Neighborhood associations calling on City of Philadelphia to do more to stop illegal ATV and dirt bike riders

Annie McCormick Image
Wednesday, April 28, 2021
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The issue of ATV and dirtbike riders taking over major Philadelphia thoroughfares continues, especially as the weather gets nicer.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The issue of ATV and dirt bike riders taking over major Philadelphia thoroughfares continues, especially as the weather gets nicer.

This weekend Tom Ayers and his husband John Murphy watched from their Center City apartment as ATV and dirt bike riders used Broad Street as a drag strip.

They weaved in and out of traffic, ignoring laws and even driving the wrong way into traffic.

Ayers and Murphy are part of a growing number of neighborhood organizations trying to get the city to take the problem seriously. A petition among those organizations circulating has garnered nearly 5,000 signatures.

"With the city trying to come back with this years' pandemic and outdoor dining - getting more tourists into Philadelphia - could be really detrimental to their efforts of getting tourists back into the city," Ayers said.

"Just enforce the laws on the books. Let the police loose to do their jobs when it comes to these bikes and ATVs on the streets," Murphy said.

This past March the driver of an SUV was assaulted at Broad and Washington after a group of ATV riders surrounded him and began to destroy his car.

One instigator even drew a gun from his ATV, but was calmed down by other people in the group and he put it away.

Ayers and Murphy feel the problem is so out of control it is inevitable that the issue escalated to a crime of that nature.

So far in 2021, Philadelphia police have confiscated 171 illegal ATVs and dirt bikes. One hundred four of those bikes were confiscated after a new initiative began in late March.

Just this past week, police rounded up 18 of the vehicles that are not street legal.

Ayers and Murphy say they've unsuccessfully tried to get in touch with the Mayor's Office and the Managing Director's Office. However, they have had success with multiple city council members, including City Council-Member-at-Large Derek Green.

Green said they are working towards a solution ahead of budget discussions.

"People have focused on this as just a Center City issue. What's important to realize, however, is that people are coming from various parts of the city to get to Center City. Constituents in North Philadelphia who are having ATV riders come down side streets onto Broad Street also creates a challenge," Green said.

Green sits on the board of the National League of Cities and hopes to get ideas from other large cities. It used to be that riders would destroy neighborhood parks; now they appear to favor roadways.

Creating a park for riders is a possibility, but many don't agree that riders would travel to and from a park while abiding by the law. Green, who is an attorney, also questions what liability issues a park may bring.

Philadelphia police said while they cannot chase riders unless there is a major threat to the public, they can combat the issue through confiscating vehicles.

"We are asking the public to report locations where ATVs and dirt bikes are being parked and/or stored (if on sidewalks or other private property)," said Sgt. Eric Gripp, a Police spokesperson. "It is illegal to have these vehicles, which are not authorized for road use, parked on streets, sidewalks, or other public areas. We will confiscate them from those locations. Folks can report locations to 215-686-TIPS, or use the "submit a tip" feature on our website,"