerville Times

‘Villens are generally quite friendly people. Sure, there’s a grouch or two in any crowd, but all in all we measure up well in the friendliness department. Friendly to one another. Kind to kids. Charitable to Chinese checkers enthusiasts.  And we’re just crazy about bicycles. Aren’t we?

There’s a comforting something in the imagery of health conscious, nature loving individuals shunning their oversized, gas guzzling automobiles and SUVs in favor of pedaling their way to their jobs, schools, and marketplaces in the soft, pastoral glow of self-satisfaction at somehow “making a difference.”

One real difference, though, is that Somerville is far from being pastoral. Within its roughly four square miles dwells a population of 70,000 or so, with the majority of us choosing to operate our motor vehicles, mostly out of shear necessity.

As one of the most densely populated areas in the country, we may not enjoy the same options that other cities have at hand. Adding in additional bike paths and lanes may be highly desirable to a certain minority of our population, but putting it into practice can be problematic, to say the least.

The costs alone are daunting. And what becomes of a bike lane in the winter when it has been plowed over with snow? Does anyone actually ride their bike in winter anyway? We’re talking about a lot of expense and hassle for a part-time activity practiced by a relative few.

Ultimately, how many of us would benefit from expanded bicycle access? Who among us will be tossing their car keys in the dresser drawer to be forgotten until the end of time? Most importantly, how would this affect the average citizen?

These are questions which must be weighed, debated, and resolved. Friendliness, after all, must be tempered by a certain modicum of restraint and caution. We’re like that, too.


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