Safety Committee Recommends Use of ATVs on Paved Streets to Village Board

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MTT News's picture
Kevin Murphy

CROSS PLAINS–The village’s Public Safety Committee recommended last week that all-terrain and utility-terrain vehicles be allowed on streets between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. at speeds up to 15 mph.

A vote of residents attending the March 3 meeting showed that 12 approved and eight opposed the idea of allowing the four-wheeled vehicles to operate on streets within the village.

Village Board Member and Committee Chair Lori Zander said the intent of any proposed ordinance was to permit residents to operate ATVs “from to point A to point B,” as opposed to just aimless joyriding.

The committee developed discussion points for the Village Board to consider at its March 23 meeting. They included:

• Prohibited from operating on US 14 (Main St..), except to cross it

• A 15 mph speed limit

• Operators must be at least 16 years old, have valid driver’s license and ATV training

• Passengers under 18 must wear safety helmet

• Prohibited from operating except between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.

• Prohibited from operating on school property

• Possess proof of personal liability and collision insurance

• Prohibited from operating in parks or on sidewalks

• Must have all safety equipment required under state statutes

• Display head and taillights

• No modified mufflers, excessive acceleration or noise

• Operate in single-file with the flow of traffic

• Maintain current registration and display license plate

• No open intoxicants

•Comply with all provisions of state statutes

The committee also recommended that any ATV ordinance be reviewed within one year for compliance and resident comment and expire within two years unless renewed.

Also recommended, authorizing the chief of police to temporarily suspend the ordinance in emergencies.

A consensus on the 15 mph speed limit wasn’t reached until after allowing ATVs to travel at the 25 or 30 mph posted speed limit was debated by committee members, including Doug Brunner, also an ATV enthusiast. Brunner said Richland Center and Baraboo allow ATVs to travel at the same speeds as other vehicles.

“Ten or 15 mph is too slow. It creates a hazard if they don’t keep up with other traffic,” he said.

Police Chief Tony Ruesga Jr. said his officers could easily spot an ATV traveling at 10 mph and stop them for speeding. Also, state law allows motorists to pass vehicles traveling at half the posted limit even in no-passing zones.

“The speed limit will be big, we have speeders all the time,” he said.

Darlington had a 10 mph limit for ATVs which created no issues, Ruesga said.

Ruesga, who researched other municipal ATV ordinances, said it would be easier to increase the speed limit over time, if necessary, than to decrease it 

Also, most municipalities don’t open all their streets at once to ATVs but a limited amount at the onset of enacting a new ordinance, he said.

Brunner called 15 mph “a compromise” but ultimately supported it in a unanimous vote that approved the recommendations as a package.

The committee backtracked on a requirement that ATVs be operated within five feet on the right edge of the street. That would put it in conflict with pedestrians using the same area on streets without sidewalks, said Kevin Engelien.

Instead, the committee recommended that ATVs operate in single-file fashion and asked how to define pedestrian walkways, other than sidewalks.

There aren’t ATV trails leading into the village, but Brunner said trails to Martinsville and Pine Bluff were in the plans.

“Eventually, we’d like (trails) to connect to Iowa and Sauk (counties),” he said.

Brunner noted the economic impact to the village of allowing ATVs, saying they could add customers for restaurants and other businesses.

“It should start small and show that we’re safe. From short rides and hopefully expand in the future,” he said.

Parking lots for ATV trailers would be needed, he added.

Engelien questioned whether Cross Plains should become an ATV destination.

“Does it complement or contradict the natural features we have here,” he said.

Biking, hiking, fishing and other “silent sports” are present now, “but what do we want the village to be,” Engelien said.

If the intent of an ordinance is to address ATV travel between “Point A and Point B in the village, that’s different than opening things up to those who would want to drive through the village, he added.

Ruesga also suggested inviting a Department of Natural Resources specialist to present information about ATVs prior to the Village Board enacting an ordinance.

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