Delray sees spike in ATVs on city streets

Posted at 7:04 PM, Jan 20, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-20 19:45:25-05

If you haven't seen them on the road, you've probably seen them on TV.

Dirt bikes and ATVs taking over the streets. A large group swarmed streets in Miami Monday.

"I pop that clutch and everything goes out the window," Skip, a rider who didn't want to give us his last name, describes the adrenaline rush he gets taking his ATV on city streets.

He was a part of Monday's ride in Miami and regularly joins rides with the group 561Bikelife, which rides on the streets of Palm Beach County.

Him and a handful of others were riding through the streets of Riviera Beach today. Popping wheelies, cutting over medians and rolling through traffic, all with their faces concealed.

"It's just a bad combination altogether," explains Sgt. Jeff Rasor with the Delray Beach police department.

He points out it is illegal to ride an ATV or dirt bike on city streets, punishable by a $166 ticket.

His department has seen a spike in the number of reports of ATV riders in the city.  There were 40 calls over the past two months, Rasor says. Officers were not able to catch suspects in any case.

Besides being illegal, driving an ATV on a city street puts the rider and other drivers in harm's way, according to Rasor.

"ATVs are not designed by the manufacturer for the roadway," he says.

He points to a study showing 74 percent of the fatal crashes involving ATVs between 2007 and 2011 occurred on paved roads.

Skip and his friend Hundo admit to riding in Delray Beach in the past. They argue they keep control of their vehicles and are not a threat to traffic.

Plus, they say their rides are part of a nationwide movement called Bikes Up, Guns Down. They say riding keeps them out of trouble with guns or drugs.

"I've been in trouble with guns and burglaries and a lot of stuff like that and this is just my outlet. It keeps me out of a lot of trouble. It's my passion," Hundo explains.

Sgt. Rasor says his department and many others won't pursue ATV riders because it's too dangerous.

He's asking the public to help identify who they are and where they live, or fill up their gas tanks.

He says officers need the information to keep riders off the streets and save lives.

"The last thing any officer in the Delray Beach police department, including myself, wants to do is to knock on a door and inform a mother or a father their son or daughter's been killed on an ATV," Rasor says.

He says drivers should not panic if they see a group of ATV riders near them. He says the best thing to do is stay in your lane, slow down and call 911 when you feel safe.

Palm Beach County leaders have been considering building an off-road course for ATVs and dirt bikes. The county recently purchased property along Southern Blvd, west of Wellington. But there is currently no money set aside to transform the land into a course. There is no timetable on when the course may be complete, according to the county's Special Facilities Director Paul Connell.

Hundo and Skip say they wouldn't use it anyway. They'd rather ride on the streets than on dirt trails.

Connell says the closest public off-road courses are in Okeechobee and Miami-Dade Counties.