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#ATLBikeLife returns, enraging residents and puzzling police

One solution calls for 'safe space' where dirt bike and ATV riders can seek thrills

On the afternoon of June 28, hundreds of ATV and dirt bike riders roared across the city. The thrill-seekers popped wheelies and performed acrobatic tricks as they ran red lights, rode on sidewalks, and brought traffic to a halt.

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The massive group's defiance of the law has drawn the ire of community members who have demanded that the city clamp down on the increasingly chaotic rides. APD officers, limited by a strict no-chase policy hampering their response, have joined New York, Baltimore, and other cities' police forces in a struggle to resolve what many consider a growing problem.

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For the past several years, #ATLBikeLife, a loose collective of mostly black off-road vehicle operators, have spent Sundays illegally riding dirt bikes and ATVs on Atlanta's streets and through the city's parks. Group leaders insist their rides are a peaceful alternative to what might otherwise be a life of crime or drugs for the participants. Calls to the organizers about the latest ride were not returned.

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As the number of riders flooding the streets has increased, so have the number of residents frustrated over the damage done to public greenspace and the disregard for their neighborhoods.

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"I'm disappointed all the way around," says Capitol View resident Joe Miller, who moved to the neighborhood last October. "A majority at-risk demographic making yet another poor anti-social choice for a public outlet, city and police leaders displaying ineptitude, and the failure of black leadership at every level to be a voice of reason and guidance for these men."

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APD officials, who last summer pledged to adopt a new strategy, have not yet corralled the riders. Zone 3 Commander Major Jeffery Glazier says the department last weekend arrested two riders, impounded several off-road vehicles, and offered an up-to-$2,000 reward for information about suspects who smashed a patrol car's windshield.

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"This continues to be a challenge for us and many cities around the country," Glazier says. "We are keenly aware of the dangers they pose to pedestrians and drivers as they race down our streets. Their behavior has become increasingly aggressive toward law enforcement."

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Cabbagetown resident Libby Quattrocchi, a longtime motorcyclist and off-road vehicle owner, wants to establish a dedicated intown park for dirt bike and ATV riders to ride freely.

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Plans for a dirt bike park are still in the early stages, with no specific location or funding source determined. Ideally, Quattrocchi says, park proponents could create Atlanta's version of Durhamtown, a 6,000-acre "off road resort" located approximately 90 miles east of the city, since many riders don't have access to cars or trailers.

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One potential space floated for the site is the Old Atlanta Prison Farm, a long-neglected 400-plus-acre site in southeast Atlanta. Another one of the group's ideas, a dedicated lane for motorized vehicles on the Atlanta Beltline, was quickly swatted down by a project official. For Quattrocchi, the location is less important than the simple need for a space, wherever that may be.

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"We need a space to accommodate various groups," Quattrocchi says. "The city is getting more and more people moving in, and more Atlantans are riding motorcycles and vehicles like that. We're trying to create a safe space."



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