The Great Bend City Council is considering legalizing side-by-sides and utility vehicles on city streets, following a presentation by UTV enthusiasts Derik Schneider and Aaron Andrews at its Monday night meeting.
“We’re kind of excited about this,” Andrews said. “This is not something that’s new.”
The two noted such vehicles are allowed in Dodge City and Garden City. They also stressed the importance of safety and making sure they UTVs are legally registered through the city.
“This would appeal to younger families, promote tourism and generate revenue,” Schneider said. “It is something progressive.”
The council directed City Attorney Bob Suelter to draft an ordinance to be presented at a future meeting.
Schneider said they are referring to such things as Polaris Rangers, Polaris RZRs, Canams and Artic Cats. All the other towns in Barton County allow these vehicles on the streets, and are allowed in unincorporated areas of the county.
By state law, they are not allowed on state highways (including 10th and Main streets) except to cross. The state has left it up to municipalities to either allow or disallow these vehicles on local streets and roads.
They tried to allay concerns from Police Chief David Bailey and Councilman Dana Dawson. Safety would be in line with motorcycles and considerations include such things as following speed limits, seatbelts, lights, windshields, turn signals, horns and roll cages. Car seats and helmets for younger riders could also be required.
Registering would require a full vehicle identification number (VIN) which would exclude golf carts and go carts. A valid drivers licence and proof of insurance would also be needed.
Andrews said they recommend the UTVs would be registered through the city. For a registration fee (they suggested $150 per year), the owner would receive a permit and licence plate from either the City Office or the Police Department that would have to be displayed on the vehicle.
These are not the small four-wheel all-terrain vehicles, they said. These are used often on farms and for other work-related tasks, as well as recreation.
Most are already street legal. “These things are expensive,” Andrews said.
The earned revenue could be used for related items like river cleanup at the South Washington entrance, Schneider said. Local businesses have already offered to sponsor the up-front cost to start this process.
As for tourism, people from Hutchinson and Wichita are already getting memberships to the local Central Kansas Off-Road Association which rides at the Radium Bridge area. “We have one of the greatest resources just on the south side of town,” Andrews said referring to the Arkansas River, a popular location for off-roading.
“It would be appealing to younger families, helping the city grow,” Schneider said.
Besides, he said, motorcycles, dirt bikes and mopeds pose a much higher risk and are already legal.
“I don’t see it taking away from the city,” he said. “I see it adding to it.”