Annoying. Loud. Pervasive. These are just some of the many words that Philly residents have chosen to describe the dirtbikes and ATVs that so often roam together on Philly streets. These two-and-four-wheeled riders have, however, become an undeniable part of the city's culture, for better or for worse.
For some, like Michael, these riders are a part of the city's many small communities. He believes that, for the most part, they aren't causing any significant problems. In his view, they are simply "doing their thing."
However, there's another side to the story.
Residents like Jiayi, living near their common routes, express frustration at the persistent noise. Stu, another local, acknowledges their fun but wishes for a bit more consideration, saying: "It gets really annoying after a while to be honest. I get it they're having fun and all, but tone it down."
Monica shares her concern about the loud sounds since it upsets her four-year-old son. She adds that these riders often congregating on Broad Street made her feel as if she couldn’t live there, saying that it is a shame due to the cheap and affordable housing. “Just because somebody’s living in an affordable apartment, they don’t deserve it—they didn’t ask for ATVs,” comments Monica.
Nevertheless, Monica feels that dirt bikes and ATVs have become a visual representation of Philly culture, being used to reference Philadelphia in movies such as Creed. She also admits that dirt bikes and ATVs are a fun way for youth to enjoy the city. “There’s not a lot of stuff for young people to do. [...] Like how many other good options are there for you to do something that feels fun and free,” says Monica.
Surprisingly, when asked about incidents involving these riders, most people drew a blank. While accidents involving these riders have been reported, they are generally perceived as more of a nuisance than a significant threat. Monica sums up the public opinion well: "I don't think they're particularly harmful, which is good. It's not a good thing; it's like a neutral thing."
Despite the varying opinions, there is a common line among those interviewed: the need for stricter regulations. Jiayi proposes tighter noise regulations to preserve the peace and quiet of residential areas, possibly limiting the noise levels produced by these vehicles during specific hours.
Dibya, another resident, thinks that designated areas for these riders could provide a dedicated space that would reduce noise disruption while allowing Philly's ATV and dirt biking culture to thrive.
In the end, it's clear that Philadelphia's authorities must consider a new approach toward these riders. Balancing the preservation of this iconic aspect of Philly's culture with the quality of life for its residents is key. Stricter regulations and designated areas may be the path forward to achieve this delicate balance, ensuring that Philly remains the vibrant and diverse city it has always been.