NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


January 2, 2009

Clashes over the sport of off-roading are becoming more violent for riders, property owners and law enforcement officers, as conflicts regarding the use of all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) escalate.

Property owners across the country report they have been threatened and their homes vandalized by off-road vehicle users.  Riders are also becoming victims.  In June, a 13-year-old died of neck injuries when the two-wheel dirt bike he was riding on private property hit a rope tied between two trees.

Disputes about ATV use have been happening for years, often over environmental damage, but an imbalance in supply and demand have intensified the clashes, say officials:

  • In 2007, 4.7 million off-road vehicle users visited public lands, compared with 3.8 million in 2004, according to the Bureau of Land Management.
  • At the same time, the U.S. government has started restricting ATVs to assigned routes rather than allowing them to ride cross-country.
  • Development of rural areas has gobbled up private land formerly used by off-roaders.

Ed Waldheim, president of the California Trail Users Coalition, says a small portion of riders don't follow rules, making lives miserable for those who do. He and other off-road advocates agree that the core problem fueling conflicts is land access.

In 2006, San Bernadino County adopted an ordinance requiring off-roaders to have written permission from private landowners.  People planning a gathering of 10 or more riders must obtain a permit from the city for $155.

  • From January through October this year, the county issued 554 warnings and 209 citations for riding on private property without permission.
  • Least year, the county issued 356 warning and 133 citations.

Source:  Emily Bazar, "Off-road Vehicle Use Fuels Tensions," USA Today, December 31, 2008.

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