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Dirt bikes in Baltimore: What you need to know 

Among young people in Baltimore, dirt bike riding has been a popular pastime for almost 50 years, attracting generations of riders, spectators and even minting some stars within the community. But with accidents and deaths involving dirt bikes, safety has been a major concern, leading politicians to outlaw bikes in the city, while community members and bike enthusiasts fight to preserve their culture, even doing so illegally.

Here’s what you need to know about dirt bikes, the laws and what the community is doing to protect, regulate or preserve the dirt bike culture:

In Baltimore, what is considered a dirt bike?

Mopeds and scooters are not considered dirt bikes. But minibikes, unregistered motorcycles or any all-terrain vehicles that are not eligible to be registered under the Maryland Vehicle Law are considered illegal. For more information, see the city’s Police Ordinances, published by the Baltimore City Department of Legislative Reference.

When did dirt bikes first come to Baltimore?

The first motorized bikes came to the United States from Europe as early as the 1970s. But in that same decade, motorized bikes had become a safety issue, according to archived Baltimore Sun reports, with dozens of collisions and deaths in Baltimore and around the country.

What were the first laws regarding dirt bikes?

In the early years, dirt bikers were often riding on public property like state parks. Farmers, park officials and state administrators campaigned against their use on those lands. By the 1980s, these vehicles were ruled illegal on most public state property. That’s when — local dirt bike riders say — they moved to the city streets.

In 2000, after two riders were killed in a crash, the operation of dirt bikes on city streets was outlawed. In 2008, a law was passed to allow police to seize any unlocked dirt bike in sight. Riding or operating dirt bikes is now illegal on any public or private property in the city, though police are not allowed to chase riders because of safety concerns.

What is current law on dirt bikes in Baltimore?

It is illegal:

  • to operate a dirt bike on public or private property in Baltimore City
  • to own or possess a dirt bike, an unregistered motorcycle or a similar vehicle in Baltimore, unless it is securely locked or immobilized.
  • for parents or guardians to allow a minor to operate a dirt bike or violate the law.
  • for a service station or any person to sell or dispense fuel into any dirt bike or unregistered motorcycle or similar vehicle.

If in violation of the law, a dirt bike can be seized. Police do not need a warrant to seize a bike if the officer has probable cause that the bike is in violation of the law. For more information, see the city’s Police Ordinances, published by the Baltimore City Department of Legislative Reference.

How is the law being enforced?

In July 2016, in hopes of cracking down on street riding, the Baltimore Police Department formed a four-person Dirt Bike Violators Task Force. Since then, police have made at least 45 arrests and have confiscated more than 400 bikes and four-wheelers, according to police.

What dirt-bike options are under consideration?

Mayor Catherine Pugh formed a Dirt Bike Task Force made up of politicians and community members, including Councilman Leon F. Pinkett III and B-360 founder Brittany Young. The group began meeting in the summer of 2017, to discuss options, including the long-considered idea of a local dirt bike park. The group is also researching what other cities, like Cleveland, Ohio, are doing to preserve their respective dirt bike cultures. The task force intends to release recommendations within a few months.

Young has also launched her organization B-360, which aims to attract students to STEM through bike culture, while also challenging the stereotypes of dirt bike riders, and encouraging safe riding practices, which includes getting riders off city streets. For more information, visit www.b360baltimore.org.

bbritto@baltsun.com

twitter.com/brittanybritto

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