Sunday, February 18, 2024

Discussion time: Rail trail speed limit

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As work on the Adirondack Rail Trail, a 34-mile trail connecting the communities of Tupper Lake, Saranac Lake and Lake Placid, nears completion, plenty of questions remain on how it will all function going forward.

For example, what should the speed limit be along the route, particularly during the winter months when the trail is shared by a range of users?

As Mike Lynch reports in this Adirondack Explorer article, the DEC is asking for the authority to adjust the speed limit along the trail. Currently it’s set at 55 mph and the agency already has “emergency rights” to lower it in certain sections that pass through communities.

Weigh in on your thoughts: Does there need to be speed limits set along the rail trail? What’s the “right’ speed?

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Melissa is a journalist with experience as a reporter and editor with the Burlington Free Press, Ithaca Journal and Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. She worked as a communications specialist for the Adirondack North Country Association and is currently digital editor for Adirondack Explorer, overseeing both the Explorer's website and its community forum the Adirondack Almanack. She enjoys hiking, camping and other outdoors activities, and spending time with her husband, their twin daughters, and rescue animals -- two dogs and two cats.

12 Responses

  1. Dan R says:

    Yes, there should be a speed limit. As a skier, fat biker, snowshoer, and snowmobiler I support a speed limit. I think 45mph is sufficient and speed checks will help support that.

  2. Joan Grabe says:

    20 miles per hour.

  3. Eric says:

    Like every other rail trail I have been on, there will be a small percentage riding gas mini bikes and battery powered fat tire bikes moving along at 30 or 40 mph. These folks force everyone else out of their way and become belligerent if you dare slow them down. Rail trails used to be one of my favorite things. Certain folks have ruined them, like some folks always seem to do. Keep the rail trails motor free except for true pedal assist bikes. This way, speed limits are moot during summer months.

  4. Smitty says:

    I agree that the whole thing should be limited to 20 mph, winter and summer. Mixing cross country skiers and snowmobilers at higher speeds is very dangerous. As far as I know only class 1 e-bikes are allowed but 20 mph should be more than enough. And follow it up with enforcement.

  5. Patrick Munn says:

    My ski experience with snowmobiles on the Saranac Lake to Lake Placid section has been all positive. The sleds I’ve encountered have all slowed down to a crawl while passing me. I show my respect for their presence by stopping on the side of the trail while they pass.

  6. Stanley Montgomery says:

    This is opening a can of worms, if any recreational vehicles are going to be allowed so must be dirt bikes and 4 wheelers ,for summer can not allow one and not others best way no vehicles allowed, looking at accidents and fires in summer and being so remote no way of enforcing speed limit or who goes on it it will be a mess no matter what

  7. Boreas says:

    I believe a lower speed limit through congested areas and villages is a no-brainer – same as with cars. Highway speeds (55mph) in areas away from congestion and crossings seems reasonable. For people with normal hearing, it is usually pretty easy to tell when a snowmobile is approaching. But obviously sledders need to be aware that not everyone can hear them. Think earmuffs…

    In my experience riding bikes on the Old Erie Canal towpath, bicycles are not easily heard at all. I used a bell when I had a “head of steam” to alert people to my approach about 50 feet out. If I didn’t get a head-turn or movement to the right, I slowed down. Kids ramble unpredictably on such trails and pay no attention beyond their nose. If you are riding 10-20 mph, you can often startle pedestrians. I am OK with a 15-20 mph general speed limit in summer, but would suggest 10 mph or less in congested areas.

    As always, trail etiquette and common sense should rule the day – reinforced with trailhead signage.

  8. Charlie Stehlin says:

    “there will be a small percentage riding gas mini bikes and battery powered fat tire bikes moving along at 30 or 40 mph. These folks force everyone else out of their way and become belligerent if you dare slow them down.”

    I was never a good roller, or ice, skater. Never! I was awkward at best, extremely clumsy about it, always either part ways, or wholly, striving to maintain balance or to keep from falling down. I was on a roundabout  course at a rink on roller skates some decades back, staying near, and as much as I could holding on to, the outside wall of that rink so as to keep from falling down. That wall built-up in me confidence. There has always been a wise-ass in crowds, one who has it in him to create mischief upon others for whatever their measly reasons. And so it was this one night many blue moons ago. I was with friends who all knew the craftsmanship of rolling around on wee wheels, or skates; they glided over that surface as if it was old hat…..

    To get to my point, or to the matter at hand, that was my experience way back when; when on roller skates at a crowded rink. There was this one dude who, each time when he passed me by as I held on to that wall, was overly obnoxious, looking to belittle me and while he was at it he tried to knock me down too. All because I wasn’t a pro on skates as he was. On one pass he did knock me down. So me being mister no-takem-sheet from anybody no matter who it was, which I got from my dad, I took matters into my own hands. After he had passed with a big grin on his face, his buddies following close by with big grins on their faces too, I stood up, maintained my balance, and waited for him to make his round as I held onto that wall on the outer edge of that rink. As he approached I stood holding on to that wall with determination in me. I gotta say…timing and ingenuity matters. Just as he was passing me by, still with that big grin on his face, I decided to stick my leg out and wouldn’t you know….he went down like a brick falling off of a building, and so did his pals with their big grins on their faces….one after the other down to the floor, which I thought amusing.

    None of this sat well with any of them and before you knew it the place was about to turn into a riot. The cops were called, and though it took some time for them to get there, I was assured that I was in good hands as the crowd I was with was old-school, they had families in that area (Tampa) going back to the turn of the century, where everyone knew everyone else…if you had roots, and they stood by each other. It’s good to “know” people!

    Alright, so to get to the heart of the matter, viz…”These folks force everyone else out of their way and become belligerent if you dare slow them down.”  Next time you’re on a trail and some motorhead comes along and insist ‘my way or the highway’ stick your foot out, or be patriotic and stand your ground, let him know those woods are not his alone. Put him in his place! Sometimes we must do this….else it will be of the mind of some to keep stepping on others!

  9. Bill says:

    55 mph ??? And you won’t allow class 2 e-bikes that max out at 20 mph, which is no different than class 1 e-bikes….and slower than some non e-bikers are riding. Also, e-bikes allow many older or handicapped folks to enjoy biking and access. The e-bike issue needs to rethought.

    • Boreas says:


      I am no expert, but the e-bikes shown in this article don’t appear to be class 1 e-bikes.

      I could have sworn I read recently on the DEC website that Class 2 bikes WERE going to be allowed on THIS trail. But my memory isn’t what it used to be. Clarification would be nice.

    • Boreas says:


      I guess I was wrong. Only Class 1 E-bikes are allowed. Sorry for the confusion.

      “Forms of public recreation allowed are as follows:

      Motorized vehicles, aside from snowmobiles, are prohibited on the entire corridor in all seasons. This will be enforced with gates, bollards, and law enforcement patrol and checkpoints.

      Winter recreation including snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, fat tire biking, and snowshoeing is permitted.

      Pedestrian and bicycling including class one E-bikes are permitted.

      Users should always practice Leave No Trace™ while recreating on the Corridor by carrying out what they carry in, being prepared for the risks and challenges of the unimproved Corridor and varied rail bed surface, respecting wildlife, and being considerate of other users and adjacent private property.

      Please respect posted signage and barricades. Remember that all trail users must fully stop at all public intersections. Road traffic has right of way and will not stop.

      • Bill says:

        I’ve been an e-biker for three years now. I own fat tire and non-fat tire bikes. I ride woods trails and paved trails. There are many misconceptions about their function. Both class 1 and 2 have pedal assist, if desired, and class 2 has the addition of a grip or lever throttle. The only thing the throttle adds is you don’t have to rotate the crank to activate the assist. With class 1, as long as you’ve selected a level of assist and are turning the crank, the crank sensor engages the motor at the set level of assist. Just because you’re turning the crank doesn’t mean you’re applying any force. Both classes have a max assisted speed of 20 mph. Therefore, the only difference is whether you move the crank or touch the throttle. If class 1 is acceptable, class 2 should be acceptable.
        Class 3 e-bikes are like class 2 e-bikes except they are capable of assistance up to 28 mph.
        If the allowable speed limit is 50, why not allow all three classes.
        Furthermore, I’ve had many non e-bikers cruise past me at 25-30 mph on the bike trails. E-bikes make this recreation available to many folks that might otherwise not otherwise be able to participate. You also have the issue of accessibility which you know will be brought up. Just my attempt at clarification.

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