Council to explore ordinance legalizing ATVs, UTVs on streets

Published 8:18 am Thursday, September 6, 2018

City and law enforcement officials continued discussions surrounding the legality of all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and utility task vehicles (UTVs) on Austin’s roads Monday night.

During the Austin City Council work session, several members of the public attended to hear whether the city had determined whether Austin would allow the operation of ATVs and UTVs. Austin Police Capt. David McKichan attended the session to help provide information based on state statute on whether these vehicles could be operated on the streets.

Austin does not have an ordinance in place that permits the operation of those vehicles, according to McKichan. This doesn’t mean that the city couldn’t legalize the vehicle usage later down the road if the council able to pass an ordinance that helps regulate their usage and had been advising drivers by that rule, including vehicles that had brake lights, turn signals and DNR license plates.

“They (ATVs and UTVs) are not legal unless the city puts an ordinance in place to legalize and regulate them,” McKichan told the council. “We’re not opponents nor proponents for this. Other cities that are similar to Austin have passed ordinances that would make these vehicles allowable.”

While there’s several varieties of existing vehicles like scooters, motorized bicycles and mobility scooters, each have their own laws assigned to them on where, when and how they could be ridden, according to McKichan. However, Austin specifically needs to address UTVs, mini trucks, ATVs and golf carts, which spread across different statutes.

There was still confusion based on state statute on what specific vehicles can be driven on streets, and where in Austin they could be driven on. Members of the public in attendance expressed concerns about getting ticketed by law enforcement, and that there wasn’t a consistent and specific ordinance in place that would help citizens understand and follow rules that are set in place.

Among other concerns voiced was whether drivers would need to pay an expensive fee for getting their proper permits, if legalized, and how often they would need to pay to renew their permits. There were also concerns on whether a proposed ordinance would apply on county roads as well.

However, these details would need further examination, said Mayor Tom Stiehm, and that the ordinance would need to be put in front of the city council for vote.

“We have to wait,” Stiehm added. “We’re going to try and be fair as we can. This would have to be worked on. We’ll take a look at it.”

Other points

Among other items discussed during work session was the council needing to research more on AirBnBs, and whether the city would need to explore whether future regulations would help provide specific guidance on how much of a fee those types of businesses would be subjected to depending on how they were categorized, as well as taxes. There were five reported AirBnBs in Austin.

“We have five today, but could have 50  tomorrow,” Stiehm added. “We need more time to research on it.”