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New ATV rules near completion

Whitehorse's all-terrain vehicle riders could face new rules by July, if plans go smoothly to overhaul the city's bylaws.

Whitehorse’s all-terrain vehicle riders could face new rules by July, if plans go smoothly to overhaul the city’s bylaws.

A recent survey, answered by 127 respondents, showed strong support for most of the recommendations produced by a task force this spring.

So bylaw services will proceed with having a draft bylaw vetted by the city’s lawyer, then put the document out for public review in May, said bylaw chief David Pruden.

A tweaked bylaw will be presented to council in June, with the aim of having new rules on the books by July.

One of the most controversial changes being considered would require riders to pass a safety course before operating quads within city limits. A similar rule was included in the city’s new snowmobile bylaw, which council approved in late February.

Scofflaw riders can also expect stiffer fines, in line with what snowmobilers now face. That means fines of up to $500 for serious infractions, such as riding a machine without insurance or a helmet, riding in a prohibited area after being warned, harassing wildlife or pets, passing in an unsafe manner, crossing dangerously, interfering with a traffic control device and failing to stop or provide information for a bylaw officer.

Other task force recommendations include:

* ATVs would face a speed limit of 30 kilometres per hour on multi-use trails, neighbourhood trails and roadways while travelling to designated trailheads, and 50 km/h in other areas;

* riders who leave muddy ruts behind in the spring could face a fine for trail damage;

* like snowmobiles, ATVs would be banned in environmentally sensitive areas;

* fines collected from scofflaws would be spent on trail maintenance.

As it stands, ATV riders are expected to be 16 years of age and to possess a driver’s licence, registration and insurance. They’re also expected to wear a helmet within city limits.

These rules aren’t always followed, and bylaw officers struggle to enforce the laws. Pruden hopes that better trail signs, mandatory training courses and other outreach efforts will improve compliance.

“How do you cover everywhere? Well, you don’t,” said Pruden. “You hit the hot areas and you do random checks everywhere else.”

Eventually, the task force envisions ATVs being restricted to operating on designated trails. But that means a new trail plan needs to be crafted first, and it remains unclear when that will be done.

Currently, some neighbourhoods, like Riverdale, lack a designated “out and away” trail for riders.

Designated trails for ATVs won’t necessarily be the same routes taken by snowmobiles, as frozen paths become mudbogs as the weather warms, said Pruden.

Contact John Thompson at