By Mike Anderson

It’s now legal to drive off-road vehicles (ORVs), like ATVs, on designated town roads as long as they are certified, plated and insured.

The designated roads include Lake Drive and most side streets – private roads are exempted – in the Waterfront Park Buffer Zone (WPBZ) and a section of Pefferlaw, referred to as the Ward 5 Catchment Area.

The WPBZ, created in 2020, includes the entire shoreline area of Lake Simcoe and town roads in lakeside neighbourhoods like Island Grove, Willow Beach and Jackson’s Point.

The Ward 5 Catchment Area includes town roads within the boundaries of Park Rd, Old Homestead Rd, Weir’s Sideroad, Ravenshoe Rd, Lakeridge Rd, and Highway 48.

While ORVs are now legal on these roads, operators must wear helmets, abide by speed limits, and have at least a G-class license, meaning operators under 16 are prohibited.

On January 17, council voted unanimously to enact the ORV bylaw, which is currently in effect from two hours before sunrise to two hours after sunset.

While the bylaw will end on April 15, prohibiting ORVs from all town roads. According to a Town spokesperson, it will remain in force so bylaw officers can ticket ORVs operating illegally.

This follows council’s approval of the ORV pilot project on November 22, 2023, proposed by Mike Hutchinson, the Town’s Manager of Municipal Law Enforcement, allowing ORVs to legally access the lake during the ice fishing season by using town roads in the WPBZ.

Previously, it was illegal to drive ORVs on any town road.

Under the new bylaw, ORVs may cross regional roads – only at a 90-degree angle – to reach town roads. But, it is still illegal to operate ORVs along regional roads, like Metro Rd. And, while ORVs may cross Highway 48 to access the WPBZ, they remain prohibited on provincial highways.

The bylaw also prohibits ORVs from driving on boulevards and sidewalks.

And ORVs must stay on the shoulder of the road, travelling in the same direction as traffic. If there is no shoulder, ORVs may travel in the middle of the road.

According to Hutchinson, the speed limit for ORVs is 20km if the posted speed limit is 50km per hour or less. However, if the posted speed limit is 50km or above, ORVs may travel at 50km.

The bylaw permits four types of ORVs on town roads: Terrain Vehicles (ATVs), Extreme Terrain Vehicles (XTVs), Multi-Purpose Off-Highway Utility Vehicles (UTVs), and Recreational Off-Highway Vehicles (ROVs).

However, off-road motorcycles, also known as dirt bikes, remain prohibited.

The bylaw also prohibits golf carts, which are not technically considered ORVs.

However, according to Hutchinson, staff may consider allowing golf carts on town roads, pending the results of a provincial pilot project that has approved their use in two municipalities.

York Regional Police and municipal bylaw officers will enforce the bylaw.

YRP can now issue a $100 ticket for traffic violations, like speeding.

However, the Town cannot levy fines until it receives approval from the Ministry of the Attorney General’s Office (MAG).

Still, it has asked MAG to approve fines of up to $500 for ORV bylaw infractions.

“The point of us going for $500 fines is to provide a deterrent and encouragement to follow the provisions in the bylaw,” Hutchinson told council.

Although a Town spokesperson could not provide a time frame for the MAG approval, severe bylaw violations can still be enforced through a summons.

Mayor Quirk added that she hopes the “good” ORV drivers will step in and self-police, helping to reduce the need for enforcement.

“We want to make sure this is a success. So we need the good riders, the ones who have said we’re just out here to get to the lake…to step up and to work with us and to get out information to the bad players,” she said.

“We all know that’s what happens. Some people go into our parks now and think it’s fun to do wheelies, create havoc, and whip up and down side streets at a high speed.”

Ward 1 Councillor Charlene Biggerstaff also expressed concerns that ORV users might use Town parks and road ends to access the lake.

She suggested access points, like the boat launch at Rayner’s Park, should have signage so ORV drivers know where they should access the lake.

However, a town spokesperson said new signage would not be erected during the pilot, although access points would be identified on the off-road vehicle webpage.

According to Hutchinson, staff will report back to council on the pilot project’s results in late spring or early summer. At that time, council will decide whether to extend the bylaw, make it permanent, or repeal it.

“We will be tracking all complaints,” he told council. And, “staff plan on working very closely with York Regional Police on educating the public and enforcing the bylaw.”

To find out more about the bylaw, visit