- Associated Press - Thursday, October 13, 2016

BETHEL, Alaska (AP) - The Bethel City Council is considering a proposed local law to clarify the legal use of all-terrain vehicles and snowmobiles on city roads.

The action comes after a public outcry over a move to ticket ATV drivers using local streets, KYUK-AM (https://is.gd/RzPWbu) reported.

People also testified on the issue at the council’s Tuesday night meeting when the council amended the ordinance proposed by Mayor Rick Robb. The council is expected to take action on the measure at the next meeting.

Myron Naneng, former president of the Association of Village Council Presidents, was among those testifying.

“If you haven’t lived in a village, or you have not lived out here in rural Alaska, you really don’t understand that our people rely on these modes of transportation to gather some of their foods,” he said.

The proposed ordinance spells out that the vehicles would be allowed on city streets under certain rules. For example, the vehicles would be limited to 15 mph and would not be allowed to pass other moving vehicles.

City Clerk Lori Strickler tells The Associated Press that amendments made Tuesday would require minors to wear helmets, either as drivers or passengers. Also, snowmobiles would have to stay as far right as feasible except when crossing roads, she said.

In late September, the council directed police Chief Andre Achee to increase enforcement of laws prohibiting the use of four-wheelers. Some council members had cited safety concerns, while others argued that city transit could take the place of ATVs.

Those against the increased enforcement, including Robb, had said it would have a negative impact on people who rely on ATVs to get into town when the river freezes.

At Tuesday’s meeting, however, a move to terminate the enforcement request failed in a 3-to-4 vote. Council member Leif Albertson said the directive was reasonable.

“We were in a situation where the best information we had was that citations were being issued, and many of us have heard complaints, and what we asked for in that action memorandum was increased enforcement,” he said.

Officials have said that the city’s municipal code and state law do not specifically prohibit ATVs from driving on city roads. Rob said his measure seeks to define the gray area.


Information from: KYUK-AM, https://www.kyuk.org

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