CHARLESTOWN — Young riders in a local bicycle event this summer will use a safer route instead of King’s Factory Road, the Town Council has decided.
The council agreed with officials who organize the Northeast Masters Cycling Association's annual Pete Murphy Memorial New England Time Trial race to move the junior portion of the ride to Route 91.
“We could do that and it would work out just fine,” Northeast Masters Cycling Association President Mitchell Favreau, of Mystic, told the council.
Route 91 would have to close to traffic briefly while the riders, as young as nine years old, made a u-turn to return to the finish area. About 10 to 15 children typically take part.
Police Chief Michael Paliotta said closing the road to do so is similar to when riding or running events close part of Route 1, for example.
The event’s parking, registration and staging is at Chariho Middle School off Switch Road.
Scheduled for 9:30 a.m. to noon on Aug. 18, the bicycle time trial uses King’s Factory Road as well as parts of Routes 1, 2, 91 and 112 in Richmond and Charlestown. The route for adults begins at Route 91 near Switch Road in Richmond and loops through part of Charlestown along Routes 112, 1, and King's Factory Road before concluding near the start position, just south of Route 91.
The junior riders’ route was planned to start at the southern end of King's Factory Road and conclude at the same spot as the adult route, as it did in previous years.
But concerns from a King’s Factory Road resident, JoAnn Stolle, for the past two years prompted the council to revisit the issue last month when the application for the 2018 event came before it for approval.
Although the posted speed limit near her home is 25 miles per hour, Stolle said cars more often go 40 or 50 miles per hour.
She also said poor lines of sight, curves, and the road's width are a few more reasons why the road is unsuitable for young riders.
And the time the ride takes place — a Saturday morning in August — is among the busiest traffic times.
“It is not a safe road for children,” she said.
Favreau said the organization abides by strict USA Cycling rules when putting on the event.
Participants are required to stay to the right side of the road and are not allowed, according to the rules, to draft or ride side-by-side with other competitors. If a rider overtakes another, he or she must pass quickly or drop back.
The course is also inspected and signage and flaggers are located at key locations, he said. Child participants are escorted by parents during the ride.
The event is expected to draw 110 participants from throughout New England, according to organizers.