There’s a recently opened section of bike path that connects Mystic Valley Parkway in Arlington to the Red Line at Alewife. The stretch I use on my way to work parallels Route 16 as it passes by Dilboy Stadium just along the western edge of Alewife Brook on its way to Broadway on the Somerville line. It exists in an interesting urban boundary zone.

In autumn, native plants like asters and Virginia Creeper add unexpected color and texture to the ubiquitous Japanese Knotweed. Though invasive, the seeds of the Knotweed in the low light of rush hour add a luminous beauty.

The path is constructed of two different materials: a simple graded stone dust and a raised mahogany (or a species akin to it) boardwalk as it bridges low wetland or rises to meet major streets. Its eastern edge is natural, with the brook defining its way. The western edge is defined by a public street with homes, businesses, and parking lots. Small footpaths connect the path to the street across a green buffer of varying width.

Joggers alone or in groups, folks walking with and without strollers or dogs mix with bikers. Depending on the season and the maintenance, the Knotweed adds an interesting obstruction.

The bike path provides a remarkable oasis from the noise and congestion of Route 16, even though the freeway is very close by. It also seems to hold promise as a potential model for using edge conditions between residential zones or zones of other use that enhance both while offering a worthwhile public amenity.

Topics: Urban Design, Planning