JOHN DAY – Four-wheelers could soon be a regular sight on the streets of John Day.

In a 4-1 decision, the John Day City Council voted to draft an ordinance that would allow all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) on the city streets.

The issue had several supporters at the Sept. 11 meeting, including John Day Polaris owner Gregg Haberly and Polaris worker Monty Bond, who noted there are ATVs already on the road in Prairie City, Mt. Vernon and Pilot Rock.

Bond wrote a letter to the city, requesting an ordinance allowing ATVs on John Day roads.

At the meeting, John Day Police Chief Rich Tirico went over some specifics for a city ATV driving law:

• Riders would have to be at least 18 years old and have a driver’s license and insurance.

• Driving along Highways 26 and 395 would not be allowed for ATV riders; however, they would be allowed to cross at a 90-degree angle. Riding on sidewalks would be prohibited.

• Since ATVs generally do not have blinkers, drivers would need to use hand signals. ATVs without headlights or taillights would be legal only for day use.

Bruce Ward spoke in favor of the proposal saying it would boost tourism.

He noted that it’s one reason he and his wife enjoy visiting Sumpter.

“It’s one less regulation on my life,” he said.

Haberly noted that no problems have been reported in Prairie City or Pilot Rock. He added that if he were involved in an accident, he’d “rather be in a Ranger than a Smart Car.”

Paul Smith noted that riders would still have to obey all traffic laws.

Councilor Doug Gochnour said he had some reservations about the idea, noting that he has visited some Idaho towns where the noise level is high from ATVs on the streets.

One resident countered that ATVs “don’t stand a stick” to the freight trucks that drive through town.

Tirico said the city could require stock or standard mufflers to address the noise issue.

Gochnour also favored requiring helmets. He recalled a Forest Service employee who died when he rolled his four-wheeler.

“He might have survived had he worn a helmet,” he said.

Audience members opposed a helmet requirement, saying helmets are uncomfortable and that most city ATV riders would not be acting up or going over 25 mph.

Gochnour voted against the proposal to allow ATV travel, while Donn Willey, Gene Officer, Chris Labhart and Don Caldwell were in favor. Steve Schuette was absent.

After the ordinance is drafted and reviewed by Bond and city attorney Jeremy Green, the council will vote on it.

An amendment may be added later to allow golf carts on city streets.

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