ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The Monroe County Legislature adopted a law Tuesday aimed at curbing the use of off road vehicles like dirt bikes and ATVs on public roadways.
Officials say the “Operation of Off Road Vehicles on Public Highways in Monroe County” local law will give police additional tools to enforce existing laws and will also authorize increased fines for the illegal use of these vehicles. Officials add that the legislation gives law enforcement authority to impound and permanently remove the vehicles from the streets.
The legislation comes weeks after multiple fatal crashes involving dirt bikes in the City of Rochester.
The first offense impounds the vehicle and issues a $500 fine, second offense is an additional impoundment and a $2,000 fine. Proper proof of registration and ownership must be provided to retrieve an impounded vehicle.
County Legislator Vince Felder says safety is at the core of all of this. “Two people have died, including a child,” says Felder, adding, “They’re a nuisance, they’re a hazard, they’re illegal.”
Legislator Rachel Barnhart voted in favor of the law Tuesday saying, “but it’s my belief that this legislation won’t have much of a dent in the problem.”
She says bikers getting fines will not solve the issue. A deeper dive into this is needed. “Maybe we need to address the underlying issue why this is the thing they love to do, why this is the thing that brings them together,” says Barnhart.
Barnhart says other cities in the US have tried to crack down on dirt bikes and ATV’s, she says without much success. “We already know that regressive and punitive won’t work,” says Barnhart.
“The brotherhood aspect of it is camaraderie,” says biker Lorenzo Jones who bikes in Rochester. He says he does it for the freedom. If the City were to give a location to bike in, like the skatepark, he’d use it. “Yes, that would be something I’d greatly invest in,” he says.
Jones says a police pursuit only enhances the danger. Law enforcement in the past, agreeing…their words? Don’t do it.
“It’s dangerous for you, it’s dangerous for the rest of the community. It’s not safe, it’s against the law,” said Rochester Police Captain Mark Mura at a press conference last month.
“The rampant use of these off-road vehicles in city and suburban streets has led to an increase in accidents and community disruption,” said County Legislator Jackie Smith.“It is the aim of the Monroe County Legislature to assist our law enforcement organizations in quelling the illegal use of these vehicles, resulting in safer roads and a better quality of life for those living in areas where their unlawful use on public roadways is increasing.”
“I am glad that the Legislature has decided to pass the local law addressing off-road vehicle use on public roads,” said Black and Asian Democratic Caucus Leader Ernest Flagler-Mitchell. “My constituents have expressed many concerns over both the safety hazards and commotion caused by illegal use of these vehicles and the codification that this law provides when it comes to safety and penalties for unlawful use will hopefully put an end to people riding illegally in Monroe County, especially in the City of Rochester. We are hoping that the State will find a way to make these vehicles legal and find and fund a place for the riders to use safely.”
While this law passed in the county legislature, there is also a separate proposal on the table for Rochester City Council.
Rochester City Councilman Jose Peo released a statement on the county law Tuesday:
“It continues to be apparent that politicians are being politicians, as they continue to push the vote on ATV legislation until after the primary, instead of doing what is right for the people right now. That inaction is holding good citizens hostage by those who refuse to abide by the law, which empowers the continuation of the reckless behavior we have seen over the past few years. Enough is enough. The people demand ACTION.”
Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.