An effort to promote the Tracy Road as a tourist destination is causing concern among some Moriah officials, who feel the road is dangerous.
An effort to promote the Tracy Road as a tourist destination is causing concern among some Moriah officials.
The Moriah Chamber of Commerce is including the Tracy Road, also known as County Route 6, in its promotional information this summer. The chamber hopes to attract motorcyclists to the community to ride the highway, which is known for its 50 curves in 7.5 miles.
“We were looking for ways to increase the economic activity,” Tim Bryant, chamber president, said. “One of the members told us that he was invited by a Vermont Motorcycle Club to go on a Sunday ride. He was surprised to find out their destination was the Tracy Road. As we looked into it we started to realize just how popular this route was and it was something we should explore.”
The route is more than popular with motorcyclists. It’s world famous. Videos of rides along the Tracy Road can be found on YouTube, many featuring non-English speaking riders.
“People come from all over to run the Tracy Road,” Moriah Supervisor Tom Scozzafava said. “I was at my niece’s wedding in Cape Cod and met a man from Ireland who had ridden the Tracy Road. Motorcyclists know about the Tracy Road.”
To promote the Tracy Road ride the chamber is offering souvenir decals and T shirts.
“I don’t know the numbers of motorcyclists that ride the Tracy Road each season, but it is a lot,” Bryant said. “How many of those riders stop, have lunch or fill up with gas? A fair amount stop, but we believe there is an opportunity to serve more of them at our local businesses.
“Motorcycle clubs are a big part of the tourism makeup now in the North Country,” he continued. “Look at Americade. We don’t have a lot of hotel beds in our town so we have to work with what we have, and what we have are a lot of motorcyclists. We are promoting this ride to motorcycle clubs throughout the Northeast. If we can attract a club to take a ride down the road, then stop for lunch, well, that helps our town.”
Scozzafava applauds the chamber for its efforts to promote the community, but he has concerns about making the Tracy Road any more of an attraction than it already is.
“I’m a biker,” said Scozzafava, who owns and rides a Harley Davidson. “I know it’s a great road for motorcycles, but it’s also very dangerous.
“I think the chamber has a great idea, but what’s missing is the safety factor,” he added. “It’s a public highway and others are using it.”
The chamber is counting on all motorcyclist to be responsible riders.
“We want everyone to safe, we don’t want anyone getting hurt,” Bryant said. “If someone is a responsible rider there shouldn’t be any concerns, but if someone is irresponsible then they create safety issues any time they sit on a bike, not just on the Tracy Road. The Tracy Road has rules like everywhere else, and those rules are meant to be followed not broken.”
Jamie Wilson, Moriah’s superintendent of highways, believes chamber officials are naive to think motorcyclists come to the Tracy Road just to ride. The challenge for motorcyclists, he said, is to take the turns as fast as possible.
“It’s not safe,” Wilson said of the Tracy Road and motorcyclists. “Every turn on the Tracy Road is a blind turn. I know it’s a scenic road, but the bottom line is they come here to go fast. They almost always cross the center line. This is a bad idea.”
Wilson also owns and rides a motorcycle.
“I’m surprised the chamber would promote the Tracy Road as a tourist attraction,” said Steve Stahl of the Moriah Police Department. “The goal for motorcylists is to get from end to the other as fast as they can. We’ve had accidents there and a lot of close calls — a lot of near misses. It’s just a matter of time until there’s a serious head-on (accident) with a motorcycle.”
Stahl said three years ago community concern about motorcycles on the Tracy Road led to increased patrols by the Moriah PD and state police.
“The motorcyclists are very organized,” Stahl said. “They put someone on each end of the road and if they see police they just wait until we leave. Then they race.”
Stahl didn’t have any accident statistics for the Tracy Road, but he believes it to be one of the most dangerous highways in the area.
“To promote the Tracy Road is not a good idea,” Stahl said.
The videos posted on YouTube support the belief that motorcyclists come to the Tracy Road to race the curves. One video clip from a helmet cam shows a speedometer reading 80-100 mph.
Wilson, who has family members who live on the Tracy Road, said bikers often place people at each end of the Tracy Road and communicate by cell phone. When the road is clear of traffic — and police — they call and riders take turns speeding across the highway.
Scozzafava acknowledged groups do race on the road, but said it’s never safe.
“They know no traffic is coming, but there are other hazards,” he said. “There are animals all along that road — a turtle can crash a motorcycle. There are homes. Someone may back out of a drive way.”
In fact, one YouTube video shows a car backing out of a drive way in front of motorcyclists. YouTube posts warn riders about “cagers,” cars.
Other posts rave about the Tracy Road ride.
“This road has been a playground for a few years since NY had it repaved,” reads one. “There are only a couple of sections that you should beware of. Also, there was a sour apple living at the halfway point who calls the state police on bikers and car enthusiasts. The road is 55 and on a bike, you’re gone... After midnight, this road gets serious.”
“I finally made my way down to this road yesterday and had a blast going back and forth until going low on gas,” reads another. “Most of the road is great but there is one HUGE bump right in the center of the lane coming from the highway end up towards Power House road. Beware of that bump! Though we took the first pass easy it still brought both my buddys wheels off the road!’
“Yeah, Tracy is great, and YES, you have to be careful of that bump,” another post reads. “I know which one you are talking about, mind you its easy to remember it, its the first curve to the right after the patched up portion of asphalt. Keep it safe, I have three buddies so far in a couple of years that had crashes on that road. Especially the last serious curve to the left before connecting to route 9 close to hwy 87, its got a downward tightening radius to it.”
Scozzafava would like to see a motorcycle event held on the Tracy Road. He suggested closing the road to traffic for a day, setting up safety barriers, arranging for emergency medical support and letting riders challenge the road. It would similar to a car rally, he said.
“An event like that would be huge,” the supervisor said. “You would need to do it properly, taking care of all the safety aspects. The Tracy Road is internationally known. I know it would be big draw.”
In the immediate future, Scozzafava plans to ask the county to erect “user friendly” signs at each end of the Tracy Road urging caution.
“My concern is inexperienced riders,” Scozzafava said. “Serious motorcyclists already know about the Tracy Road. I’m worried about an inexperienced rider getting into trouble.”
In fact, a Ticonderoga man was injured in a motorcycle crash on the Tracy Road June 9. Police attributed the accident to driver inexperience.
Scozzafava thinks motorcyclists on the Tracy Road should follow the advice of Carlotta, his Harley Davidson.
“When I ride Carlotta over the Tracy Road Carlotta tells me when I’m going too fast,” Scozzafava said. “At 35 mph her floor boards are almost on the road. That’s fast enough.”