Cyclists need to let their voice be heard on the proposed changes to state law that would allow all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and snowmachines on some roads. The changes could make travel on roads, especially on cycles and on foot, more dangerous.
This proposal by the Dunleavy administration would allow ATVs and snowmachines on roads with speed limits of 45mph or less. This would increase motorized traffic on roads and at least some of that traffic would be near the shoulder, where cyclists are required to ride (unless turning).
FCC is not against the responsible use of snowmachines and ATVs. But the club is aware that the proposed changes are coming under strong criticism from knowledgeable people who say the proposal is not well thought out. You can read about the concerns below. Unfortunately, Gov. Dunleavy has said the state will not comment on the proposal until after the public comment period, so we don’t know how the administration will respond to the concerns. (See deadlines highlighted in red in Nathan Belz’s comments below. The first one is April 15.)
How to Comment
If you want to comment you can respond to the state notices (see links below from Nathan Belz). You can also contact your state legislators to express your concerns. Find that contact information here.
Note: The terms ATV (all-terrain vehicle) and OHV (off-highway vehicle) are often used interchangeably, though OHV is usually meant to be more inclusive and include larger rigs. ATV is usually meant to include smaller single-person machines. There are other terms as well, such as UTV (utility task vehicle) and ROV (recreational off-highway vehicle).
Main Concerns in a Nutshell
Some of the concerns that have come up include:
- About 20-25% of all OHV (off-highway vehicle) and snowmachine accidents already happen on roads.
- The proposal may make sense in small rural villages but do not necessarily make sense in a larger city. The proposal allows for local governments to change laws to ban them from roads, but not all local governments have road powers, such as the Fairbanks borough.
- Legalizing ATV and snowmachine use on roads actually requires a change to state law, but the current proposal is simply a change to state regulations. So, is this a just a waste of time? Is it a test balloon for a change in state law?
- The way the proposed changes are being laid out are confusing, even for people already familiar with the laws and regulations.
The Concerns in More Detail
Nathan Belz, a University of Alaska Fairbanks engineering associate professor who specializes in driver behavior and traffic safety and operations, has voiced his concerns, too. He has twice spoken to KUAC’s Dan Bross about the proposal:
- State Intends To Require License As Part Of ATV And Snowmachine Road-use Proposal
- State Proposes Allowing ATVs and Snogos On Some Roads
Belz also replied to an FCC listserve message about the proposal, pointing out some complications:
There are actually two proposed changes and they are listed separately in two separate notices.
- NOTICE OF PROPOSED CHANGES ON THE USE OF ATVS AND SNOWMOBILES ON ROADS IN THE REGULATIONS OF THE DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY | Lieutenant Katrina Malm, Department of Public Safety, Alaska Wildlife Troopers
Comments due by 4/18 at 5pm
- NOTICE OF PROPOSED REGULATION – 2 AAC 90.210 – DEFINITION OF CLASS D LICENSES | Jenna Wright, Deputy Director Department of Administration
Comments due by 4/15 at 5pm
The primary hang up right now is that the supplementary changes to the DMV definitions are erroneous unless a complementary bill is filed with the Legislature to amend Title 28 of Alaska Statute. Without a change to Title 28 of Alaska Statute (by the Legislature), the proposed changes only add the term “all-purpose vehicle” to the Class D license and do not make it required or enforceable. For reference:
- AS 28.15.011(b) states “Every person exercising the person’s privilege to drive, or exercising any degree of physical control of a motor vehicle upon a highway, vehicular way or area, or other public property in this state, is required to have in the possession of the person a valid Alaska driver’s license issued under the provisions of this chapter for the type or class of vehicle driven, unless expressly exempted by law from this requirement.”
- AS 28.15.021(5) states “The following persons are exempt from driver licensing under this chapter: A person when driving or operating an off-highway vehicle, watercraft, aircraft, or other vehicle not designed for highway use as specified by the department by regulation.”
I submitted a laundry list of questions to both individuals above, both of whom refused to comment and stated that if the general answers to the public did not address my questions, then I should contact the governor’s office.
Fairbanks blogger Dermot Cole has a couple of blog posts about the proposed changes. In his most recent one (https://tinyurl.com/4xc4ants) he points out:
Dunleavy claims that local governments could ban snowmachines and off-road vehicles from their 45 mph or slower streets if local officials object to opening them.
It’s not that simple.
Many local governments do not have the power. For instance, most of the roads in the Fairbanks area that would be opened to snowmachines and ATVs under the Dunleavy plan are not within the city limits. The roads are within the Fairbanks North Star Borough.
The borough does not have road powers and does not have police powers, so it is unable to adopt or enforce an ordinance that would ban snowmachines and offroad vehicles from dozens of major highways with speed limits of 45 mph or lower.
Cole also wrote an earlier blog post about the proposal. Read it here: https://tinyurl.com/6etasnca
For More Information
Even some ATV and snowmachine advocates have strong reservations. You can read their comments in the news stories below.