Toby Jenkins drives his ATV across First Avenue on Sept. 4. Snohomish permanently adopted an ordinance allowing ATVs on city streets. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Toby Jenkins drives his ATV across First Avenue on Sept. 4. Snohomish permanently adopted an ordinance allowing ATVs on city streets. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

‘The wind in your hair’: ATVs can stay on Snohomish streets

After a year-long pilot program, the city council voted to permanently open city streets to all-terrain vehicles.

SNOHOMISH — The streets of Snohomish are open to wheeled all-terrain vehicles for good.

After a year-long pilot program, the city council passed an ordinance last month that permits ATVs on city streets with speed limits of 35 mph or slower. That includes nearly all of Snohomish’s streets.

Not a single resident complained about ATVs throughout the pilot, city engineer Yosh Monzaki said. The police department did not issue any speeding tickets or traffic violations to riders, and no accidents involving ATVs were reported.

“We’re pretty good at policing ourselves,” said Austin Finch, who lives in unincorporated Snohomish County near Monroe.

He’s part of a group that pushed to get similar ordinances passed in other cities such as Monroe, Sultan, Gold Bar, Darrington, Granite Falls and Lake Stevens.

The Snohomish ordinance will mirror state requirements. Those include wearing a motorcycle helmet, unless the ATV has seat belts and roll bars or an enclosed compartment for the driver and passengers. The state also requires safety features such as headlights and turn signals.

Drivers must be licensed, and their ATVs need to be registered.

There won’t be any additional cost to the city.

A web of rural county roads with speed limits 35 mph or under can carry WATV riders as far east as Gold Bar. (Snohomish County)

A web of rural county roads with speed limits 35 mph or under can carry WATV riders as far east as Gold Bar. (Snohomish County)

The new law turns ATVs from an off-road toy into a multi-use vehicle, Snohomish-area resident Toby Jenkins said. It used to be illegal for him to ride from his house into town. Now he takes his ATV to get lunch, grab groceries or cruise down First Street.

What’s the appeal?

“The wind in your hair,” said Paul Sterley, who lives just outside Snohomish. “You’re experiencing the world around you with more potency.”

It’s the thrill of a motorcycle with the safety of a cage and seatbelt.

“Its kind of that perfect mix,” Finch said.

Some people also like the gas mileage.

The Snohomish ordinance added a link to a growing chain of connectivity for ATV riders in East Snohomish County. Last year, the county opened some roads east of Highway 9 and some north of Marysville to the vehicles.

A web of rural county roads with speed limits 35 mph or under can now carry riders as far as Gold Bar. There’s currently no legal way to ride an ATV between Gold Bar and Sultan, since U.S. 2 is the only road connecting the two communities. From Sultan, operators can take May Creek Road or Reiter Road to popular trails in the Reiter Foothills Forest.

Julia-Grace Sanders: 425-339-3439; jgsanders@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @sanders_julia.

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