Hudson has a relatively low population density. Infill housing has spread only a mile or two from the center. There are quiet, almost empty roads in the east end of the town. However, some old farm roads serve as through routes and others suffer from the strain of increasing residential development; increasing traffic volume has already rendered many roads unattractive for bicycling in peak traffic hours.
The town core of Hudson is relatively attractive for bicycling, as it is large enough to offer numerous alternate routes on quiet streets. The highways are of variable suitability for bicycling; the "spine" of the town, Main Street to the east of the center, is not an attractive bicycling route. Accidents are common in the center of Hudson, particularly in relation to the population.
For a town with a relatively low population, considerable bicycle traffic was observed in Hudson near the town center; children in the town center and adult recreational and racing cyclists taking their choice of the more attractive roads.
Main Street, extending eastwards from the town center to become Hudson Street in Sudbury, is not a Massachusetts numbered highway, although most of it is built to highway standards. Pavement quality and width are typical of such highways, with occasional lapses where upgrades have not been recent. Main Street traffic is moderate, though heavier in rush hour. Only experienced bicyclists will feel comfortable riding here in rush hour.
Massachusetts Route 62 joins Main Street east of the town center, then exits at the west where it crosses Route 495. East of Main Street, width is the typical 24 feet, sometimes with a foot or two of shoulder on each side. On the part surveyed, pavement was relatively new. Traffic was moderate, but this was by no means a highway on which casual bicyclists would feel comfortable.
West of the center, Route 62 has the widest shoulders in any section of highway surveyed in this project, and little or no development. It appears to be a modern bypass for the parallel Central Street, which is almost equally wide. Both converge just to the east of a Route 495 interchange at the west end of town, however this interchange is a half-cloverleaf which is easier to negotiate, particularly westbound, than a full cloverleaf.
Streets in the town center: Forest Street and School Street offer a reasonably attractive alternative route south of Main Street. Cox Street, north of Main Street, is not attractive -- very hilly, narrow, and with heavy traffic. A few blocks east of Route 85, Cox Street becomes wider; it becomes Packard Street, wider yet, west of Route 85. There are no east-west alternatives north of Cox Street, due to cul-de-sacs in residential neighborhoods. Links between the subdivisions should be explored, though they may be unattractive in any case because they are too hilly.
An abandoned rail line from Waltham through Weston, Wayland and Sudbury extends through Hudson and offers some major opportunities to improve east-west bicycle travel conditions. The rail line crosses relatively few and lightly traveled streets (except heavily-traveled Main Street) east of the town center through to the Sudbury border, and provides access to a state forest. Particularly in the center of town to the east of Church Street where the bicycle and pedestrian accident rate is high, the rail line would offer a highly desirable flat and traffic-free alternative to Cox Street. A path here should be kept clear in winter from Church Street to Cox Street.
West of Church Street to Central Street, the railroad bed crosses numerous streets and would probably be slower and less safe than an on-street route on Pleasant Street and Apsley Street. Between its two crossings of Central Street at the west end of the town, the railroad bed has no problem with cross traffic, but on the other hand, Central Street is excellent for bicycling. The main justification to develop the rail bed here would be for casual recreational use. The rail bed crosses under Route 495 just north of the interchange at Coolidge Street and would offer a less intimidating crossing than at the interchange. However, the crossing of Central Street would have to be handled carefully, preferably with a grade separation.
The rail line belongs to the Metropolitan Boston Transportation Authority, which is "banking" it for future use. A trail should be designed so parallel tracks can be put down later. This is usually no problem, as rail rights of way are typically 30 or more feet wide. Note that a trail will cost approximately $100,000 per mile. For this reason, priority for transportation use should go to building one where use will be heavy: in Hudson, in the the town center. The several miles of additional trail to reach from one end of Hudson to the other are justifiable mostly as a recreational trail.
River Street, extending southwest from the town center, is rather lightly traveled and wide enough to carry the car traffic which uses it. Brigham Street, paralleling River Street on the south side of the Assabet River, is of moderate width as it passes the large school east of Brigham Street.
Summary: All in all, east-west bicycle travel is easy and pleasant west of the town center and difficult to the east, where Main Street is at present the only option for most of the way.
Route 85 bisects the town center from north to south. In the center, it is relatively narrow though with a low speed limit. Alternate, parallel streets are available. The section north of Cox Street has wide shoulders and new pavement.
The section of Route 85 south of the center is lined by shopping centers and is the poorest road serving a major shopping district in the entire study area. Route 85 here is very narrow and the pavement is in poor condition. Without the shopping centers along it, it would more resemble an old farm road than a typical Massachusetts numbered highway.
South of the shopping district, Route 85 becomes wider where it serves an industrial area (primarily a large DEC plant on Reed Street). Fitchburg Street turns off to the southwest from Route 85 and joins a new connector to Route 290 and 495. These sections of road are up to modern standards, though they carry heavy traffic in rush hour.
Chapin Street, south from River Street, is at first narrow, with a narrow bridge on a curve, and then wider. It passes a large recreational area south of the Assabet River. Traffic is moderate.
Marlborough Street is wide as it serves the new housing developments around Fort Meadow Reservoir.
Remaining north-south routes east of the town center are narrow farm roads. Of these, Causeway Street and Hosmer Street carry considerable traffic, rendering them unattractive for bicycling in peak hours. Chestnut Street, Parmenter Road and White Pond Road are lightly traveled and attractive.
An abandoned railroad bed turns south from the east-west one just east of the town center and parallels the west side of route 85 into Marlborough.
The east-west railroad bed offers a major opportunity to improve east-west travel east of the town center, as mentioned previously. The Marlborough branch railroad bed may offer an alternative for north-south travel. However, it may have been interrupted too much to be useful north of the Route 290 connector in Marlborough.
Another major opportunity to improve north-south travel could come with construction of the proposed Route 85 bypass west of the town center. If this were designed to accommodate bicycles and/or bicycle paths were included in the project, they could provide an alternative to Route 85 and Chapin Road, access from the town center to the schools and shopping district, and a connection to the Marlborough branch rail bed which has been proposed as a bicycle path in Marlborough.
Careful attention should be given in building the bypass to avoid damaging the currently excellent bicycling conditions of Central Street and Coolidge Street, or precluding the possible use of the rail bed west of town.
Some of the narrow north-south roads east of the center, particularly Causeway Street and Hosmer Street, need widening if they are to accommodate bicycle traffic well. Note that Hosmer Street is wide and excellent for bicycle use after it crosses the town line into Marlborough.
Main Street east of the town center to Sudbury also should be widened with consistent two-foot shoulders even if the railbed is improved into a path, to provide access to the businesses and residential neighborhoods along it.