While hanging outside Johnson & Hardwick residence halls, you hear the revving of engines in the distance with the sound getting progressively louder until it’s at a point at which nothing else is audible. Blurs pushing 80 mph southbound on North Broad Street race by while other motorists pull aside and pedestrians jump back a few feet from the curb to avoid drivers’ show-no-mercy habits. You are given a moment of reprieve from the intolerable noise level, though not for long. Suddenly, the sirens in the distance steadily pick up in volume. While unable to discern the direction from which the sirens are sounding, not long passes before a police brigade equal in size to the riders races off in hot pursuit.
This is most likely the closest you will get to feeling like you are in a Michael Bay film, and it’s simply sitting outside your residence hall watching as ATVs and dirt bikes race by.
For the uninformed, this isn’t some unique experience. People riding ATVs and dirt bikes habitually race down Broad Street as though it’s their own racetrack with absolutely no regard to other motorists, pedestrians or even the police. The funny thing? Philadelphia has a no-chase policy, meaning that both the riders and the police are, at times, at fault.
Because there is so little the police can do, other possible methods of deterrence have been discussed. Recently, there has been a debate about whether or not a park built specifically for ATV and dirt bike riders would curb such examples of illegal street riding. I think that all options for deterring riders should be explored, including an ATV and dirt bike-only park. Fortunately, G-Team Racing Motorcycles, a prominent motorcycle center, has the same concerns.
“G-Team Racing Motorcycles say they have reached the critical mass needed to support a family-oriented, membership-driven ATV park,” Alex Wigglesworth wrote in “All revved up and nowhere to ride,” in the Metro on Aug. 13. A park dedicated to these vehicles would allow people who own them legally to ride legally. A much more convenient option than driving hours away outside of the city in order to ride, right?
Though, the people who want to ride legally are not generally the ones who cause problems with the police.
It becomes apparent that there is a standoff between these riders and the authorities. What ultimately happens when this standoff reaches its boiling point is irrelevant because this is a persistent issue. How much does Philadelphia police presence alone deter illegal riding when almost every Temple student is as familiar with the riders as they are with other Temple quirks like the overly friendly squirrels around Main Campus?
The riders are obviously looking for a thrill popping wheelies three blocks at a time. If a park dedicated to ATV and dirt bike riding is built within a reasonable range of Philadelphia, then this thirst for danger could be appeased.
Of course, such a project requires a large budget, which G-Team Racing cannot fund alone. This is where the city should step in. The city of Philadelphia has an obligation to its citizens to provide public streets that are safe. An ATV park could possibly provide an alternative option to the people who ride on the streets of Philadelphia, for those who choose to utilize it.
Of course it would be impossible to deter all riders because many of the ATVs and dirt bikes on the streets are obtained illegally. If documentation is required to use the parks, then those with illegal bikes obviously will not go there. If there is a fee to use these parks, then the likelihood of a park of this nature being utilized is further decreased. Why pay to use a park that could possibly be miles away, when one could ride around the streets of Philadelphia with the uncertain chance of repercussions?
A change in police policy could take care of this hiccup.
A petition to the Pennsylvania State Senate has surfaced on change.org to contest the “can’t chase” policy currently in place and further crackdown on the sale of illegal vehicles at auctions. This is the problem that needs to be somewhat rectified if a park dedicated to riding them is built.
Philadelphia Police have found a way to begin cracking down on illegal vehicles without an official change in policy. As of Aug. 21, there have been a reported 95 police seizures of ATVs and dirt bikes in the month of August alone, according to the Philadelphia Daily News.
In order for a park to be successful, Philadelphia police need to continue to crackdown on illegally purchased bikes and unlawful riding. If a park is to be built, G-Team and other supporters need government involvement in order to fund and maintain it. Though all of these efforts are in vain if the “can’t chase” policy is not lifted. These riders need to realize that they share the streets with roughly 1.5 million citizens of Philadelphia and should not be putting others in danger for a cheap thrill.
Chelsea Colatriano can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.