News Local

ATV riders want road access in Hamilton Township

By Valerie MacDonald, Northumberland Today

East Bayshore Road (Grey Road 15) in Owen Sound is one of the streets in the city where ATVs are currently not permitted. But that could change if Grey County amends its bylaw on ATV use on county roads.

East Bayshore Road (Grey Road 15) in Owen Sound is one of the streets in the city where ATVs are currently not permitted. But that could change if Grey County amends its bylaw on ATV use on county roads.

HAMILTON TOWNSHIP -- Hamilton Township councillors will hear the flip side of the argument about the benefits of opening up township roadways to all-terrain vehicles (ATV) riders at this week's council session.

In July, Northumberland District ATV Riders Club's Allan Knott and its president Mike Ainsworth lobbied councillors to pass a bylaw to allow licensed members to ride the roads in the municipality. It's a request that has been successful in neighbouring municipalities in Northumberland County.

Resident Faye McFarlane said she was at that meeting and this Tuesday afternoon she will tell the township council how she and other residents - and organizations - believe that would be dangerous.

"If they (ATV riders) want to put themselves at risk, that's up to them ... but we don't want people getting hit by them," McFarlane said in an interview.

An avid hiker, road biker and cross-country ski enthusiast, McFarlane describes herself as a "neighbourhood representative" for road users ranging from children on bicycles to adult horseback riders and vehicle drivers. She said she particularly represents people from an area including Burnham Street, as well as Alnwick Hill, Crossen, Cornish Hollow and Hickerson roads.

A key part of her presentation will be that the manufacturers' of ATVs themselves provide notices and warnings in their manuals "instructing users never to operate ATVs on public roads or paved surfaces," she told Northumberland Today.

Her written presentation goes on to quote several of these including a Yamaha owner's manual which states: "This ATV is designed and manufactured for off-road use only. It is illegal and unsafe to operate this ATV on any public street, road or highway."

Neighbouring Alnwick/Haldimand has passed a bylaw, however, making it legal for ATVs to drive on township roadways. Trent Hills and Cramahe had done so as well, councillors heard from the Northumberland District ATV Riders Club - and that's why they want Hamilton Township councillors to rethink their position.

The township has turned such requests down before.

Among the benefits they noted for supporting ATV use on Hamilton Township roadways are supporting the growth of tourism and the impact on the local economy.

Ainsworth said at that same meeting that riding ATVs is the "safest summertime sport," while Knott explained how bylaws that regulate ATV behaviour linking trail-licensing and use of the roadways with education through club membership has been deemed beneficial by other Northumberland County municipalities.

But McFarlane is arguing the opposite view.

She quotes statistics from the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit that between 2014 and 2016 there were 275 ATV incidents in Northumberland County and 29 in Hamilton Township, with 22 collisions involving ATVs on county roadways.

McFarlane also cites a position paper from the Ontario Medical Association that notes the concern physicians have about ATV accidents involving "younger patients" and one from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety that states that two-thirds of ATV crashes occur on public or private roads in the U.S. where between 2007 and 2011 there were 1,700 ATV riders killed on public roadways.

"The negatives of TV road use vastly outweigh any perceived benefits to Hamilton Township residents," McFarlane's presentation concludes. "The safety and quality of life of all Hamilton Township residents will be negatively impacted by the dangers of ATVs on roadways."