Police address ATVs on east side

Minibikes, dirt bikes, off-road cycles on rise

May 29, 2007|By Nick Shields | Nick Shields,SUN REPORTER

While working at his printing shop in Middle River on a recent weekend afternoon, Randy Cogar heard rumbling on his property.

He looked outside and saw a man and woman riding on a large, four-wheeled all-terrain vehicle. A second, smaller ATV trailed not far behind.

"They just went zipping by - and I just gave them a dirty look back," Cogar said.

It was the first time in Cogar's memory that he had seen an all-terrain vehicle cruising on his property - and, he hopes, the last.

"I wouldn't want to see my property become a trail," he said. "It's not safe for them or other people to do that."

All-terrain vehicles, minibikes and dirt bikes have become increasingly popular in eastern Baltimore County, police say. In response, officers from the county Police Department's Essex Precinct are, about twice a month, searching the area for off-road vehicles to try to stem the problem.

The officers are out to inform riders of the laws covering their vehicles and the dangers the vehicles pose. The purpose is not so much to arrest people, but to educate and save lives, said Cpl. Robert Baldauf, the precinct's traffic supervisor.

Since 2002, nearly 300 minibike and off-road motorcycles have been registered with Baltimore County, according to the county Department of Permits and Development Management. But police say many vehicles are not registered.

This year, about 30 people have been charged with breaking minibike and off-road motorcycle laws in Baltimore County, according to county police statistics. On average, about 90 people are charged with such violations each year.

For ATV owners who don't have access to a legal place to ride nearby, Baldauf suggested designated areas at state forests. While the Maryland Department of Natural Resources provides trails for off-road vehicles in Garrett, Potomac, Green Ridge, Savage River and Pocomoke state forests, authorities said that they have experienced a large increase in the number of riders seeking permits in the past decade.

"There's a strong demand for areas to ride ATVs," said Kenneth Jolly, associate director for the Department of Natural Resources' Forest Service, adding that more private-sector areas allowing riding would help ease the demand.

County Councilman Joseph Bartenfelder, a Fullerton Democrat whose district includes Middle River, said the county could benefit from having an area set aside for ATV riders.

"There's not a place for them to ride that's in a reasonably short distance," he said.

An area for ATV riders could also generate revenue, he said. "But the problem that we have here is, where could you put it?" he added.

Bartenfelder said he has fielded several complaints at community meetings about ATVs on private property, but that more concern has been raised about their theft.

Last year, James Neil Rivers Jr., 20, was fatally shot in his Essex driveway when he confronted burglars who were attempting to break into his shed and steal an all-terrain vehicle.

"Riding on property where they don't belong has been a problem for years - but these break-ins are what's really bad," Bartenfelder said. "Those crimes against people are what I always worry about."


ATV laws

Baltimore County's laws for minibikes and off-road motorcycles include:

All-terrain vehicles and dirt bikes may not be operated on roadways or public property.

ATVs may not be operated on private property without written permission from the owner.

ATVs may not be operated within 300 feet of a residence.

ATVs and dirt bikes may not be operated between 8 p.m. and 7 a.m.

Headgear is required, and all riders are required to wear eye protection or have a windscreen.

Vehicles must be registered by the adult owner or a parent or legal guardian of a minor owner. The registration card must be carried and shown when requested by a police officer.

[Source: Baltimore County police]

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