City passes ATV bylaw

There's no more freewheeling in Whitehorse.

There’s no more freewheeling in Whitehorse.

Under the city’s new All Terrain Vehicle Bylaw, which was passed unanimously by city council Monday night, riders are now restricted to the city’s 150 kilometres of designated motorized and multiuse trails.

But for some, like Whitehorse residents Keith Lay and Dorothy LeBel, the new regulations don’t go far enough.

Both made presentations to city council on Monday calling for a ban on ATVs from trails within the city’s “urban containment boundary.”

“Residential areas are not places where off-road vehicles should be allowed to operate,” said Lay.

They also argued that ATVs shouldn’t be allowed to drive on any city streets.

The new bylaw restricts off-road vehicles from the downtown core and major roadways like Two Mile Hill Road. But, for the most part, as long as riders keep to the left and stay below 30 kilometres an hour, they are allowed to drive themselves to a trail head, said Dave Pruden, the manager of bylaw services.

“That doesn’t mean going from your house to a neighbour’s and then to the trail, or to fill up with fuel. It means going from house to trail,” said Pruden.

Updating the city’s ATV bylaw was a year-long process.

There were multiple rounds of public consultation, an ATV task force was struck and regulations from other cities were studied.

“I think we realized that no one group was going to agree 100 per cent with all the provisions of the bylaw, but I think we’ve done a decent job of putting a bylaw forward that is workable,” said Pruden.

While city council wasn’t willing to further restrict the use of trails, after hearing from the public, it did strike out a provision in the bylaw that would have allowed riders to push their vehicles through environmentally sensitive areas and other restricted spaces, like cemeteries and the Millennium Trail.

“I think it’s a good compromise,” said Coun. Dave Stockdale.

Under the new bylaw, riders will have to obtain a Safe ATV Card from the city. To get the card, riders will have to take an online test, similar to the one required for boating licences.

The city will also offer an online safety course, but it’s not a requirement to challenge the test.

By January the card must be carried by riders at all times. Riding without it carries a fine of $150.

As is already the case, riders must also have a valid driver’s licence, and ATVs must be registered and insured.

The new bylaw also sets out a number of new fines for everything from speeding to making too much noise.

In a typical year the city’s bylaw department gets anywhere from 60 to 100 complaints about off-road vehicles. The hope is that this new bylaw will help bring that number down, said Pruden.

But complaints weren’t the only thing that the city was trying to reduce in updating the decades-old bylaw. Environmental degradation was also a big consideration.

“I think we’re becoming more aware of those environmentally sensitive areas within the city and how the use and the growth of the city is impacting the environment,” he said. “As time goes on and our city grows and the needs of the community change, we need to review our legislation appropriately.”

With only nine bylaw officers to monitor more than 100 kilometres of trails, enforcement is going to be a challenge, said Pruden. That’s is why the bylaw department puts such a big focus on education.

“The number one thing that we hear from people is that they just didn’t know,” he said.

Over the next year the city will be monitoring the number of complaints it gets about conflicts on the trails.

If things don’t improve, the city might consider further changes, which will likely mean more restrictions, said Pruden.

“It’s really up to the ATV users,” he said. “If they drive responsibly and everybody promotes safety, safe operation and respectful trail etiquette, I don’t see why things can’t work.

“We don’t want to see a minority of people ruining that for the majority of users.”

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