PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — At least six Philadelphia City Council members expressed support for an ATV and dirt bike park in the city during a virtual public safety hearing on the issue Wednesday morning.
“We have to understand in the City of Philadelphia that this is a culture. Bike life is a culture,” said Councilwoman Katherine Gilmore Richardson, D-At Large.
The last time City Council took up this issue in a hearing was eight years ago. Now, there is once again a renewed push to find a designated space for ATV and dirt bike riders, like the city did for skateboarders with Paine’s Park in Fairmount.
Wednesday’s hearing was in response to complaints from city residents who say large groups riding ATVs and dirt bikes illegally on the streets are a nuisance and safety hazard.
“13th Street is getting invaded on a regular basis by dirt bikes, where there are diners in the streets,” said Rick Piper, a Center City resident and founding member of STOP – Safe Travel On Our Philadelphia streets. “People on the parkway can’t sleep all night long and we’re experiencing the same thing here on Broad Street.”
From May 13 through Oct. 3, the Philadelphia Police Department has confiscated 263 ATVs and dirt bikes. Deputy Commissioner Joel Dales testified that enforcement is making a difference, but by itself isn’t a long-term solution.
Councilwoman Richardson said she, along with supporters of the city’s bike culture, began working on plans for an ATV park back in 2012.
“Enforcement, we do have to that, right? But we also have to figure out how we help our young people participate in this activity legally,” she said.
Parks and Recreation Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell said the department does not have the budget to operate such a park. Councilman Allan Domb, D-At Large, suggested a public-private partnership using city-owned land, an idea echoed by Councilman Mark Squilla, D-District 1.
“We can lease it, and indemnify us and then move forward and not so much that we have to manage it and run it, because as a city, we’re not good at that,” he said. “So I think we can do this.”
Domb, whose resolution called for the hearing, said he’s committed to seeing the ATV park come to fruition. He plans to form a working group to continue to explore the issue.