Government

Linn County supervisors seek feedback on proposed ATV ordinance

Two public hearings planned this week on ordinance that would allow ATVs, off-road vehicles on county roads

Charles Weinert of Silvis, Ill., rides his ATV on Nov. 10, 2013, at the 160-acre Lakeview OHV Park near Solon. The Linn
Charles Weinert of Silvis, Ill., rides his ATV on Nov. 10, 2013, at the 160-acre Lakeview OHV Park near Solon. The Linn County Board of Supervisors this week will hold two public hearings on a proposed ordinance that would allow the use of all-terrain and off-road vehicles on some county roads. (The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — The Linn County Board of Supervisors will hear from residents this week on a proposed ordinance that would allow the use of all-terrain and off-road vehicles on some county roads.

The ordinance allows for registered all-terrain vehicles to be driven on secondary roads — mainly gravel roads,

Under the ordinance, ATVs cannot be driven faster than 35 mph, can be driven from only from sunup to sundown, and the driver must have a valid driver’s license.

The ordinance lists 28 restricted roadways, including Blairs Ferry Road outside the Cedar Rapids city limits, County Home Road and Mount Vernon Road.

“It’s just another mode of transportation that’s more fun, especially when you’ve been cooped up all winter,” Supervisor Brent Oleson said.

“I know there are going to be some people who are very opposed to this. That’s not going to sway my mind on scrapping the whole thing.”

The first public hearing will be at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Falcon Civic Center, 137 N. Fourth St., Central City.

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The second will be at 10 a.m. Wednesday during a Board of Supervisors meeting at the Linn County Public Service Center, 935 Second St. SW, Cedar Rapids.

Iowa Code allows for the use of all-terrain vehicles for farming or in one of Iowa’s eight riding parks, but cities and counties can create ordinances for recreational use.

The proposed ordinance defines ATVs as motorized vehicles with three to six non-highway tires, and off-road utility vehicles as motorized vehicles with four to eight non-highway tires, which includes golf carts. Vehicles must be registered with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. Violation of the ordinance is a simple misdemeanor that carries a possible fine of $65 up to $625 and up to 30 days in jail.

Oleson said residents have approached him over the years asking for an all-terrain and off-road vehicle ordinance. Last month, three women asked him to get the ordinance passed because they want to drive a golf cart to a state park.

Linn County Engineer Brad Ketels opposes the ordinance.

“Our job is to make roads safer, and by allowing these types of vehicles on our roads does not make them safer,” Ketels said.

Ketels estimated that 46 of Iowa’s 99 counties have passed an ATV ordinance, and only three of 10 most-populous counties have passed one.

“It’s not as common with more heavily trafficked counties,” Ketels said, adding that Linn County ranks first in the total number of registered all-terrain vehicles and utility terrain vehicles in Iowa.

Ketels said he is concerned about wear and tear on the roads, especially if riders are going through ditches, which is against the ordinance, or doing doughnuts on rock roads.

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Linn County Sheriff Brian Gardner raised concerns about safety. He would like to see an amendment to include flags on vehicles to make them more visible and allow the vehicles only on gravel roads or on the shoulder of paved roadways.

“The goal here is to avoid accidents and keep occupants of the ATV or UTV safe, and drivers of motor vehicles safe at the same time,” Gardner said.

It’s “problematic” to have an all-terrain vehicle, which can go only 35 mph, on a county road with 55 mph speed limits, Gardner said.

While cars are engineered with “crush points” designed to withstand an impact, all-terrain vehicles are not. ATV riders often sit close to the edge of the vehicle, Gardner said.

Oleson said the sheriff and county engineer made valid points, but he thinks all-terrain vehicles can be used safely on county roads if traffic rules are followed.

Comments: (319) 368-8664; grace.king@thegazette.com

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