Policy hearing discusses ATVs and dirt bikes terrorizing PA streets

Lawmakers from across the Commonwealth join hearing about the issue facing all Pennsylvania communities

ALLENTOWN, May 3 – Lawmakers from across Pennsylvania attended a hearing today about ATV riders and dirt bike enthusiasts taking to the streets, terrorizing law-abiding traffic, and threatening their own safety and anyone in their path. 

During the hearing, lawmakers received testimony from law enforcement, representatives from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, members of the Allentown community, and others. The hearing was held at Lehigh County Government Center and was hosted by Rep. Peter Schweyer. 

“We have stories from across the Commonwealth of enthusiasts using unlawful vehicles and terrifying our streets,” said Schweyer. “This isn’t about taking away vehicles, this is about making sure that they are used in safe and appropriate ways. Testimony today helps us understand the current use of illegal operation and what we can do to support proper and legal use." 

Detailed testimony came from Daysell Ramirez, a neighborhood community coordinator who spoke on behalf of 269 children, senior citizens, families and other residents in an Allentown community called Overlook Park. Ramirez said everyone is concerned with safety of those using the vehicles in her community who cannot live the carefree and joyful life they seek. 

Charles Roca, Allentown chief of police, also testified, saying he doesn’t want to be “Chief No Fun” but expressed the need for enhanced penalties for illegal use, the creation of education programs in schools to teach kids about decision making, and potentially even a penalty such as the removal of state-aid if offenders receive it. 

“The City of Philadelphia has made national news because far too often, ATVs take over the curbs and put everyone in danger,” said Rep. Joanna McClinton, D-Phila., House Democratic leader. “This is a very important discussion because we have the ability to empower law enforcement to hold those who misuse these vehicles accountable.” 

Lawmakers learned that Pennsylvania benefits from the purchase of licenses to use dirt bikes and ATVs on approved trails only. Testimony from Jason Albright, assistant state forester for the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, revealed that revenue is used to build and maintain some of the most well-used and sought-after trails in Pennsylvania. He also said that misuse of state parks by these vehicles is rampant and that Pennsylvania leads the nation in ATV-related deaths at 761 deaths to date.  

“While we do see revenue from a growing number of enthusiasts looking to purchase alternative terrain vehicles, we need to keep in mind that using these vehicles must remain legal and safe,” said Rep. Ryan Bizzarro, D-Erie, chair of the Democratic Policy Committee. “That means partnering with our local and state authorities to ensure the safety of our community, creation of ample safe spaces for proper use, and education for those using these vehicles.” 

Those interested in written testimony or more information about this and other Pa. House Democratic Policy Committee hearings can be found at pahouse.com/policycommittee.