Rules of the road at Rail Trail crossings

To the editor:

I regularly drive past Rail Trail crossings in Saranac Lake and Lake Placid. Many drivers obey the right-of-way rules at the crossings, but some do not, thus risking auto-pedestrian accidents. The accident risk is even greater when drivers proceed above the speed limit.

The danger is greater still where the speed limit is 45 mph, such as on state Route 86 near Fowler’s Crossing (near Turtle Pond) in Saranac Lake, as well as on Old Military Road across from the fire department in Lake Placid. At these locations, I’ve seen cars jamming on their brakes to avoid hitting pedestrians, as well as lines of cars speeding past pedestrians waiting at the crosswalk.

The Old Military Road crossing is uniquely dangerous, since there is a long, steep hill coming down toward the firehouse, followed by a blind curve just before the crossing. Coming from the opposite direction also includes a long curve just before the crossing.

Since I haven’t seen much public notice of the rules of the road at trail crossings, there may be some confusion as to what they are.

The Adirondack Rail Trail Association (ARTA) has summarized the rules as follows:

“Q: What are the ‘rules of the road’ at crossings?

“A: All trail users are required to stop at road crossings. Vehicles must yield the right of way to pedestrians in the crosswalk (pedestrians include cyclists walking their bicycles). Other non-pedestrians (cyclists while riding and snowmobilers) are required to yield the right of way to vehicles on the road.”)

(See, https://www.adirondackrailtrail.org/trail-policies-faqs. See also an April 19, 2024 article in the Adirondack Explorer: https://www.adirondackexplorer.org/stories/what-to-know-adirondack-rail-trail-crossings.)

An ADE editorial, dated Dec. 16, 2023, reported that the Saranac Lake Village Board had signed a letter drafted by the village Parks and Trails Advisory Board asking the New York state Department of Transportation to take measures to safeguard crossings in the village at Broadway, Bloomingdale Avenue and Fowler’s Crossing. The proposals included installation of a radar speed sign, an in-road sign or bollard and speed reductions. (Although not part of the village request, consideration should be given to including safeguards for the Old Military Road crossing as well.)

The editorial pointed out that the DOT was asked to respond “by May.” I’ve seen no indication of a response, so, until further notice, people and drivers at the crossings should follow the rules described in the ARTA FAQ. Drivers should also consider slowing down on the crossing approaches, especially where the speed limit is 45 mph.

Edward Murphy



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