Bylaw would pave way for ATVs on ditches, roads

All-terrain vehicles are a familiar sight on county roads and ditches and often the workhorse vehicle of choice for farmers checking their fields or stock. The problem is while riding off-highway vehicles on county roads is common, it’s illegal under Alberta’s Traffic Safety Act.

All-terrain vehicles are a familiar sight on county roads and ditches and often the workhorse vehicle of choice for farmers checking their fields or stock.

The problem is while riding off-highway vehicles on county roads is common, it’s illegal under Alberta’s Traffic Safety Act.

Lacombe County wants to fix that by crafting a bylaw that will allow off-highway vehicle users to cruise county roads and ditches as long as a few rules are followed.

A proposed bylaw would require drivers to have a licence, insurance, registration and licence plate. Riders must obey a 10 p.m. to 8 a.m. curfew and stick to a maximum road speed of 50 km/h and 30 km/h in ditches.

In hamlets, vehicles can’t go faster than 30 km/h and riders must take the shortest route between their home and destination. All riders must wear helmets.

County councillor Brenda Knight questioned the county’s ability to enforce the rules if passed. “Is it going to become very onerous on your department to do that?” she asked the county’s manager of environmental and protective services Keith Boras at Thursday’s council meeting.

It will be no different than the county patrol’s other enforcement duties, said Boras. He acknowledged though it is often difficult for county patrol officers to get off-highway vehicle riders to stop.

Knight also expressed concern the rules could be a hindrance to farmers using quads to check cattle and suggested the curfew start earlier in the morning.

Councillor Rod McDermand said requirements like helmets, which are not required under provincial law, could create public confusion about what regulations they need to follow.

Boras said requiring helmets is a responsible approach.

County commissioner Terry Hager said it will be important to make the public aware that driving quads or other off-highway vehicles on county roads is currently illegal and the bylaw will change that.

Council approved first reading of the bylaw and agreed to undertake a public consultation process before a final reading goes to vote. A date has not been set.

McDermand was the sole vote against the bylaw changes.

“I think we need to rethink this. There are an awful lot of people using these as farm tools. Now we’re basically putting in a bunch of rules and regulations that are going to be very, very hard to enforce.”

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com