The attached example ordinance is compliant with Wisconsin Statute 23.33 as well as DOT requirements. It is a generic and modifiable ordinance passed by many communities and recommended by the Wisconsin ATV UTV Association.
It is all in the perceptions, and the use of the words “designation of ATV routes” creates images of crazy “up north” behavior. ‘
We are not asking for the city of New London to turn certain streets into ATV routes, we are asking for authorization to use city roadways. The legal nuance may be small but the perception should be quite different.
This is for grandparents who want to bring their grandchildren to New London on a ride. This is for residents who just want to get out of town. This is for business owners who would like to see their business as a destination.
You won’t see very many of us if an ordinance passes, since there is not a large number of riders that would all be riding at the same time. But it would mean a lot to us to know that our activity is accepted; like motor boats on the river and motorcycles on the streets. ATVs and UTVs are not very different from what is already on the road, so please don’t treat us, or our vehicles, as being too different to accept.
I went to the American Legion Hall this morning at about 10:30 and was pleasantly surprised by what I saw. One woman was coming out as I arrived and the only people in the hall were workers.
There were warning signs to no enter if you were not feeling well. On the floor were markers for people to keep a 6-foot distance between them. I was met by masked and gloved workers but who had smiling eyes. They were very friendly and helpful.
I learned that many people had voted by absentee ballot and next to their names it was listed as issued or returned. Those who had sent them back prior to today were listed as returned. If people received them late, they could just drop them off.
As I left, another person arrived. Clearly these elections have been well publicized with encouragement for people to vote early. But even if people didn’t vote early, there have been considerable efforts to provide safe opportunity to do so.
Thank you to Jackie Beyer, other city hall staff and the many poll workers that have provided the efforts necessary to efficiently get the job done while keeping us safe.
If you haven’t voted yet please do, and thank these people for their hard work.
The March 31st article in New London Press Star confirmed the reasons for unfruitful discussions with city hall. Gary Henke decided he would not allow ATVs and UTVs on city streets and he refuses to listen to evidence.
False information is his favorite tool for accomplishing his agenda, and he will not allow the desires of New London businesses to change his mind. The article quoted one of his arguments that I have heard numerous times. “State law allows 12-year-old through 15-year-olds to drive ATVs”, Henke said. “I don’t think they have the maturity to handle motorized vehicles on city streets.”
The State only allows 12-15 year-olds to drive an ATV on roadways if they are accompanied by an adult. This was to allow families to return to their hotels when using surrounding routes and trails. This is far from the idea that young people would be riding all over town on their own, which is what anyone would naturally fear. This law has been in effect for years without any issues, so despite what Gary Henke thinks, the maturity of young drivers and their parent appears to be sufficient. One more point, if you grew up in Wisconsin in a rural area, you probably started driving tractors, trailer or trucks at 12-15 even without your parents. Some have maturity and some don’t, which is why these young people cannot drive without an adult on public roadways.
Mayor Henke has also made an issue of licenses and insurance. “If you’re going to drive any kind of vehicle on city streets, you should have a licence.” We agree and a large number of towns and cities have passed ordinances requiring a license and insurance despite the fact that their ordinance could be contested in court. Those mayors have chosen to cross that bridge when they get to it and have erred in the direction of safety instead of using personal desires and loopholes in the current statutes to prohibit an activity they are not interested in. But even if an ordinance did not require licenses or insurance the vast majority of people have them so it is a mute question. In our club, everyone riding surrounding roads has licenses and insurance.
When you look at a map of New London you see only a few main streets that get everyone in and out of town with most of those corridors being along commercial areas where traffic has little impact. New London is ideal for allowing recreational visitors to enter to take advantage of local businesses. It has become clear that the mayor has not been listening to evidence, but only looking for arguments to support his personal opinions when he made comments about the bridges and traffic.
In the recent article he said, “It concerns me that the speed limit is 35mph, but ATVs can only go 25mph.” Unfortunately, that is false. ATVs are required to follow the posted speed limit or less if required by county or local ordinances. Currently Waupaca County limits ATVs and UTVs to 35mph on county roads and of course in town the speed limit is 25mph. There is no difference of speed in town and these vehicles flow with traffic. There wouldn’t be a big increase in traffic since I can’t drive more than one vehicle at a time. The only increase in traffic that would be seen would be from visitors, but don’t businesses want more visitors?
Mayor Henke has desperately tried to block our group from access to New London despite years of evidence proving that from a safety, and from a public welfare position he is wrong. Our club is offering to help bring new recreation and money to New London. We have been strongly supported by local businesses but the mayor is not listening. We have offered to pay for necessary signage so that this project costs the city nothing but instead will have positive economic impact. But none of that has swayed the mayor from his personal crusade against this project.
This is the mayor we have. One who puts his own interests before those of the community. One who makes decisions and refuses to hear the other side. One who for whatever reason is incapable of change. Is this the type of city government you want to deal with your next project?
We love our city and we want to see it move forward not be stuck in the past or frozen by fear. Our recent experiences with city hall processes have us wondering what has gone wrong.
As President of a Rural Roads ATV Club, our goals include
promoting the preservation of natural resources, encourage the responsible use
of rural roads and gathering of like-minded people to positively impact our
community. ATV recreation is a growing activity that allows one to have an
experience similar to a motorcycle but with more stability and lower speeds. It
is the new fresh air activity for those of us who don’t ride horses or can’t
The state has already made provisions driving ATVs in towns
since the speed limits are low and these vehicles are quite visible as they flow
with traffic. ATV recreation on public roadways is highly regulated and far from
the unsupervised and sometimes unsafe practices people use on private land. Many
cities have had ordinances in place for years without significant incidences or
annoyance. On the contrary, positive economic impact has been proven.
New London is at the edge of miles of rural roads accessible to ATVs in Waupaca County and an ordinance would allow movement in and out of town to ensure access to New London businesses. It would allow New London resident to take advantage of those routes without hauling trailers through town and secondly it would allow people from outside of New London to come into the city. Residents and non-residents would have accesse to recreation and local businesses. That seems like a win-win situation.
The advantage of riding on public roadways in and outside the city include: a fresh air experience similar to a motorcycle but with slower speed and less risk for older riders, accessibility to people with disabilities that cannot take riding on rough terrains, and little to no environmental impact since we use paved roads and the noise level is similar to a moped.
Unfortunately, instead of encouragement to become a constructive part the social fabric of New London we have experienced opposition, primarily from the mayor’s office. Most of the arguments are the same as those used at the beginning of the 20th century when cars began to appear on roads. We have heard things like “They are noisy, they are dangerous, they will be driven by lawless people who run all over the city creating chaos”. There could be a few unlawful drivers, like those who break the law with cars, motorcycles, mopeds and bicycles, but the majority of recreational riders do not see themselves in this description. Experience over 10-15 years in communities having ATVs on city streets has even proven the opposite.
I congratulate council members and residents who have been in discussions and meetings on this subject. They have objectively reviewed the data, and many have changed their opinion as the facts have been presented. We agree with city officials that safety and the tranquility of life in New London is very important. We want to work with the city to ensure public safety and serenity while reaping social and economic benefits.
To show you how serious we are, many of our club members will participate in training to become Trail Ambassadors. People program supported by the Wisconsin ATV Association and the DNR act as examples and observers who can remind other riders of current laws and reporting any unlawful activity to authorities. We would also like to participate in search and rescue training so that in an emergency the city of New London can count on help from an number of ATV and UTV owners. You may have seen a few of us helping neighbors after last year’s tornado.
The whole process of months of meetings with city committees has given us a look into the way the city runs. It was disappointing to learn that decisions were made outside of meetings so a plan of evaluation was never offered. We were asked for a proposed ordinance and then the details were not discussed in committee.
The mayor has clearly painted a picture of lawlessness and fear. He will not accept what the State has decided, so his greatest tools are half-truths and fear. For example, he was quoted in a New London Press Star article from Nov. 14, 2019, “The state allows 12-16 year old to operate ATV’s on public roads”. What is missing is that they are not allowed on the roads unless accompanied by an adult and nobody under 16 can drive a UTV on public roads. Later in that article he was quoted as saying “But to have them running all over town, not while I’m mayor”.
The negative opinion of the mayor has led to a general lack of action, and a lack of due process. We have been sent from committee to committee with no real direction other than a clear desire than for the issue to go away. Perhaps 9 months is a normal time period for some cities to treat a subject but cities like Waupaca were able to consider and vote on an ordinance in 3 months.
The fear mongering has created an issue when it could be a non-issue. There is no evidence that any community in Wisconsin has had any significant problems. On the contrary, many have seen positive economic impact. Why would people be afraid of an ATV if they are not afraid of mopeds, bicycles or motorcycles on the streets? We are bigger than all of them and flow with traffic.
We need our local businesses to thrive after these difficult weeks, and being able to ride into New London, to stores and restaurants is one way that we can help. We are committed to paying for signs so that this project costs the city little or nothing. We are asking all residents of New London to give us a chance to prove that there will not be negative impacts and that any concerns that arise can be dealt with. If residents can open the city roadways to us, we know that they will open the city to visitors and new business. Isn’t it worth a try?
The following document was recently presented to the New London Economic Development Committee January 28, 2020 and New London Public Works Committee February 3, 2020. It summarizes the important issues and facts related to those issues.
Rural Roads ATV Club is looking for direction and advice from the New London City Government. We desire to promote economic development in New London but we are limited until there is an ordinance.
A strategy of fear has resulted in never-ending discussions and lack of real progress. ATV recreation is not a new activity, either on roads or in urban areas. There have been years of experience to alleviate fears. Persistence in propagating fears is much more a strategy than a search for truth. The same arguments could be used to take bicycles, mopeds, motorcycles, cars and trucks off the road. Here are examples.
Fear – Noise nuisance Facts – Our vehicles are quieter than Harley motorcycles and about the same as a moped, both of which are on the roads. Over 10 years of experience in cities that have allowed ATVs and UTVs have proven that there is not a significant nuisance problem.
Fear – Safety Facts – On city streets, ATVs and UTVs are less dangerous and more visible than bicycle, mopeds, and motorcycles. Statistics support the fact that ATVs and UTVs on roads are safer than cars.
Fear – Age restrictions Facts – State statutes do not allow 12-year-olds to ride alone on any roadway. In the rare instance where parents and children are riding together on ATVs, there is no evidence that this is has been an issue.
Fear – Insurance Facts – In a recent survey, 90% of the ATV owners had insurance, and of the 10% that did not, the reason was the ATV was used only on private land. They agreed that if they road on public roads they would have insurance. It should be noted that this vast majority go beyond what the law requires.
The last two points have been used as an all or nothing
reason for rejection. Other cities have taken either one of two options.
The first option has been to write into the
ordinance age and insurance requirements, knowing that they could be challenged
in court. This is a dissuasive measure even if it hasn’t been proven legally.
The fact that those ordinances have not been challenged indicates that this is
not a real issue. It has not been important enough for anyone to challenge
those ordinances and riders have accepted the limitations. On the other hand,
towns where parents can ride along with their children this has not resulted in
significant issues or dangers. This approach attempts to deal with fears in a
legally awkward manner even if those fears have proven to be unfounded.
The second option is the one taken recently by
the city of Waupaca, which is to write an ordinance that follows Wis. Statute
23.33. In their ordinance there is no mention of age or insurance. This implies
a knowledge that people who participate in this form of recreation are mature
enough to follow the laws and ride safely on the roadways.
All the arguments have been fear based, assuming the worst-case
scenarios. Exceptions are taken to be the norm with the unfounded assumption
that ATV riding will lead to chaos, accidents and enforcement issues. In
another argument there is already chaos on the streets, with speeding and
inattentive drivers. It is, therefore, for our own protection that we are being
kept off the road. These were the arguments against cars in the early 20th
century. Are we really still there? Where is the proof for these fears?
Not only are these fears statistically unproven, but the
opposite has been proven. ATV/UTV riders who use roadways are
responsible, law-abiding citizens who are very concerned about safety. In the
city, we are not different from bicyclists, moped and motorcycle riders. We continue to ask to use public roadways that
are for public use, along with cyclist, mopeds, motorcycles, cars and trucks.
There are two that are not currently legal on the streets of New London, WI. Can you find them?
The answer is the green 4-wheeler, third from the bottom on the right, and the UTV on the bottom right. In many cities here in Wisconsin they are legal. They are not much smaller than the average car even if the comparison here is to the Mini Cooper.
After considerable research and numerous discussion, our work group is ready to make a proposal to the public works subcommittee and hopefully city council. This is not a short document but the intent is to ensure that state laws and regulations are understood.
We are willing to abide by all applicable laws so that all will know that we are serious about safety and the general welfare of New London residents.