By Craig Westcott / September 1, 2023
Some Bay Roberts councillors are growing pretty irritated over showboating and other antics by ATV riders throughout town.
A complaint from a resident on Bishop’s Road ignited an opportunity for councillors to air their own grievances during last month’s public council meeting.
“‘In the day, four wheelers and dirt bikes run up and down the street,'” said Mayor Walter Yetman, reading from the resident’s correspondence. “‘At night, cars use it as a racing strip.’ So, this is a valid concern.”
Yetman noted council had had a general discussion prior to the public meeting about the same issue.
“We are all in agreement that our town is being taken over by dirt bikes and ATVs on public roads that have nothing to do with our (ATV) trail,” he said. “They’re not following regulations. They’re speeding, they’re showboating. It’s happening all over town, across our Klondyke and the highway, Cross Road, Shearstown Main Road, everywhere. I’ve noticed a huge increase this past year, especially.”
Many of the drivers are underage, pointed out councillor Silas Badcock.
“Yes,” the mayor agreed. “I’ve seen an explosion of issues this year. So, we’re really going to have to have a good discussion with the RCMP to find out what we can do. Something needs to be done.”
Councillor Dean Franey said he encountered ATVs driving illegally on Shearstown Road on his way to the council meeting.
“I followed through, like I ask residents to do, and I contacted the RCMP and asked them to patrol the area,” Franey said. “Because if we’re asking residents to do that, if we see it, we need to do it as well.”
Deputy Mayor Geoff Seymour said he raised the issue at the last council meeting because there had been a “nasty incident” in Butlerville where someone had driven an ATV into some garbage boxes near where children had been playing just two minutes earlier.
“So, it’s an issue and we need some help from the RCMP,” Seymour said.
“We do,” said Yetman. “I received a message this week as well that a car was being passed by a four-wheeler and the driver was standing on the seat.”
“I’ve seen them use the speedbumps as ramps,” said Seymour.
“We need that meeting with the RCMP,” said councilor Perry Bowering, acknowledging the force is strapped for manpower. “But it’s time for them to start doing some blitzes the way they used to do it… They’ve got to start taking some ATVs and they’ve got to start sending some tickets out, because we’re going to have deaths on our roads in our towns if we don’t start doing something.”
Yetman said he agreed 100 per cent. “I’ve never seen so many dirt bikes, especially. Quads are bad, but dirt bikes especially, and they’re driving wild, they’re driving recklessly.”
Franey said it’s not just in Bay Roberts, but everywhere. Earlier he had noted that just that week two young people had died in separate, unrelated ATV accidents in other parts of the province.
“I work in St. John’s in an industrial park in the middle of the city, and I’ve seen dirt bikes going up the middle of the road,” he said.
Yetman said the RCMP has advised council in the past that people can take photos and videos to help identify the drivers and the bike’s owners by their clothing and other markings. “Because they know that most times these are repeat offenders,” he said. “And they can try to track them down once they have the proof. That certainly helps.”
The mayor encouraged residents who witness such behaviour to gather as much information as they can, without of course putting themselves in any danger.
Badcock asked whether the Town’s municipal enforcement officer has any power to combat the issue.
Yetman said the MEO mostly focuses on the town’s ATV trailway.
“It’s an RCMP issue really, he doesn’t have the authority, no,” chief administrative officer Nigel Black added in response to Badcock’s question. “Not as long as they’re moving, anyway.”
Yetman asked his colleagues if anyone would like to make a motion so that the Town can take action.
Deputy Mayor Seymour moved that council meet with the RCMP to look for solutions.
Badcock seconded the motion, which passed unanimously.
Yetman said he will contact the police to make the arrangements.
“One very important point that comes up every time is that the parents at the end of the day are responsible for the machines and the kids,” said the mayor. “If anything happens, it goes straight back to the parents. I don’t know if they realize what they are responsible for and what could actually happen. It’s hard to understand. They know these bikes are out there, they know these bikes are noisy, but they still let it happen. And if anything happens to these kids, it goes right back to them.”