‘It’s a nonstop raceway,’ upper Stoney Creek councillor says about dirt bikes, ATVs and pickups
Teviah Moro Hamilton Spectator Wednesday, July 7, 2021
City councillors hope a new bylaw will encourage off-road enthusiasts to steer clear of Hamilton’s streets, natural areas and farmers’ fields.
But it’s a “cat-and-mouse game” for bylaw and police officers to snag scofflaws, Coun. Brenda Johnson says.
“How can our bylaw officers get into a field and track down these ATVers that are doing all this damage?”
The Glanbrook councillor says farmers have complained about off-roaders, including snowmobilers in winter, tearing around their fields.
In one case, a sledder landed in an irrigation pond and tried to hold the farmer liable, Johnson said during Tuesday’s planning committee.
But when police arrive to question alleged culprits, they have no evidence. “It’s your word against mine.”
Drones could make the difference, says Monica Ciriello, the city’s new director of licensing and bylaw services.
“We have drones in our department that would be able to go over the property and see ATVs. They also take photos, so it’s no longer going to be one word against another.”
The proposed bylaw is meant to fill a legislative gap that emerged when the province left it up to municipalities to ban or restrict off-roaders as of January.
Noting a rise in complaints in his upper Stoney Creek ward, Coun. Brad Clark asked staff to prepare a bylaw last September.
The focus of concerns over noise and safety is rural areas and a hydro corridor that borders homes in the Summit Park subdivision, he said Tuesday.
“It is a nonstop raceway of dirt bikes and ATVs, pickup trucks, and it’s just gotten crazy.”
Coun. Judi Partridge said off-roaders are “ripping around” farms in her area and through the streets of Waterdown, including the new bypass that’s still under construction.
“People are listening to it all night,” the Flamborough councillor said.
The proposed bylaw, which still needs council’s final approval Friday, would exempt farmers who drive vehicles for agricultural purposes.
Property owners can also zip around on their land worry-free, but visiting riders will need written permission.
Last year, Hamilton police tallied 381 calls relating to off-road vehicles. The average annual count over the past eight years was roughly 248.
This year, the city has experienced three crashes involving off-road vehicles and regular vehicles, a city staff report noted. There was one death.
Bylaw officers don’t have the authority to stop vehicles on the road, so that will be up to police, who have a special ATV unit.
Ciriello expects collaboration under the bylaw with police, including proactive “blitzes” and educational outreach, to make a difference.
The bylaw sets a maximum fine of $10,000 for a first offence and $20,000 for others after that.