Hearing the buzz of an all-terrain vehicle or off-road motorcycle is becoming common along Rotterdam Junction’s swath of the Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail, according to some who regularly use the path.
Some cyclists and hikers claim the unauthorized vehicles are frequenting a two-mile section much to the ire of the lawful users of the bike path. They worry the handful of ATV and dirt bike riders accessing the trail could someday lead to a devastating accident if they’re not stopped in short order.
“Hell, one is too many,” said Roy Pechtel, a Duanseburg resident who regularly sees the vehicles cruising down the path while on walks with his wife. “What do we have to do, wait for them to run into somebody?”
Using any motorized vehicle on the trail is illegal. There are signs posted along the trail specifying this.
Yet Pechtel said he’s identified nearly a dozen places where the trail has been accessed by motorized vehicles. He said he regularly encounters them heading toward Schenectady near Leggiero Lane and has alerted authorities at least three times this spring alone.
“You can hear them coming from a mile away,” he said.
Fred Thompson, a member of the Friends of the Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail, has also become accustomed to seeing the unwanted bike path interlopers. He said the stretch running through Rotterdam Junction is the only one where he sees motorized vehicles using the trail.
“People use ATVs out there more than anywhere else on the trail,” he said.
And in the winter, he sees snowmobile tracks along the path. Thompson said he and others have brought it to the attention of town officials, but he has never sent a written complaint.
“It’s a safety issue,” he said.
An estimated 174,000 people use the Capital Region section of the trail. Of those users, about 53 percent are bicyclists, 30 percent walkers, 12 percent joggers and 4 percent inline skaters, according to a study of the trail released in January.
Rotterdam police acknowledge they’ve received a few complaints about ATVs using the bike path, said Lt. Jason Murphy. But catching the violators isn’t easy, considering they’re usually gone by the time a patrol officer arrives.
“It’s difficult,” he said Monday.
Thompson understands this difficulty. The Rotterdam Police are located more than eight miles away and lack the staffing to have a full-time patrol or substation in the hamlet.
“How much law enforcement do they have to stop it?” he asked.
State Canal Corporation Director Carmella Mantello said the section of the bike path in question is maintained by Rotterdam. She said her agency hasn’t received any complaints about motorized vehicles on the trail through Rotterdam Junction.
Still, Mantello said her agency takes the prohibition of motorized vehicles on the bike path seriously and is willing to help with its enforcement. She said the state police will be alerted about the issue, which will likely lead to an enforcement effort sometime in the near future.
“Certainly we do target specific areas where we get complaints,” she said. “Now [the state police] will put it on their radar.”