(WHTM) — It is an all too common sight: ATVs or dirt bikes zooming down streets across the Midstate. State lawmakers are now trying to give cities more power to crack down on illegal riding.
“They are loud. They are dangerous. They’re disruptive. And they’re scary,” Rep. Patty Kim (D-Dauphin, Cumberland) said.
Midstate lawmakers are recognizing a growing problem in Pennsylvania.
“It is a gang of ATVs and dirt bikes barreling through our city streets,” Kim said.
It is posing a challenge for law enforcement, according to Harrisburg Police Sgt. Brandon Braughler.
“It’s almost like a game of whack-a-mole,” Braughler said. “The current tactic that we seem to be using is just getting officers in the area. That visible presence, they see those red and blue lights and they they accelerate out of the area.”
That tactic still has risks when those riders take off.
“They’re going over the speed limit. They’re not stopping at red lights. They’re going over pedestrian crosswalks,” Braughler said.
A law passed in 2022 lets police seize vehicles ridden illegally, but Braughler said that does not necessarily solve the problem.
“Merely just taking it from the operator doesn’t always keep them from getting another one and riding it,” he said.
Midstate lawmakers are trying to help.
“Our law enforcement are in tough position because they can’t pursue, because if they do, these folks don’t know what they’re doing. They can ride off into traffic and harm themselves or somebody else,” Rep. Dave Madsen (D-Dauphin) said.
Madsen lives in Harrisburg and knows the problem firsthand.
“I almost see it on a daily basis on my commute,” he said. “These folks are riding at high speeds. They’re doing stunts like popping wheelies in the middle of rush hour traffic.”
Madsen and the Central PA delegation in the house worked to get their districts included in a new bill that would let cities create their own rules about street bikes, like imposing fines for illegal riding.
“Maybe we just took the money from them so they can’t buy the next one. hate to say it, but attacking people’s wallets sometimes is what you need to get compliance,” Braughler said.
The bill just passed the House, with all Democrats and more than half of Republicans voting for it. Lawmakers hope that gives it a good chance in the Senate.
“You have some urban, suburban, some rural, every aspect of Pennsylvania life said yes to this,” Madsen said.
Lawmakers also emphasized this bill would not make riding ATVs or dirt bikes on appropriate trails illegal. In fact, lawmakers said they hope to expand opportunities for responsible riding in urban areas.