Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Outside of Sun Valley, ATV ban appears unlikely

All-terrain vehicles not seen as a problem

Express Staff Writer

All-terrain vehicles have been banned from city streets in Sun Valley. Photo by Mountain Express

In the month and a half since Sun Valley banned restricted-plate vehicles from its streets, there has been no record of trouble from or conflict with such vehicles within the city limits.

"We haven't issued any warnings or citations on the ATV ordinance," Sun Valley Police Chief Cam Daggett said Friday. "We haven't had any sighted usage of such vehicles in the city, so it's been a non-event."

The Sun Valley City Council, with support from the mayor, voted to pass the ordinance in June. It prohibits most restricted-plate vehicles—including ATVs, utility-type vehicles, off-highway vehicles and certain motorbikes—on streets within the city limits. By state law, restricted-plate vehicles cannot be operated on state highways.

The mayor and council members cited safety and noise concerns as the main reasons for the ban. And although there were never very many ATVs on city streets, they said, a proactive approach to regulating those vehicles could forestall potential problems down the road.

Other valley cities, however, don't appear concerned.

"Nobody, citizens or law enforcement, has raised that with me," said Ketchum Mayor Randy Hall. "If there's not a problem, I don't see a need to go looking for one. Until law enforcement tells me there's a problem or I get a citizen complaint, I'm not going to create work for people."

Ketchum City Councilman Baird Gourlay said that even if a ban were under consideration, he would not likely support it without convincing evidence of its need.

"Government gets involved in a lot of things that it should not be involved in," he said. "I don't see why the city of Ketchum would get involved in something like that, isolating one particular user group and barring them from the streets."

He said he has "rarely, if ever" seen ATVs on Ketchum city streets, noting that if the city received noise complaints because of one, the problem would fall under the existing noise ordinance.

"I don't see the harm in them," he added.

Hailey Mayor Rick Davis said restricted-plate vehicles such as ATVs do travel on city streets, especially on routes that lead to popular areas such as Quigley Canyon, but they have not created any major issues.

"To my knowledge, we've had nobody request a ban," he said. "I don't feel at this time they're a problem."

Chris Koch, mayor of Bellevue, said the question of banning ATVs from city streets has never been brought up.

"The citizens here are fine with being able to access the backcountry on ATVs," he said.

Most ATV activity on city streets involves people going to the store or gas station on their way to the backcountry, he said, "not to cruise around."

"Every now and then we get a little bit of a concern one way or another, but not enough to warrant big changes," he said.

He said safety is a concern, but most problems arise when people are not paying attention at intersections.

"Most riders are very respectful to motorists and most motorists are very respectful to riders," he said.

Ketchum surveyor Bruce Smith said he was dismayed by Sun Valley's action.

"I don't think they thought this through," he said.

Smith said he occasionally uses an ATV in his job, but his vehicle of preference is a motorbike.

"The ordinance doesn't really affect me," he said. "I've gone to great lengths to make sure my motorbikes are street legal. But anytime I see anybody closing things down or restricting things, it upsets me."

When Smith moved to the valley 30 years ago, he said, there were fewer regulations.

"It was kind of a free-for-all," he said. "You could ride anywhere."

Now, he said, there are more people, more motorbikes and more ATVs.

"Maybe some people perceive a problem," he said.

A more pressing problem he sees is from people texting or talking on their phones while driving.

"It's just upsetting to me they make rules I don't think are necessary and the rest of Idaho doesn't think are necessary," he said.

Rebecca Meany:

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