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Safety is stressed on new ATV trail


November 04, 2009
BERLIN — The Berlin Police Department and the Androscoggin Valley ATV Club stressed the importance of raising awareness that ATVs and cars will be sharing the road after the new trail opens on November 7.

"This can work," said Police Chief Peter Morency, "and it can work very safely."

The most important thing is for everyone to learn of the rules, he said, including drivers.

Councilor Tim Cayer reiterated some of those rules.

The trail through town doesn't use every possible opportunity to avoid the pavement, he said, because the danger is highest leaving and entering the flow of traffic. Minimizing the number of times ATVs disrupt that flow is key to keeping drivers and riders safe, he said.

"You have to interact with them as if it's a regular vehicle," he said.

That means drivers shouldn't pass an ATV on a double yellow line, he said, or expect them to pull to the right of the white line. They will be riding in the roadway, he said, and that is where they are supposed to be. Drivers should treat them the same as they would any car on the roadway.

City Manager Pat MacQueen said the city looked how other communities around the country had set up their system, and this is common practice.

The ATV trail through the city will open on Saturday with a ribbon cutting ceremony and a proclamation read by Mayor David Bertrand. It will then be open until December 15, when it will revert to the snowmobile trail.

"This is far from done," said Councilor Cayer. It is important people understand the rules and obey them to ensure the ordinance has a positive effect on the community. If they don't, he said, the city might repeal the ordinance, and riders would again lose access between Jericho Mountain State Park and the Success trails.

The trail will be open for a little over a month before it switches to the snowmobile trail. Councilor Cayer said that time will be a good testing period, enabling the city to address any significant problems before it reopens in May.

One of the issues organizers already commented on is the size of the green diamonds marking the trail. Chief Morency said they need to be bigger and closer together. Currently they are the size of a dinner plate. The ATV club started with even smaller diamonds, slightly larger than a postcard, but they quickly realized they need something bigger. The police department and city staff suggested making them two feet wide.

Coucilor Cayer said it will take time to work the bugs out, but the most important thing is to get residents accustomed to seeing ATVs in traffic.

The ordinance requires ATV riders to behave the same as cars, he said; now drivers just have to get used to them.

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