The letter, presented to a Cincinnati City Council committee earlier this year, was headed “MOTORCYCLE MENACE.”
The letter set out what Carol Gibbs, president and executive director of Mt. The Auburn Community Development Corporation and a community activist who complained about is a serious quality of life issue in at least 11 neighborhoods in Cincinnati, from Mount Auburn to North Avondale.
The letter described large groups of 30 to 50 or more motorcycle, dirt bike and ATV riders who drive loudly through the neighborhoods at any time of the day or night, causing property damage, frequently running lights, weaving through traffic and drive on the sidewalks.
“The ruthless hordes are much more than a source of harassment or loud noise. The defiant drivers are a dangerous threat to public safety and quality of life in this city, ”the letter said. “Ignoring them for fear of persecution is not a solution, it is encouraging.”
The letter and the parishioners behind it asked for relief for the city. It was put on the agenda of a city committee earlier in the summer but has been postponed.
Some on Facebook are less willing to wait for the council or police to act.
On June 9, a photo of ATV and dirt bike riders doing wheelies through downtown Smale Park, posted on Facebook by Mike Bock, was the source of heated debate on the subject.
“I watch it every weekend. Sometimes through the park, sometimes on the street,” wrote Bock. “HOW ABOUT STANDING IN FRONT OF A BAR IN THE FREEDOM AS YOU WATCH THE SHOW, DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!
“I bet all kinds of measures will be taken if one of those people sitting on the grass is run over …”
Some members of the Greater Cincinnati Politics Facebook group called out Bock’s comments and called them racist, while others called for increased police intervention and even advocated throwing glass bottles on the tires of those who drive recklessly.
Cincinnati police say the activity has been the subject of intense policing for years, but that there is limited ability to stop them safely and sensibly.
So far, the department’s central business department has imposed seven parking violations, three traffic violations and four seized vehicles in 2020, according to the documents submitted.
“It will go on”
Cincinnati Police Department Captain Doug Wiesman said loud and reckless motorcycle behavior was a problem in the business district while he was the captain of Central Business Section Station.
“I’ll work on it six months a year,” said Wiesman. “We will make arrests, we will write quotes, we will confiscate some vehicles, but it will go on.”
The letter Gibbs wrote indicated that the community association supported the use of helicopters or drones to track motorcyclists. It also advocated the use of stop sticks, devices laid in the path of vehicles to accelerate, and the use of tires with a series of spikes or quills.
CPD guidelines and manufacturer regulations prevent the use of stop sticks on motorcycles or dirt bikes because of the risk of serious injury to the rider, Wiesman said. However, he said the department is keen to contain the disruptive activity and has used innovative strategies to do so.
Because of a policy of non-prosecution, Cincinnati officers attempted to arrest the drivers during the gathering to prevent chases.
In 2020, the city issued letters to the addresses of drivers who had identified them, asking them to stop their behavior, Wiesman said. The letters warn drivers that CPD will use every method – including social media – to identify them and will confiscate illegal vehicles.
He added that significant action could be taken in the next few weeks or months.
Choose bikes over guns
The bikers in question see the issue differently than the company or the police.
For Avondale-based Tey Young and thousands of others who ride dirt bikes and ATVs in cities like Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Atlanta, what they call Bikelife has become a way to meet new people from other areas and pursue interests beyond street crime.
“It means a lot, you know, it brings a lot of bonds together, it keeps a lot of people off the streets and plays with guns and deals in guns,” Young said.
“Many of them lay down their arms and want bicycles for Christmas.”
For Young, who documents his antics for his vlog, this is more of a lifestyle than a hobby.
Young said it was the police who antagonized the drivers for what he believed should not be a police priority.
“They’re trying to chase us,” said Young. “We’re out here trying to have a good time. It’s not like we’re really wreaking havoc or anything. “
Some cities don’t see it that way. New York City, for example, cracked down on ATV and dirt bike riders and confiscated 20 vehicles in April. In New Haven, Connecticut, home of Yale University, nine drivers were arrested and twelve vehicles were confiscated in May after drivers entered the city from across the state.
Brandyn Ward, 32, of College Hill, is the CEO of Bikelyfe Xclusive Apparel, a local company that sells goods to Bikelife riders and organizes meetups.
Over-the-Rhine resident, city council candidate and former police officer, Derek Bauman has always ridden and advocated motorcycles. However, the groups who drive late at night and break the traffic rules should not be exempted from being responsible, lawful and respectful drivers.
Not trying to “cause harm”
Both agree that Bikelife is more positive than negative. Ward, who said he only rides legally, said he uses his Bikelife connections to organize back-to-school rides and also holds an annual Ride to End Violence where he and other members of the community ride bikes Opposition to street violence.
That year, the electrician Ward organized a trip to thank first responders in hospitals, police and fire departments.
Ward said even street legal motorcyclists get a bad rap for the noise they make and complaints are common. He said his group never tries to disturb others, but the number of motorcycles involved in these nighttime activities will inevitably make noise.
“I don’t think the bikers are really out here to cause harm. We do something we love to do, ”said Ward.
City Councilor Jeff Pastor, a member of the Legal and Public Safety Committee and chairman of the neighborhood committee, said he would raise the issue of loud cycling in committee meetings.
Pastor said quality of life in the city is important and affects homeowners. But he added that he would not create new rules for police enforcement. He said there could be a way to please everyone involved.
“We don’t want to pass draconian laws to punish some, but I’m sure there is a sensible solution,” said Pastor.