Mean-spirited, unnecessarily punitive and designed to ensure owners would be forced to give up their vehicles.
That’s how one ATV owner at a public hearing Monday said she felt about Schenectady’s proposed tough new law designed to keep all-terrain vehicles and dirt bikes off city streets.
Well if that’s how they feel, there’s only one logical question left to be asked: How fast can they get this law on the books?
Cities across the country, including Schenectady, have been struggling for years to find ways to keep ATVs, dirt bikes and other such vehicles off their streets.
Schenectady alone gets at least 100 complaints per year.
Riders often congregate in packs, terrorizing pedestrians and motorists by popping wheelies and riding dangerously close to traffic, ripping up lawns and parks, and disturbing the peace of the people who live on the streets they travel.
ATV and dirt bike riders are difficult to control because often by the time police are called, they’re long gone. Police are reluctant to chase them because of the potential for riders to be injured or killed, or to cause an accident. And because these off-road vehicles can go places where police cars can’t, arrests are difficult.
Officials in many cities have gotten so fed up that they feel the only solution is hitting riders and owners where it hurts the most — in the pocketbook.
Riding on a Schenectady city street, city property or a park is already punishable by a $500 fine, 15 days in jail or both.
Under Schenectady’s proposed new law, operators of unregistered ATVs and dirt bikes will face the potential of having their vehicles confiscated, which they can get back if they pay a $2,350 “redemption fee.”
On top of the existing $500 fine, the city plans to charge $70 to tow a vehicle and $20 for each day it’s impounded.
A $500 fine might be stiff, but $3,000 is real money, and a legitimate deterrent.
One rider at Monday’s hearing raised some nonsense about how this is a poor way to introduce children to law enforcement. If kids are the ones getting ticketed, then the onus falls on the parents who buy their children these vehicles and allow them to ride illegally.
One speaker said there should be warnings first. Well, consider this the warning.
Is the law mean-spirited? Well, is it mean-spirited of city residents to expect safe streets and quiet neighborhoods?
Is it unnecessarily punitive? Nope. Punitive is what makes traffic laws effective.
Is it designed to ensure owners give up their vehicles if they can’t pay the fines? If you can’t pay the fine, don’t do the crime.
What else is the city supposed to do?
Nothing else has worked.
Tough new laws are the logical next step.