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Schenectady City Council Advances Dirt Bike Legislation

two dirt bikes
Springfield Police Dept
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Dirt bikes seized by the City of Springfield Police Department (file photo)

Following other cities in our region, the Schenectady City Council is set to vote on legislation that would discourage the use of illegal dirt bikes and ATVs on city streets.

The effort to get dirt bikes and all-terrain vehicles off city streets and sidewalks is being led by city councilor Karen Zalewski-Wildzunas, a Democrat.

“I’ve heard great feedback from a lot of constituents, a lot of individuals that have been in the city, that live in the city that there’s something the police can use to combat this issue. It’s a safety issue, it’s a quality of life issue…”

Though riding the off-road vehicles on city roads and sidewalks is already illegal, Schenectady leaders hope raising fees will keep the vehicles off the street. Often, the vehicles that are popular with young men are unregistered and uninsured, according to officials. 

The legislation that advanced at Schenectady's city council committee meeting on Monday is similar to a law signed by Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan last month.

“The message today is very clear. Do not bring your ATV or dirt bike into the city of Albany…”

Under Schenectady’s plan, violators would have to pay a $2,350 impound fee, as well as a $500 fine and other associated fees to get their bikes back. The police would also be able to sell or destroy the bikes if the fees are not paid within 60 days.

During Monday’s meeting, City Council President John Mootooveren called Zalewski-Wildzunas’ bill a good piece of legislation.

“We should support this resolution and give the police department a necessary resource so that they can go after these, now, ATV’s that is creating a havoc in our neighborhoods,” said Mootooveren.

In 2018, a man rode a dirt bike through a Schenectady grocery store and posted a video online. The clip went viral.

The City of Springfield, Massachusetts is also seeking to take action against illegal dirt bikes. The city council has been considering an ordinance that would make it illegal for a gas station to sell fuel for off-road vehicles driven up to the gas pump. Last year, the city upped fines and asked the state legislature for the authorization to let police seize and eventually destroy a vehicle if forfeiture is ordered by the courts.

In Schenectady, Zalewski-Wildzunas says she plans to ask lawmakers to explore the creation of a statewide policy regarding the use of dirt bikes and ATVs on public property.

WAMC asked the councilor if she had considered other alternatives, including establishing a designated area for riders. Zalewski-Wildzunas was dubious.

“I don’t know if anywhere in the city that we have room, because we are a city, that we could have something set up for people to ride these vehicles...And then we have insurance issues, someone gets hurt, you’re on city property…you know, there’s multitude of things that you’d have to take into consideration,” said Wildzunas.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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