Rhinelander approves ATV/UTV use on city streets, businesses excited for new opportunitiesSubmitted: 06/26/2019
Story By Lane Kimble

Rhinelander approves ATV/UTV use on city streets, businesses excited for new opportunities
RHINELANDER - From her store on Brown Street in downtown Rhinelander, Kate Bauman would love to sell anyone a hand-restored armoire, while knowing it's a specific clientele she tends to reach.

"I know that my chances of an ATV rider coming in and purchasing a dresser is slim to none," Bauman said with a laugh.

After Monday night, those chances may have just gone up.  On a 6-2 vote, the city council approved allowing ATVs and UTVs on almost all city streets.  Riders cannot use or cross Lincoln Street or Stevens Street north of Dwight Street.  

Alderpersons Dawn Rog and Ryan Rossing were the lone dissenters.

"To bring that opportunity to Rhinelander, I think just makes sense," Bauman said.

The city started looking at the idea last fall. City Administrator Daniel Guild put out drafts and a survey in April to get public input.

Hodag 4-Wheelers ATV Club President Paul Hagen told Newswatch 12 last month he felt the move would better-connect Rhinelander to surrounding towns such as Pine Lake, Pelican, and Crescent, which all allow riders, while also benefiting businesses in the city.

"I've talked to a lot of people and, you know, their business will go up 20 to 30 percent," Hagen said. "People can just enjoy their machines a little bit more [now]."

The ordinance doesn't actually go into effect until the city can post signs at the entry points explaining the rules. Then, it's really up to the riders to follow those rules.

"They can make this or they can break this with their behavior," Police Chief Lloyd Gauthier said.

Gauthier thinks local clubs do a great job of policing themselves. Still, he thinks rules like following posted speed limits (generally 25 MPH), with a cap at 35 miles per hour anywhere, riders under the age of 18 being required to wear helmets, and a no-ride rule between midnight and 5 a.m. will likely get broken from time to time.

"I'm very conservative and I will say yes, there will be people that violate the law," Gauthier said. "We have that every day with motor vehicles."

The ordinance also limits maximum weights of ATVs and UTVs, requires riders have a valid driver's license and insurance, ride in single-file on streets, be at least 16 years old, and not "cruise" on streets.

The city council can vote to rescind the ordinance at any time riding becomes an issue. Gauthier says police chiefs he talked to in Tomahawk and Eagle River both said ATVs on city streets haven't been an issue for either one.

"Being a larger municipality, I think we might be a test case as to how well that will go," Gauthier said. "Something new, it's change. So, obviously it's going to be difficult at first, but as long as they adhere to traffic rules and the rules of the road, then it's less likely that there will be crashes."

Bauman hopes the ordinance sticks, even if it doesn't mean a UTV rider loading up a dresser on their machine.

"All of these other communities are benefiting from that type of traffic. It was just time that we capitalized on it as well," Bauman said.

Gauthier said the city hopes to post the ordinance signs before the Fourth of July. You can read the full ordinance here.

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