As summer heats up, residents on one Germantown block are noticing more and more activity from the all-terrain vehicle community. And they’re not pleased.
While forbidden on city streets, ATVs – also known as quads or four-wheelers – have exploded in popularity. On West Rockland Street, a short stretch off Germantown Avenue, the trend has put some neighbors on edge.
Children constantly crisscross the block in the summer, making them potential targets for accidents involving reckless riders.
“They go down one-way streets when you’re supposed to come up with no regard for the kids,” said Rashon Jones. “It’s the summertime so kids are going to be running around.”
A place to call their own
Although a four-wheeler’s engine can be heard before it is seen, these vehicles still pose a substantial threat to their typically young drivers and concerned locals alike.
Police, for their part, are officially unable to enforce the law due to a strict no-chase policy. The no-chase policy prevents riders from injuring themselves and bystanders during possible high-speed chases.
“It’s an epidemic that’s happening, and they need somewhere to actually ride,” resident Darren Robinson, who might allow his 10-year-old son to ride if there was a “safe place” to do so.
Even opponents of ATVs agree with Robinson that the situation of reckless driving would improve if ATV riders had their own park.
“The bikes are just nuisances in the area,” said Hope Campbell. “If they had somewhere to go it would be one thing.”
Rah Reezy, who owns an ATV, would be similarly interested in a designated place to ride. He said some police don’t follow the no-chase rule, leaving him with little interest in riding.
“It’s too much hassle,” he said. “You’re definitely going to get chased, and now they have cops with the same dirt bikes so they’re definitely giving us competition.”
In fact, the city sells ATVs and other bikes seized by police at local Philadelphia Parking Authority auctions.
The buyers, who are often riders, have expressed that the city is sending out mixed messages to the community about its role in getting riders off city streets.
“I don’t know if they want to punish us or award us,” said Reezy. “My friend just got one from the auction. They’re giving them out. They’re letting us bid on them.”
The PPA holds auctions three times a week. Unclaimed ATVs and other bikes often hit the block.
Respect the danger
Not all ATV riders, though, are reckless. Chauncey Jones has been riding all types of bikes on- and-off since he was 13-years-old.
“To me it’s like a lifestyle,” said Jones. “I’m always going to ride. I’m going to be 50 years old riding motorcycles.”
Jones believes that riders who drive inconsiderately through the city streets simply don’t have respect for what they’re riding.
“I don’t have anything bad to say about [the bikes],” he said. “People just have to respect the bikes and have some type of consideration when they’re riding on the streets. It’s not the bikes. It’s some of the people who ride the bikes.”
Though Jones has never been seriously injured, he knows plenty of riders who have been.
Tanya Banks, a resident of West Rockland Street, has seen firsthand the dangers of ATVs. Her nephew was badly hurt in an accident on Erie Avenue in which he crashed through a windshield.
“He just made it,” she said. “I’ve seen a lot of boys get really hurt bad.”
From the streets to City Hall
Though the risks persist, the popularity of ATVs doesn’t seem like it is going to fade anytime soon.
“Most people learn how to ride out here on dangerous streets so the risks that they take aren’t big to them because they have nowhere else to ride safely,” said Robinson.
At-Large City Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown has drafted a resolution authorizing the Committee on Public Safety to hold public hearings this fall to review and examine the regulations surrounding ATVs.