By Cole Parkinson
With ongoing discussions around an Off-Highway Vehicle Bylaw being enacted in the Municipal District of Taber, the issue has continued to be a back and forth affair between councillors.
After being brought forward to the M.D.’s Annual General Meeting in April, the issue was once again in front of councillors at their policy meeting on June 17.
A major change stemming from the AGM was increasing the speed limit to 50 km/h as it was originally listed at 20 km/h.
“I think it is time to make a decision on whether we are going to have one or not,” said Coun. John Turcato. “Since these discussions started to take place, I think our Community Peace Officers have stopped stopping them. I’m sure they see them quite often and just turn the other way. I don’t know that is the right way to handle it. You either legitimize it or not, one or the other.”
Council has been split on whether or not they wanted to bring this bylaw to the M.D.
While other municipalities have put it in place, there were benefits in going either way.
“To me, this encourages people to get their helmet, get it insured and get it registered,” stated Coun. Brian Brewin.
Other councillors were not sure if enacting this bylaw would change people’s ways.
“I don’t know how many are going to register and wear helmets. Even if it is the law, people are still going to go,” said Coun. Murray Reynolds.
The proposed bylaw states operation of off-highway vehicles in the M.D. are only permitted ‘if used for a legitimate business purpose’, ‘on the extreme right side of the roadway in the parking lane’ or ‘where the roadway does not include a parking lane or where the parking lane is obstructed, in the rightmost lane of the roadway’.
The bylaw also states the vehicle must be registered, insured, display a valid license plate, is equipped with headlamps, tail lamps and an exhaust muffler.The operator must have a valid license and have a proper helmet.
ATV operation in any of the M.D. hamlets and parks is also prohibited.
One concern for enacting the bylaw from council was around an added element of enforcement for their CPOs.
“It is one more thing our CPOs are going to have to enforce. They will get multiple calls on it and people won’t be happy they are getting ticketed,” said Coun. Jen Crowson.
It was pointed out that currently, any operation of an off-highway vehicle on M.D. roadways is illegal until a bylaw allows it.
“It is happening. People are using them for irrigation purposes. I think it is better to have some bylaws,” added Brewin. “It makes more sense to have a bylaw and then you can enforce helmets, registration, insurance and speed limits.”
With council already partaking in multiple conversations around the bylaw, some views have shifted.
Even with the policy committee still fairly split on bringing the bylaw to council, the many discussions with both council and the public have brought forward many different perspectives.
“I was not really in favour of this to begin with but I understand by having a bylaw, we are allowing quads in certain areas, and excluding them in others. As long as they are licensed, insured, wearing a helmet, it allows them to operate without fear of RCMP or CPOs going over,” said Reeve Merrill Harris. “It authorizes those people who are using them for business purposes.”
A big concern that has continuously been brought up by council was the fear people would start hitting M.D. roads and start stunting more frequently if ATVs were permitted.
While it is a possibility, some on council saw it as not just an ATV issue.
“I don’t think it changes kids who are doing doughnuts, it is still against the law. It doesn’t give them authorization to go out there and spin any more than it does with a car. What they are doing is breaking the law by stunting but it legitimizes those who are using them for the purposes they were intended for,” stated Brewin.
“I know it says business purposes but I think we will still get some stragglers in other areas on our roads. As a resident told me, it may be better to let a sleeping dog lie because they said even if there is a bylaw, you are essentially forcing him to get insurance, registration and everything else that goes with it like wearing a helmet. I don’t think very many people out there will put a helmet on to go check a pivot or crops. I think they will be a little more cautious when they know they might be breaking the law rather than not,” added Coun. Leavitt Howg.
Another concern was around liability in the case of a crash.
“Is there any concern we give authority and someone has a wreck?” asked Deputy Reeve Tamara Miyanaga.
“I think you would have a risk if you did it without it being legitimized through the Traffic Safety Act,” responded CAO Derrick Krizsan.
Even with councillors still seemingly split, a motion was made to recommend to council to move forward with the bylaw which was carried 4-3.
Councillors Crowson, Reynolds and Howg opposed the motion.