With days getting longer and the weather warming, dirt bikes are back on city streets. Officials in Springfield, Massachusetts are making another attempt to crack down on the illegal use of these off-road vehicles.
A home rule bill is being refiled in the Massachusetts legislature, which if approved would let Springfield police impound dirt bikes and seek a court hearing for the forfeiture of the vehicle.
"In that way we can get these off-highway vehicles off the streets a lot faster and make the streets safer," said State Representative and Springfield City Councilor Orlando Ramos, who announced he is refilling the home rule bill.
He said dirt bikes being operated illegally on city streets, sidewalks, and in public parks are a public safety and quality-of-life issue.
"They are putting people at risk all over the city," Ramos said of the dirt bike operators.
Dirt bikes, and similar vehicles designed for off-road use, cannot be registered for street use in Massachusetts because of a lack of proper safety equipment.
Police say there are complaints about the noise made by the machines, operators performing stunts in the middle of busy streets, and riding in groups that weave in and out of traffic and frighten other motorists.
Since 2018, three people have died in dirt bike crashes in Springfield
The City Council voted in 2019 to increase to $300 the fine for illegally operating a dirt bike. It also sent the home rule bill to the legislature, but it failed to pass before the end of the last session.
"Almost the entire Springfield delegation signed on to the bill during the last session and I anticipate that happening this time around," said Ramos. "Typically, home rule petitions do get support once the rest of the legislature knows the home city supports it."
As a home rule measure, it would apply only in Springfield.
Mayor Domenic Sarno called for quick action.
"We don't want to go through another warmer months and summer period without having these teeths," Sarno said.
State Representative Carlos Gonzalez of Springfield, who is the newly-appointed House chairman of the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security, said in a statement that illegal operation of dirt bikes is “a public safety and a quality of life issue and I will continue to work with my colleagues in state and local government to impose appropriate legislation.”