Councilman proposes legislation to curb illegal dirt bike use and drag racing

An increasing trend of illegal dirt bikes has caused headaches for city officials and police.
Photo courtesy Getty Images

As illegal dirt bikes have increasingly run rampant throughout the city — two men on bikes carjacked a driver last week — lawmakers and the NYPD are getting fed up.

As of June 3, the NYPD has seized 322 ATVs and dirt bikes, written 7,469 summonses for motorcycles/dirt bikes and 16 summonses for ATVs. Additionally, according to the NY Post,  “the NYPD has seen an uptick of 15 percent in complaints of dirt bikes and ATVs.”

Capt. Isaac Soberal of the 45th Precinct, told the Bronx Times that the police are only able to seize the bikes if they are tipped off about where one is or if a driver is refueling at a gas station. However, he added that if a bike is used in a violent crime such as a carjacking, then police will pursue.

“You have to weigh the risk of the public in engaging in a high pursuit,” he stated.

In May, the NYPD even launched an initiative to get bikes off the streets by offering tipsters $100 for information pertaining to an illegal bike, but that has not done nearly enough to fix the problem.

As a result, New York City Councilman Mark Gjonaj, a Democrat, announced legislation on July 15 that would double the fines and penalties on individuals that recklessly operate dirt bikes and off-road vehicles.

“Dirt bikes, four-wheelers, reckless driving and drag racing are illegal in NYC, but as you see and witness for yourself you wouldn’t know any better because of the number of illegal bikes that have taken over our streets,” Gjonaj said at a press conference. “The NYPD can’t enforce the existing laws because it is prohibited from chasing these illegal dirt bikes, four-wheelers and drag racers.”

Currently the fine for operating dirt bikes and all-terrain vehicles on city roadways is $500 for a first offense and $1,000 for an additional offense. However, Gjonaj’s proposed legislation would increase those fines to $750 and $1,500.

The councilman said he understands the NYPD is in a tough spot, but hopes this would deter some people from operating illegal vehicles. He pointed out that not only are they speeding, but they weave in and out of traffic, drive on the sidewalk and are dangerous to pedestrians and drivers.

“We’re calling on the brass in City Hall to stand up and take back our streets,” he said. “This chaos must end.”

 

Capt. Isaac Soberal, of the 45th Precinct, speaks about the uptick in illegal dirt bikes and ATVs at a press conference last week. 

Soberal added that social media has played a big part in the increase in illegal dirt bikes and ATVs.

“A lot of these individuals like to initiate a pursuit with the NYPD and put it on their social media,” he said.

Gjonaj, who has been pushing this legislation for the past three years, hopes it is approved this year and causes some riders to think twice before getting on a dirt bike or ATV.

“They know there’s no enforcement or mechanism and they can’t be chased,” he said. “We can’t allow this chaos to continue, and we can’t turn a blind eye to this reckless endangerment.”

Reach Jason Cohen at jcohen@schnepsmedia.com or (718) 260-4598. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter @bronxtimes and Facebook @bxtimes.

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