Taming the roar of illegal ATVs

Council bill would enable cops to destroy seized ATVs and dirt bikes and avoid auctioning them.

At a City Council hearing last week on her legislation to crack down on nuisance all-terrain vehicles and dirt bikes in Philadelphia, it’s not surprising that Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown had little trouble drawing a crowd.

With more than 20 people testifying during the four-hour session, there was a clear consensus that the city has yet to come up with a viable solution to curb the illegal and dangerous use of off-road recreational vehicles.

While many riders say the hobby keeps them out of trouble, their joyrides plague inner-city neighborhoods, posing a hazard to pedestrians, motorists, bicyclists, and the ATV riders themselves.


Should the city set aside land where nuisance ATVs could be ridden legally?

So it’s good to see that the councilwoman, on behalf of Mayor Nutter, is exploring whether to give police a stronger hand in seizing ATVs used illegally, along with stiffer fines of up to $2,000. Making any ATV not parked on private property subject to seizure would give cops a powerful tool in their periodic sweeps.

Less feasible, though, is the proposal raised at the hearing that the cash-strapped city set aside parkland as an ATV park, where riding the vehicles would be legal.

Apart from the cost and difficulty in shielding nearby neighborhoods from the noise and dust, there’s the fact that, for too many riders who seek thrills from riding illegally, a park might not be attractive. Stronger enforcement offers the best hope of keeping city streets safer.