On March 2, when the MBTA held the first in a series of public community forums on the future of the Green Line Extension and the corresponding Community Path Extension, the Somerville Road Runners’ Brendan Kearney wasn’t there.
Kearney is a race director for the run club, which is the oldest in Somerville and one of the most robust in the area with 400 members, and he and the group had already planned a running safety workshop in conjunction with the Somerville Police Department for that evening.
“I thanked the 25 people for being in the room, but I was like, ‘To be honest, we should all be somewhere else right now,'” says Kearney. “This is something that is crucially important to runners and runner safety.”
And so, on Tuesday, he and the rest of the Somerville Road Runners made a plea in support of the Community Path Extension, which they posted to Twitter and mailed to the MBTA Fiscal Management and Control Board, GLX Interim Project Manager Jack Wright and MassDOT Assistant Secretary for Policy Coordination Katherine Fichter. In it, the club voices its support for the Friends of the Community Path in advocating for a fully constructed path that—as planned—connects Lowell Street in Somerville to North Point in Cambridge.
It’s the first time the 16-year-old group has ever made a public comment of this sort on any project.
The Road Runners board meets monthly in Davis Square, and Kearney, who also works with the pedestrian advocacy group WalkBoston, says they’ve been considering issuing a statement on the importance of the Community Path for a long time. “We’ve been around for a while, and it’s almost something that we should do,” he says. “We should be taking a larger role and a larger voice in what makes it safer for runners in our community.” The Road Runners wanted to join the chorus of path supporters that includes groups like Friends of Community Path as well as Somerville STEP.
Kearney says that these kinds of public spaces are vital in a city like Somerville—and that they provide a service for much more than just runners. “It’s not just a bike path—I think that’s one of the genius things about the … Community Path,” he explains. “No matter what time of day I’m walking on it or going for a run on it, there are tons of families, tons of different people out walking their dogs, with their community garden or just commuting.” He says it’s rare that he doesn’t see someone he knows while he’s out on the existing path—in fact, one of the recipients of the Road Runners’ letter, MassDOT’s Katherine Fichter, is someone Kearney says he often passes while running there.
Ultimately, Kearney says that extending the Community Path and making the city safer for runners and pedestrians actually makes this a better, safer place for all of Somerville’s residents—whether or not they’ve ever strapped on a pair of running shoes.
“We’re a super dense community, and open space is at a premium,” Kearney adds. “Anything we can do to increase linear parks, to provide safe places for people to live on or play, that’s huge. The more we can do that, the better.”
Read the Road Runners’ letter in full below.
— SRR! (@SomervilleRR) March 16, 2016