Elorza pledges to ‘crack down’ on ATVs while defending registration proposal

MAYOR JORGE O. ELORZA in a press conference on Thursday pledged to continue to crack down on illegal all-terrain vehicles while defending his proposal to allow them with regulations in certain areas. / PBN FILE PHOTO/STEPHANIE ALVAREZ EWENS

PROVIDENCE – Mayor Jorge O. Elorza on Thursday recommitted to efforts to crack down on illegal all-terrain vehicles and defended a proposal to better regulate them through registration and other requirements.

The news comes on the heels of several recent arrests involving illegal ATV and dirt bike activity in the city, including a police pursuit through Providence and Cranston that culminated in the arrest of two ATV riders earlier this week, various news outlets have reported.

ATVs and other recreational vehicles have been prohibited from city streets since 2015. The Providence City Council in 2017 passed an ordinance authorizing police to seize and confiscate illegal ATVs and dirt bikes.

In the last several years, the city has seized and destroyed over 200 ATVs and dirt bikes, according to Elorza. 

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While officials pledged to continue to crack down on illegal riders and “enablers” – gas stations where they fuel up, businesses that sell the bikes and organizers of mass-riding events – Elorza is also advocating for legislation to regulate the industry before bikes hit the streets.

Legislation authorizing municipalities to allow ATVs on public streets if they meet a set of requirements was among the lengthy list of 2021 legislative priorities Elorza unveiled last month. On Thursday he defended accusations that he wants to legalize ATVs, saying “nothing could be further from the truth.”

Instead, Elorza described his proposal as a way to add barriers and regulation for future bike sellers and buyers by requiring they register their vehicles, purchase insurance and also use quieter mufflers.

“The question is how do we limit this seemingly endless supply,” Elorza said.

The increasing frequency of ATVs and motorbikes parading through downtown has drawn ire from the business community, who say the noise and safety problems they pose hurt downtown businesses. The topic was the subject of a recent meeting of the Downtown Hospitality Group, according to president Bradly VanDerStad.

David Bertolini, co-owner of several downtown restaurants including Providence Coal Fired Pizza, also referenced the ATVs “blowing down the streets” as a major deterrent to potential customers during a recent interview with PBN.

A bill sponsored by R.I. Sen. Frank Lombardi, D-Cranston, that would authorize cities and towns to designate specific areas where ATVs and other recreational vehicles are allowed, with rules around registration and mufflers, was introduced on March 4 and has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Nancy Lavin is a PBN staff writer. You may reach her at Lavin@PBN.com.

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