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Councilmember Mark Squila introduced legislation Thursday to help the city crack down on dirt bike riders, a plan he announced at a virtual town hall in the evening.
Squila said his legislation, co-sponsored by council members Derek Green and Alan Domb, would focus on creating a uniform category so that police could treat ATVs and dirt bikes equally. Currently in Philadelphia, Squilla said via email, in Philadelphia only ATVs are eligible for confiscation and fines, so two-wheelers that “do not meet the definition” are simply being returned.
“What this law will really do,” Squala told community members on Wednesday, “groups all illegal vehicles into a single form and then gives the police authority to confiscate them.”
Hosted by the Queen’s Village Neighbors Association and moderated by the association’s president, Eleanor Ingersoll, the virtual town hall was attended by PPD Deputy Commissioner Joel Dales and several other city officials.
Dirt bike and ATV riding A long-standing tradition with a rich history in Philadelphia. Riders, who are of all genders and ages, have credited the hobby keeping them out of trouble.
But the vehicles are not road legal.
Nearly 1,000 neighbors joined Wednesday’s Zoom meeting to air complaints and discuss solutions to what some attendees described as rising quality of life concerns caused by dirt bike and ATV riders on city streets.
Deputy Commissioner Dales outlined the steps taken by his department to help ease the neighbourhood.
Normally PPD starts rounding up riders’ bikes in May, but after earlier conversations with Queen Village neighbors, Dales said police started rounding up in March of this year. They have seized over 200 vehicles so far, he said – miscellaneous like ATVs, dirt bikes and minibikes.
When a bike is confiscated, the police do not assume that the rider is with it. they often List it as “Stolen” And try to get it back to the rightful owner. If the bike operator owns the vehicle, that person will have to appear in court or pay a $2,000 fine. Otherwise, the vehicle is destroyed.
Some officers are being trained to ride dirt bikes, Dales said, calling the method an “effective” way to crack down on illegal riding.
But there are also setbacks: Serious crimes like shootings and murders are on the rise across the city, and police staffing has been stretched, Dales said. Dells said dirt bikes are easier to get back than ATVs. Squila hopes his legislation will address this.
Philly isn’t the only city with culture. There was a long, mostly friendly competition with Baltimore riders, a rivalry that was reportedly put to rest when Meek Mill signed Baltimore rider Chino Braxton to ride professionally with his Dream Chaser label in 2012. Braxton now rides professionally for Jay Z’s Rock Nation.
Urban ATV and dirt bike riders are also prevalent in Washington DC, New York City, Miami and Oakland, California.
For officials charged with voicing neighbors and responding to community concerns in a Zoom meeting chat box, this means other municipalities are also grappling with how to ease tensions between riders and other neighbors.
“I’m sure if cities across the country are dealing with this issue…,” Councilmember Green said, “members of Congress across the country have the same issue for the constituents they represent.”
Squila hopes his law will be a step in Philly’s fix for some. But that move is punitive. It aims to give the police more powers to confiscate, and issue citations and fines. Squilla also proposed a solution for a more cooperative future:
“Maybe it’s an option that they have to go to the park somewhere.”
The demand for dirt bikes and ATV parks is not new. In 2018, Inquirer columnist Helen Ubinasi picked up a grassroots call To build Philly’s first dirt bike and ATV park.
“The bikers I spoke with asked if the city closes the roads for certain events,” Yubinas wrote on Instagram.[and] If naked bike riders are allowed to ride why can’t they?
In 2019, a rider named Montana told Billy Penn that, if given an audience with Mayor Jim Kenny, he would ask for “a private area to ride.”
While Squilla praised some bikers as “talented” and “amazing,” there’s no word on the law about creating a dedicated park for bikers.
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