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Snohomish City Council may permit ATVs to use roads

SNOHOMISH — The city has a plan to experiment with allowing all-terrain vehicles on public roads.
The City Council asked to set up a one-year pilot program that permits ATVs on city streets as a compromise after an hour of debate and public comment. The vehicles can’t be legally ridden today, but the council will vote on this in the coming months.
The pilot project idea came from councilmembers trying to balance concerns residents gave that ATVs don’t fit with the town’s culture versus public interest in riding on streets.
Sultan and Monroe allow ATVs on city streets, and Lake Stevens allows bulkier utility vehicles known as side-by-sides that have roll cages, can seat four and look like a buggy. 
Snohomish is not the same as these cities, said Maureen Loomis.
Dutch Hill area resident Allan Kremenich agreed. “Snohomish is not Lake Stevens or Monroe. It has a reputation for being a quiet town,” he said. “There’s a different dynamic.”
Riders sought the allowance since nearby cities allow ATVs and they’d like to travel with ATVs as an occasional alternative to cars.
The handful of riders who spoke up largely defended their interest. Some said riding as a group is a family-friendly activity.
The state rulebook lets counties and cities give permission for ATVs. A 2013 change in how state law treats ATVs opened this door;  Sultan, for one, quickly let ATVs on its streets soon after.
State law says ATVs must have seatbelts, mirrors, turn signals, lights, license plates and horns to be used on public roads, and riders must follow traffic laws. 
They can be used only on roads under 35 mph. That rules out the Old Snohomish-Monroe Road with its 40 mph speed limit. 
In Snohomish, ATVs would be allowed to ride on all streets except the northern part of Bickford Avenue toward U.S. 2 where it is 45 mph, city engineer Yosh Monzaki said.
A few council members said they were on the fence about it.
The City Council members who were ambivalent toward ATVs found consensus with the temporary pilot project idea. The city will ask for public input during the one-year timeframe.
The city already embraces motorcycles culturally with the annual motorcycle show, so denying ATVs seems hypocritical, a council member said.
And, there are ATV riders already using city roads during snow weather, so it’s not a stretch to let them ride legally, Council President Jason Sanders said.
Councilwoman Lynn Schilaty raised concern that ATVs are smelly and noisy. Since 2006, though, ATVs are built with fuel injection, ATV expert Paul Sterley responded. He’s a local who advocates ATV street use.
Mayor John Kartak supports ATVs on roads, and noted Monroe, Sultan and Lake Stevens haven’t reported any problems.
Dedicated riders envision there could eventually be a countywide network of backroads to use. The county authorized letting riders use Old Owen Road to get from Monroe to Sultan last year.
Shayn Bancroft, who’s created a public cleanup campaign, worried about kids getting killed by ATVs driven recklessly. “We don’t want to see our kids disappear because someone decided to have fun,” he said in opposition.
A number of more rural counties in Eastern Washington and in the Olympia Peninsula have approved ATV use on county roads limited to 35 mph or less, according to a website tracking local ATV laws Sterley operates.
Sanders noted ATVs are commonplace in Eastern Washington, but he’s put off by modifications such as bright light bars and amplified sound speakers some ATV owners have.


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