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City mulls restricting all-purpose vehicle use on the streets of Kodiak

Photo; Kirsten Dobroth/KMXT
Photo; Kirsten Dobroth/KMXT

All-purpose vehicles, like off-road side-by-sides and all-terrain vehicles, can legally travel Alaskan roadways. Last fall, the governor’s office announced the relaxed regulations, and they went into effect this past weekend, but those changes might be short-lived on parts of Kodiak Island.

Kodiak City Council will have a first reading next week of a draft ordinance to limit APV use within city limits.

“It is a very straightforward and simple ordinance on keeping APVs off city limits roads as they are now,” said Kodiak Mayor Pat Branson. “That’s the recommendation from the police chiefs association – state association – and that’s the one that’s coming forward being recommended by our police chief as well.”

The new rules might work for other smaller, more rural areas, but Branson said allowing APVs to merge with traffic somewhere like Mill Bay Road, which connects downtown to Safeway in a 35 mile per hour zone, could be dangerous for drivers.

The rule change rolled out over the weekend automatically applies to cities across the state allowing APVs on roads 45 miles per hour and under. Branson said communities should’ve been given the option to opt-in, instead of drafting ordinances opting out of the loosened regulations.

“I’ve heard both sides of the story from different constituents,” she said. “The most important thing for me is that you don’t put a policy in place, have some tragic event occur and then try and change the policy.”

Meantime, the Kodiak Police Department reminds residents that the new rules don’t mean it’s open season for APVs. That’s an important clarification, says Kodiak Police Department public information officer Francis de la Fuente.

“January 1 is only the start when you can start registering your vehicle, you can’t use your ATV right off the bat January 1,” said de la Fuente.

Once an APV is registered, drivers need to follow the rules of the road.

“You have to drive it like a car, basically,” explained de la Fuente.

That means turn signals, functioning headlights, tail and brake lights and front and rear license plates. Drivers will need a valid driver’s license and proof of insurance, according to the new rules, and passengers will also have to wear helmets. There’s guidelines for seat belts too.

Mayor Branson says a first reading of the draft ordinance restricting APV use will be on January 13. And any new rule change would only apply to streets within Kodiak city limits. A public hearing and second reading of the order is set for January 27th.