PLATTEVILLE, Wis. — All-terrain and utility vehicle riders desiring to traverse the City of Platteville have more options after city leaders approved a proposal to expand street access.
Over the objections of several residents who questioned the vehicles’ road-worthiness, Common Council members this week approved an ordinance permitting ATV/UTVs to operate year-round on a citywide network of streets.
“I do think it makes sense at this time to go forward with supporting the routes and not opening up all of the streets,” said Council Member Robin Cline.
After the city ordinance is published in the local newspaper and signs are installed along the new routes in the coming weeks, Valley Road and sections of Chestnut, Lancaster, Madison, Mineral and Water streets will open to ATV/UTV traffic along with sections of North Third and North Oak streets.
Those roadways join routes that were opened during a trial period in 2019, which included Main and Broadway streets and portions of U.S. Business 151 and Water Street.
Several opponents voiced concerns that the vehicles could endanger the safety of residents and ATV/UTV operators.
Kristina Fields, a professor of engineering at University of Wisconsin-Platteville, noted that as off-road vehicles, ATV and UTVs have not had their safety certified by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
“That means that civil engineers that design Platteville’s roadways have not designed the roadways to safely accommodate them,” she said.
Proponents have stated that ATV/UTV riders will frequent local businesses with a net economic benefit, but Council Member Jason Artz inquired what evidence has been collected to substantiate that claim.
Kathy Kopp, executive director of Platteville Regional Chamber, which supports the proposal, said assessing impacts on commerce “takes time.”
“I can tell you personally, at our (Travel Wisconsin) Welcome Center, we had a number of ATV-ers come,” she said. “We impress upon people if you want the streets to remain open … please follow the rules.”
Under the new ordinance, routes will be open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. year-round. ATV/UTV operators must possess a driver’s license and liability insurance, and the vehicles must have working headlights, brake lights and tail lights.
The city also will prohibit open intoxicants, require vehicles to travel below the posted speed limit and restrict on-street parking.
Council members lamented state regulations concerning ATVs and UTVs, which fall under the authority of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. That means drivers are not subject to the same penalties as motorists who operate other vehicles on roadways.
Cline encouraged ATV/UTV riders to partner with the city to lobby for statutory changes that would place regulation under the purview of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation along with updated ATV/UTV safety training, through which roadway use would be reviewed with operators.