Philly Classifies Dirt Bikes and ATVs as Illegal for Street Use, Closing Loophole

A clash between homeowners and street riding groups led city council to explicitly ban the off-road vehicles from city streets. It likely won't stop the problem

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Riding dirt bikes and all-terrain vehicles like dune buggies on Philadelphia streets is now illegal.

In a unanimous vote on Thursday, Philadelphia City Council amended the traffic code to define dirt bikes and dune buggies as illegal vehicles. The change closes a loophole that prevented Philadelphia police from confiscating the vehicles, according to a release from Councilmember Alan Domb's office. Domb cosponsored the legislation with Councilmembers Mark Squilla and Derek Green.

"Residents from every neighborhood of the city, everywhere, have been dealing with these dangerous situations," Domb, an at-large Democrat said.

Residents have long been at odds with dirt bike and ATV riders using city streets. Community meetings about the issue were often animated with homeowners complaining about excessive noise and confrontations with riders.

One high-profile incident between a driver and dirt bike rider in South Philadelphia this March resulted in criminal charges. Cell phone video showed the rider beating a driver and throwing concrete at the car after a minor accident. The rider was ultimately charged with aggravated assault.

Police have periodically cracked down on the riding, sometimes holding sting operations, but the department's policy on vehicle chases makes catching up to riders difficult.

Members of the street riding community have said they're just riding for fun and trying to get out of neighborhoods riddled with violent crime. In an interview late last year, two riders said crack downs won't stop them.

"I've been doing this for years. This is my stress reliever. I'm not going to stop. I'm never going to stop," one rider, who did not identify himself, said at the time. He added that if the ATV was confiscated, he'd just go buy another.

City council and the riding community are exploring creating an ATV and dirt bike park somewhere in the city. Domb said it would be some time before that could happen as the city would need to work out not only finding land and constructing the park, but also determine ownership and set up a system for registering and transporting the off-road vehicles to the park.

"I think realistically that could take some time. We want to find a location that's not going to be in a residential or commercial setting," Domb said.

Philadelphia police are confiscating ATVs and dirt bikes in an effort to curb the illegal riding on city streets. NBC10’s Aaron Baskerville gets a response from riders who claim police should be more concerned about the recent gun violence.
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