CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa | Off-road motorsports enthusiasts hope to regain the traction they had last spring for legislation to allow all-terrain vehicles on Iowa secondary roads.
They’ll make their pitch to a legislative interim committee Monday in an attempt to restart their drive to open Iowa secondary roads to ATVs that now are, for the most part, banned from roads and streets.
“I think the (interim) committee will look at what would be a way to provide more opportunities for ATV riders to get out and experience the beauty of Iowa,” said Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Tod Bowman, D-Maquoketa.
Tourism and off-road enthusiasts point to Wisconsin as an example of a state that allows ATVs on secondary roads and say Iowa stands to gain revenue not only from the sale of ATVs, but from the money riders spend for gas, meals, lodging and other purchases.
“The revenue is a bonus,” Bowman said, “but the bigger issue is safety.”
In fact, that’s what stalled House File 619 this spring after it was approved 75-22 by the Iowa House and referred from Bowman’s committee to the Senate Ways and Means Committee.
Chairman Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, put the brakes on the bill citing the risk of injuries from ATVs, which are designed for off-road recreational use, not gravel or hard-surfaced roads.
“It would be fair to say the department has serious concerns with ATVs on or crossing highways,” added DOT lobbyist Mikel Derby.
Geoffrey Lauer of the Brain Injury Alliance of Iowa is more blunt. Allowing ATVs on Iowa roads is “the wrong tool for the wrong application … with the inevitable result being death and disability,” he said.
He’s quick to point out that his group is not seeking to limit the farm-to-field and field-to-field uses of ATVs already allowed in Iowa.
“I understand people are passionate about the values and freedoms Iowans enjoy,” Lauer said, but most ATVs carry a sticker stating the three- and four-wheel vehicles are not designed to be road safe. The center of gravity is too high and the tires are for off-road surfaces.
“Ignoring basic public safety by allowing ATVs to share the roads with all other vehicles is a recipe for a significant uptick in injuries, severe injuries, and death,” he said.
The committee of five senators and five representatives will meet at 10 a.m. Oct. 28 in Room 116 of the Capitol.