Nova Scotia

Oxford allowing off-highway vehicles on some streets in bid to boost local economy

A Cumberland County town is hoping that introducing new rules for off-highway vehicles will support the local economy. 

Oxford town council voted unanimously on Thursday to pass a bylaw under the Nova Scotia Road Trails Act, which allows off-highway vehicles to travel along designated road shoulders and the street itself where necessary. 

ATVs will be allowed to use 3.9 kilometres of streets to access restaurants, stores and gas stations as soon as signs are installed.

“We live close to the Trans Canada Trail and we can hear the off-road vehicles going down it steady,” said Oxford Mayor Greg Henley. “If we can divert even just three per cent of that traffic, it would be a boost for our downtown economy.” 

Henley said the road trail is for the benefit of riders who want to obey the law. 

The road trail in Oxford will include portions of Main, Lower Main and Water streets. (Google Maps)

Only registered, licensed and insured vehicles can be legally ridden under the Road Trails Act. Operators must have a valid driver’s licence, wear a helmet, and all passengers must be age nine or older.

Off-highway vehicles will be expected to travel in the same direction as traffic and will have a speed limit of 25 km/h. Travel will be permitted in the designated areas from 30 minutes before sunrise until 30 minutes after dusk.

Any peace officer can enforce the rules for off-highway vehicles. In 2023, Nova Scotia RCMP issued 116 tickets.

Some Oxford residents aren’t comfortable with the changes. Ahead of the public hearing, seven residents wrote to the town in opposition to the bylaw, while 12 submitted statements supporting the idea.

Resident Josephine MacDonald is concerned that off-highway vehicles hitting the roads will affect pedestrian safety — particularly for those who use wheelchairs and mobility scooters and have to ride on the road in some areas.

“We have very terrible infrastructure here. Our sidewalks are not the best,” she said. 

MacDonald said she understands the town’s budget is tight but officials need to address the accessibility of sidewalks — something the mayor has said the town is working on. 

“The big, big consideration with improvements to sidewalks and whatnot is budget limitations,” Henley said. “We don’t have a large tax base and we have infrastructure needs.”

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