The steady increase of adolescents and young adults riding all-terrain vehicles illegally on the city streets has prompted City Council to take the initiative in finding a solution.
Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown has announced public hearings concerning what she described as the ongoing problem of ATV riders driving recklessly through city streets. The hearings, scheduled for the fall, will focus primarily on the next steps that need to be taken to solve this issue.
“Since 1982 there have been 521 deaths due to what are called all-terrain vehicles, otherwise known as ATVs,” Reynolds Brown said. “Of those 521, 105 of those deaths have been young people under the age of 16. I see that as a problem.”
ATV riders often speed through residential neighborhoods and ride up and down one-way streets in the wrong direction.
“Communities are sick of it,” Reynolds Brown said. “They have quite frankly had enough. It’s time for government to ask some tough questions, call for hearings.”
The press release revealed Reynolds Brown’s resolution authorized the Committee on Public Safety to hold public hearings this fall to review and examine the regulations surrounding ATVs. Council members Curtis Jones Jr., Maria Quinones Sanchez and Kenyatta Johnson have also sponsored the resolution.
Reynolds Brown said the purpose of the hearings is to “investigate the existing rules and regulations that are in place [for ATVs], seek recommendations for possible solutions on how we can temper this public safety issue and hear what other municipalities are doing like New York City and Baltimore, which already have some provisions in place.”
The hearings will also allow City Council to work with police, members of the ATV community and state agencies, such as the Philadelphia Parking Authority.
Ironically, the PPA has received criticism from local residents who say the state agency is perpetuating the use of ATVs on city streets and in residential neighborhoods by auctioning them off to the public.
However, Corinne O’Connor, deputy executive director of the PPA, said that isn’t the case.
“Currently, an ATV will come to the Philadelphia Parking Authority impounding lot through two means,” O’Connor said. “You can have a live stop when a Philadelphia police officer pulls you over and you don’t have registration and insurance. They’ll call us to come and impound it.
“The other way is a Philadelphia police officer confiscates that ATV being that maybe they were driving through the streets or maybe that driver is getting arrested for doing a crime,” O’Connor said. “So the Philadelphia Police Department will impound it, take it to their impounding lot. After such time, a judge signs off on it, they release that property to us and we’ll put it in our Philadelphia Parking Authority auction.”
If the owner of the ATV doesn’t pick it up, the PPA sells the ATV at its auction. However, the owner does have the chance to pick it up before the auction if he or she has a valid driver’s license, registration and insurance.
“So as long as they’re legal, they have the right to reclaim their property,” O’Connor said. “Now if they don’t and we sell it at the auction, we sell it to the public.”
Although many local residents view the PPA’s auction of ATVs and other bikes as an ongoing cycle that allows riders to illegally ride on city streets, O’Connor said it is a misconception among residents.
“We don’t sell it back to the original owner of the ATV,” O’Connor said. “So I think that’s the misconception. People think we’re impounding them and then selling them back to the owner. We’re not. We’re selling them at the auction or they can claim it before the auction, and when they claim it they’re proving that that ATV is legal.”
The PPA holds auctions three times a week and about four or five ATVs are sold in a week. During the warmer months, the PPA doesn’t see a vast increase in the number of bikes sold. It has been roughly the same figures for the past six to seven years.
Even though the PPA auctions legal ATVs to the public, it can’t control how and where riders choose to ride.
“The issue is that they’re being sold or being bought by citizens, and they’re not abiding by the law,” O’Connor said. “They’re driving them on the Philadelphia city streets.
“If you don’t operate it legally, that’s on the owner. That’s not on who sold it so we can’t police what they do with the ATV after we sell them,” O’Connor said.
The hearings will allow the city of Philadelphia to take responsibility and determine ways to regulate the usage of ATVs in order to resolve the current public safety issue.
Reynolds Brown has asked the public to stay tuned as the city does its best to continue investigating the problem with ATVs. The public has been heard and the next steps are in the making.