Should ATVs be allowed on city streets? The Superior City Council wants to know.
On Tuesday night the council approved a nonbinding referendum that will ask residents whether some off-highway vehicles should travel on most city streets and alleys. The vote will be held April 7, the same day as City Council elections and Wisconsin’s Democratic presidential primary.
The only council member who voted against the referendum was Jenny Van Sickle.
“I don’t understand this fever pitch to have ATVs on all our streets,” she said. “Residents have overwhelmingly rejected these machines in the tightest corners of their neighborhoods.”
Outside of state highways and interstates, Wisconsin, like Minnesota, lets cities and counties decide for themselves whether and where ATVs are allowed.
Douglas County has designated several dozen county highways as ATV routes; a list can be found here.
St. Louis County passed an ordinance in 2016 allowing ATVs along many county roads, including some inside city limits on the Iron Range — a map can be found here.
Duluth doesn’t allow ATVs on roads or public land anywhere in city limits.
Some consumer and industry groups have pushed back on the expansion of ATVs on roadways, citing safety risks.
“Imagine the progress that could be made in reducing ATV-related injuries and deaths if states were to enact and enforce laws to prohibit ATV use on highways,” says the Specialty Vehicle Institute of America, a trade group representing ATV manufacturers. “ATVs are not designed, manufactured, or in any way intended for use on public streets, roads or highways and (the institute) urges that on-highway use of ATVs be prohibited and that law enforcement efforts be strengthened to eliminate this dangerous practice.”
In its ordinance allowing ATVs on roads, St. Louis County says it is meant to help “make connections to businesses, residences and trail connections” and “because most ditches and outside slopes are impassable.”
There have been 22 fatal ATV crashes in Wisconsin this year, including one on a trail near Superior that killed a 26-year-old man, according to state statistics.
In Minnesota, two of the state’s 11 ATV fatalities this year occurred in St. Louis County, according to the Department of Natural Resources. One claimed a 25-year-old man while he was riding in a ditch. A 23-year-old woman died after running into another ATV on a roadway.