The vehicles have struck other people, too: A bicyclist in Boston collided with a dirt biker in a May accident that left him bloodied, and, in July, a dirt bike struck a 4-year-old boy in Queens, New York, critically injuring him. But riders argue that they do take safety measures and that cops chasing them only leads to more reckless driving. The bike life community, they say, is unfairly treated as one heedless monolith without anyone trying to understand the more positive aspects of the culture.“Those who are raising concerns about the ATVs and dirt bikes have some legitimate concerns about some of the activity that is illegal that could impact a resident or constituent; someone who is disabled, someone who is a senior,” said Philadelphia councilmember Derek Green, who was a part of his city’s recent legislative effort to define dirt bikes and dune buggies as illegal for street use. “There’s misconceptions, I think, on both sides.” Yet the war on dirt bikes keeps advancing. Across the nation, local officials have described dirt biking as “chaos,” “havoc,” “irresponsible,” and a “top complaint.” In Columbus, Ohio, a dirt bike task force dubbed “Operation 52” made arrests, seized weapons, and nabbed bikes during a crackdown this summer. The Massachusetts city of Chicopee even recently considered banning gas stations from selling fuel to riders.
“If my mom can’t stop me from doing it, nobody is going to be able to stop me from doing it.”
“Imagine whatever you use to relieve your stress. If, publicly, someone crushed it—condemned you for using it—is that not only going to hurt your feelings but also make you want to go harder?” Young said. “Cities are unconsciously igniting wars but not wanting… a real solution.”
“What I always ask people is: What is the one thing you use to relieve your stress? For people like riders, it’s riding their dirt bike.”
“This is not a beef we’ve got with anybody,” he added. “We’re just trying to learn how to ride some bikes, do our wheelies, go home and post our videos, and learn how to start competing and creating our own sport.”
Yet to the best of Kelly’s knowledge, nothing significant came of that offer. Over a month after the community conversation, the county passed legislation “aimed at curbing the illegal use of dirt bikes and ATVs.” It allowed cops to impound all illegal off-road vehicles found on public roads, with a $500 penalty for a first-time offense and a $2,000 fine for any offenses after that. And there’s still no clear plan for a park. Aponte said that comes at a cost to the city: Riding dirt bikes can teach people companionship and how to work as a team, providing an alternative to those who might otherwise do something even more illegal.“When we get together on those bikes, there's no man left behind,” Aponte said. “There’s nothing bad about it—except, yes, it’s against the law to do that.”Want the best of VICE News straight to your inbox? Sign up here.