Clark County is considering an ordinance that would specifically allow driving all-terrain vehicles on county roads.
The county council discussed a draft of the proposed ordinance on July 15. Councilors indicated that they would support reviewing the ordinance at a public hearing followed by a possible vote at an upcoming council meeting.
The Legislature passed a bill in 2013 that allows counties to regulate ATV use on county roads with posted speed limits of less than 35 mph.
“That posted speed limit (aspect) is really critical because, as you know, many of our county roads don’t have a posted speed limit,” said Lindsey Shafar, the county’s policy analyst.
Shafar said that the draft ordinance is based on similar regulations in Cowlitz, Lewis and Thurston counties.
In Clark County, there are currently no local rules specifically regarding driving ATVs on county roads.
Though not mandated under state law, the county’s ordinance would require ATV riders to have driver’s licenses to legally operate on the roads. The county could also ban ATV use on specific roads, even if those roads have speed limits of less than 35 mph.
Under state law, the county will be required to list ATV-approved roads on its website.
“It’s not widespread,” Shafar said about the number of roads that would fall under the regulations. “It’s not most, but it’s many.”
One area that could qualify is a traffic circle in the Five Corners neighborhood at Northeast 88th Avenue and Northeast 99th Street, which has a 20 mph speed limit.
Debra Di Piazza has lived in the area for about 20 years. She said that ATVs, along with cars and other vehicles, often navigate the circle at double the speed limit.
Di Piazza said that the speeding, including drivers doing “doughnuts” around the circle, has come in waves over the past seven or eight years, typically involving teenagers and young adults without helmets.
In addition to the noise the vehicles often generate, Di Piazza said she is concerned about a number of families with children who have moved to the neighborhood recently.
“I mean, I understand having fun,” Di Piazza said. “Maybe they just feel that the traffic rules simply don’t apply, more like a toy than a vehicle that could hurt someone or hurt them.”
Support for ordinance
Crystal Crowder, president of the local Pistons Wild Motorsports club, said that she doesn’t typically ride on paved roads but doesn’t believe doing so is unsafe. She said she supports the ordinance and would ride on county roads more often if it’s passed. She compared utility ATVs, in part, with golf carts allowed by some communities.
“UTVs and ATVs on paved roads are a much easier and more efficient way to run quick errands near your home, rather than utilizing a large truck or SUV to run a mile down the road to grab some milk,” Crowder wrote in an email. “They will also be a great way for locals to travel to the local (off-highway vehicle) recreation areas.”
Out of the hundreds of other ATV riders that Crowder knows, none of them have reported issues like the one at the traffic circle in Five Corners.
“Just like any other motorized transportation, the majority of the people are respectful and follow the rules and there is a very small percentage of folks who might need some additional education from law enforcement,” Crowder said.
Request for data
Councilors have asked staff for data showing how well regulations in Cowlitz, Lewis and Thurston counties have worked.
“I’m not necessarily in favor of passing something that doesn’t actually change much,” Councilor Temple Lentz said. “But if this is useful to some people and we’re able to implement it safely, then let’s move forward with it.”