Hearing looks for solutions to illegal ATV use on city streets

Reps. Parker, Brown hear from residents, police on improving public safety

PHILADELPHIA, April 18 – In what has become an all-too-familiar scenario for Philadelphia residents, dirt bike enthusiasts and ATV riders have continued to drive down public roadways and sidewalks, endangering themselves and the well-being of anyone in their path.

Lawmakers from around the state met at Beloved St. John Evangelistic Church in the Wyoming neighborhood of North Philadelphia for a House Majority Policy Committee hearing on illegal ATV, or all-terrain vehicle, use on public streets Tuesday. While the hearing concentrated on dirt bikes and ATVs, it covered all off-highway vehicles illegally driven on city streets and walkways.

“ATVs and dirt bikes have taken our city hostage,” said hearing host Rep. Darisha Parker, who represents portions of Philadelphia. “We have a serious problem facing our city, and we cannot allow it to continue. We convened this hearing to bring in experts to share the city of Philadelphia ordinance and to inform the public about illegal activity and how the public can report it. Based on today’s testimony, we now need to see what kind of role the state can play to curb this problem.”  

The committee heard from Philadelphia resident Nancy Winder; Philadelphia Police Department Deputy Commissioner of Special Operations Joel Dales; Philadelphia Police Department Captain Frank Palumbo; Logan Square Neighborhood Association President Dennis Boylan; and the Streets Assistant Chief Engineer for the City of Philadelphia Michelle Brisbon.

“I would like to empower the Philadelphia Police Department and other police departments around the state to crack down on illegal bike culture,” said hearing co-host Rep. Amen Brown, who represents portions of Philadelphia. “I’m tired of my city making national news for all the wrong reasons, and there is a simple solution when it comes to illegal off-highway vehicle use on Philadelphia’s public streets and sidewalks: We need to grant law enforcement the power to hold these vehicle owners who break the law accountable – to the full extent of the law.”

In the last year, the Policy Committee heard testimony on OHV – or off-highway vehicles, including dirt bikes, four-wheelers and three-wheelers – detailing some of the positives of bike culture, including the revenue generated by law-abiding dirt bike and ATV users who purchase licenses to use their vehicles on approved trails. Pennsylvania, however, also experiences some of the highest number of ATV-related fatalities in the nation, including two ATV-related deaths during a week’s time in Philadelphia last May. An ATV driver was killed when she collided with a car on a city street, and a 17-year-old died after being struck by a dirt bike in a hit-and-run accident. 

“Illegal use of ATVs and dirt bikes on public streets is not an isolated issue affecting only Pennsylvania’s largest cities or merely the city of Philadelphia,” House Majority Policy Committee Chairman Ryan Bizzarro said. “It’s an issue throughout the state, and one that would benefit from local and state partnerships in an effort to educate all vehicle owners on the safety concerns and issues in misuse.”

Only Texas reported more ATV fatalities than Pennsylvania in 2022, and since 1982 Pennsylvania consistently ranks among the states with the highest ATV-related deaths. More than 110,000 injuries from off-highway vehicles were treated in U.S. emergency departments in 2020.

Signed into law in 2022, Act 92 makes it unlawful to operate a snowmobile, dirt bike, or ATV on any street or highway that isn’t designated for them. Law enforcement would also be able to seize the illegal vehicles.

Dales testified that the Philadelphia Police Department seized 1,132 illegal vehicles between 2020 and 2023. During that time, 977 of the illegal vehicles were destroyed.

Information about this hearing and other House Majority Policy Committee hearings can be found at pahouse.com/policy. Testimony from today’s hearing and past policy hearings can be found at pahouse.com/policycommittee/hearingmaterials. Photos to be used for publication can be found at pahouse.com/PolicyCommittee/Galleries.