Several cities are beefing up their laws in an attempt to stop people from riding illegally on city streets, sidewalks, and parks.  Cities like Springfield, Massachusetts, New Haven, Connecticut, and Albany, New York are getting tough with these illegal and sometimes stolen dirt bikes and ATVs.

Albany, New York dirt bike ordinance

Albany, New York’s new “Local Law E” is a disincentive to the illegal riders.  The city has implemented new penalties under which persons operating dirt bikes illegally will face up to $3,000 in fines and up to two weeks in jail.

And the Albany police are taking the matter seriously.  They now have an undercover dirt bike detail to help stop the illegal riders.  According to Albany Police Spokesperson Steve Smith:

“Our goal is to get them off the street, to see them and get them off the street, and also to issue the appropriate citations or make an arrest if necessary.  There are a lot of risks and when it comes to interact interacting with these, these riders.”

The police are aware of the danger of trying to apprehend the illegal dirt bike riders.  They say that it is not beneficial to pursue the vehicles because they are already riding recklessly.  Their strategy is to apprehend them when they are not moving.  Once seized, if the illegal riders don’t claim their machines, the bikes will be sold for scrap or destroyed.

Springfield, Massachusetts dirt bike ordinance

In Springfield, Massachusetts, illegal dirt bikes and ATVs have been plaguing the city for years.  Springfield’s solution is to confiscate the illegally operated machines.  They also have a special undercover police detail to stop the riders before they get onto city streets.

Four people were arrested in early April, and 10 dirt bikes were seized.  The city is even using aircraft to spot and track the illegal riders.  Recently, one of the riders allegedly struck a police officer with his dirt bike.  After his arrest, police determined that the illegally operated dirt bike was stolen.

New Haven, Connecticut dirt bike ordinance

New Haven, Connecticut, is one of the latest cities to take action on illegally operated dirt bikes and ATVs.  They are “cracking down” on the illegal dirt bikes using several approaches, including fines, seizures, and prohibitions.

Under new ordinance number 1902, if caught operating a dirt bike or ATV illegally on city streets, sidewalks, parks, or private property, riders face much larger fines.  The new fines start at $1,000 and can be as high as $2,000.  This is a significant increase over the previous fine of $99.

Passengers riding on illegal dirt bikes also face fines.  Riders older than 16 face $250 fines, although they are not operating the illegal machines.

Dirt bike and ATV seizure

Seizure of the allegedly illegally operated vehicles is now much easier for the police.  Under a new streamlined city process, police no longer have to use a state court process.  The new law directs police to seize the vehicle.


Any person in violation of this ordinance may be detained by a police officer for the purposes of enforcing the provisions of this ordinance.  Any motorized recreational vehicle used in violation of this ordinance shall be seized by any police officer and shall be forfeited to the City, subject to any bona fide lien, lease, or security interest in the motorized recreational vehicle including but not limited to, a lien under Conn. Gen. Stat, Sec. 14-66c.

It’s pretty clear.  If the police catch you violating the ordinance, your bike will be seized.  While it’s not abundantly clear, if there’s a lien on the bike, you may still have to pay for it if you don’t want your credit ruined.

illegal dirt bike

A dirt bike seized in March by the Albany Police. Photo credit: Steve Smith, APD

Alleged illegal dirt bike riders may request a hearing on the forfeiture of their vehicles.  However, the ordinance says:

“A sworn police incident report shall be considered prima facie proof of the violation.”

This means that the report on its face supports the fact that the bike violates the ordinance.  It’s now the defendant’s turn to rebut or disprove the allegation.  Ultimately it is then up to the rider to prove that their use of the dirt bike is legal.

Prohibition on refueling

Perhaps the most unusual part of the new law is the part that prohibits refueling dirt bikes and ATVs at gas stations.  And, gas station owners now also face some jeopardy.  Under the ordinance, they must post a sign in English and Spanish that says:

“Fueling of all-terrain vehicles, mini-cycles, dirt bikes, or other unauthorized vehicles prohibited.”

And if they allow a person to refuel the dirt bikes/ATVs, gas station owners face a $100 fine for each infraction.  Should they allow a group of 10 dirt bikes to refuel, each refueling is a separate $100 fine.

illegal dirt bike

It’s now illegal to refuel your dirt bike or ATV at a gas station in New Haven, CT unless you bring it there in/on a registered vehicle. Photo credit: Paul Bass Photos

Legally refueling your dirt bike in New Haven, Connecticut

As a result of the ordinance, there’s only one way you can re-fuel a dirt bike or ATV in New Haven.  For a gas station owner to make a lawful sale of gasoline for a dirt bike or ATV:

(a) No owner or employee of any retail dealer of gasoline shall sell, offer for sale, or attempt to sell any article or product represented as gasoline for use in any motorized recreational vehicle as defined in this ordinance, unless that vehicle is conveyed to and from the retailer’s premises by a registered motor vehicle as defined in Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 14-1, as may be amended, and no individual shall purchase or attempt to purchase gasoline for use in any motorized recreational vehicles as defined in this ordinance.

This means that you will have to haul your dirt bike or ATV in a registered vehicle or registered trailer to fuel your machine legally.  And, if you think that you can just go and fill a gas can and bring it to your bike/ATV, you’re still in violation of the ordinance.

What can we do?

It’s clear that we need to do something.  But as new laws pile up to “stop” the problem, is there something that we can do as riders to stop it ourselves?  How would you address the problem of illegally operated dirt bikes?  Do you have better ideas?  Let everyone know what you think in the comments below.




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