Gas Station Owner Says Proposed Ban On Fuel Sales To Dirt Bikes Is 'Absurd'
City Councilors in Springfield, Massachusetts are continuing debate on a proposal to cut off illegal dirt bike riders at the pumps.
There was pushback from the owner of a large chain of convenience stores over a proposed ordinance that would ban the sale of gasoline to anyone operating an off-highway vehicle, such as a dirt bike.
Speaking during a virtual hearing of the City Council Public Safety Committee, Bob Bolduc, CEO of Pride Stores, blasted the proposed legislation as “absurd.”
"I mean it is just not reasonable," Bolduc said. "My ladies and gents are not wearing a badge."
He said he feared his store clerks might be physically assaulted by dirt bike riders who would become irate after being told they could not buy gas.
"I am not worried about the $100 fine, I am worried about the safety of our people," Bolduc said.
The proposed ordinance has already been given first-step approval by the City Council. It has been the subject of several committee meetings since last March. This was the first time a gas station owner had raised any objection. Bolduc said he spoke with other business owners who he said shared his concerns.
City Councilor Trayce Whitfield said she also worries the ordinance could put store clerks in harm’s way.
"And I would hate for something negative to happen because of this ordinance and have it fall back on the Council," Whitfield said.
The sponsor of the legislation, City Councilor Orlando Ramos, who chairs the Public Safety Committee, said the dirt bike riders can’t be allowed to intimidate the Council into doing nothing.
"Because we have to do everything that we can in order to get these illegal dirt-bikers off the roads and to make it as difficult as possible to be on our roads," Ramos said.
Pointing to the recent assault on a motorist who was beaten and critically injured by a pack of dirt bike riders after a traffic altercation, City Councilor Mike Fenton said the city must find a way to crack down.
"The overall nuisance and danger ... has reached a boiling point," Fenton said.
Last year, the Council voted to raise to $300 the fine for operating off-road vehicles on city streets.
Springfield Police Sgt. Richard Pelcher said officers have worked overtime and used a State Police helicopter from time-to-time as part of the effort to ticket and arrest dirt bike operators and confiscate their vehicles. But he conceded enforcement is difficult. Police don’t chase dirt bike riders because that would risk public safety.
"This ordinance is designed to cut them off at the pumps," Pelcher said. "That is one extra tool in our toolbelt to combat this problem."
Ramos said his proposal is modeled after ordinances that are on the books in other places including Hartford, New Haven, and Baltimore. But, he said he did not have data showing if the gasoline sales bans had the desired impact of reducing the numbers of dirt bikes driven on city streets.