ATV dangers alarm neighbors

Posted: May 31, 2012

Dominick Brown has been riding motorcycles since he was 14. His two sons love riding too.

"My 7-year-old is like a legend in my community" because of his precocious skills on a go-cart and electric bikes, he added.

So the 48-year-old Oxford Circle man gets the appeal of "bike life."

But he’s also been in traffic when a dirt-biker or four-wheeler has roared by.

"They’ll run right through a red light with total disregard for themselves and the traffic that has the green light. That throws the whole process of driving into chaos. You have people pulling over in the middle of [the street], because they’re afraid of the noise, they just want to be out of the way, they don’t want to hit the ATV or have the ATV run up on them. People don’t know what to do, where to go, whether to pull over or stay in the middle of the street," Brown said.

As plentiful as dirt-bikers and four-wheelers are in Philly, their critics are even more abundant. At community meetings with police, especially in warmer months, authorities say, the noise, destruction and dangerous maneuvers of dirt bikes and quads top the list of citizens’ concerns.

Police have a no-pursuit policy when it comes to quads and four-wheelers, meaning their only official option to get them off streets is to catch them idle, like when they fuel up at gas stations or leave or return from wherever they store the vehicles.

Even if they were allowed to pursue, "the cops can’t really chase them. They can’t keep up with them," said Tom Quinn, 39, who lives in Gray’s Ferry with his wife and two kids. Residents’ anger toward riders is near-boiling there, because dirt-bike riders recently repeatedly jumped the curb and rode on sidewalks, dangerously close to little children.

"They’re doing a lot more out there than just riding in the streets," Quinn said. "And it’s getting worse."

In March, Becky Marx grew so aggravated with the reckless riders roaring past her Point Breeze home that she complained to Mayor Nutter on Twitter, urging him to do something to stop them.

"Have any suggestions? Yes, they are breaking the law. Thanks," the mayor tweeted back.

The response irritated her.

"I don’t consider myself the most demanding taxpaying citizen ever, but when you go to your elected officials, and they just sort of shrug, it’s frustrating," said Marx, 32, who chairs the Town Watch committee of the Newbold Neighbors Association. "It seems wrong that they can break the law and residents just have to deal."

Of the Twitter exchange, mayoral spokesman Mark McDonald said: "I think the mayor very clearly was asking for ideas while recognizing a problem." He referred further questions to the Police Department.

Police bigwigs are pondering how to address the problem, police Lt. Ray Evers said, including urging citizens who know where riders store their vehicles to let police know their locations.

"A lot of them are stolen. So if we can gain access to where they’re stored, we can check out if they’re stolen, or if there’s an illegal chop shop there, and get them off the streets that way," Evers said.

— Staff writer Jason Nark contributed to this report. Contact Dana DiFilippo at difilid@phillynews.com or (215) 854-5934. Read her blog at phillyconfidential.com.

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