Bylaw to open off-road opportunities

The District of Sicamous is fine-tuning an off-road vehicle bylaw that will allow for ATVs and snowmobiles to access local trails from town via designated routes. File photo

Work is well underway on a bylaw that would permit the use of off-road vehicles in the District of Sicamous.

A draft of the off-road vehicle bylaw was on the agenda for Sicamous council’s the July 12 committee of the whole meeting. Coun. Gord Bushell says it is still a work in progress, as the district continues to to fine-tune the bylaw with input from the province and other agencies. This includes a recent conference call between the district, the RCMP, ICBC and a representative from the Union of B.C. Municipalities.

“So we just had a conversation and went through our bylaw and the regulations on how other communities are doing it,” said Bushell. “And maybe we’ll be looking at a test model too, like Chase is doing with the golf carts.

“We still have a little bit of work to do… we’re getting close. We’re working on some designated routes and things like that. The idea is just to get people to and from the hills, direct routes.”

Included with the draft bylaw is a map of proposed roads riders of sleds, and ATVs could use to directly access backcountry trails in the area. These “destination routes” include Sicamous’ “treed” streets, (Cedar, Maple, Pine and Spruce), Riverside Avenue, Finlayson Street, the highway frontage and roads connected to trail destination areas. Off-road vehicles would also be allowed to cross the Trans-Canada/Highway 97A signalled intersection.

“By law you’re allowed to cross the highway without any permits at all so long as you cross at a controlled intersection, controlled means a light or a sign,” said Bushell. “They do it in other communities. One thing about Sicamous though is we don’t have that cold, bitter weather that retains the snow. So you’ll need a little bit of snow to do that with.”

Regarding all designated routes, the current draft of the bylaw states no person shall operate an off-road vehicle on them “unless the use is for access to out-of-town trails via the shortest possible route.” In addition, off-road vehicles, be they ATV of snowmobile, are only allowed to use designated routes a half hour after sunrise to a half hour before sunset.

Drivers of off-road vehicles will be required to carry third-party liability insurance of at least $2 million and the vehicle must be registered with ICBC. Insurance is one aspect of the bylaw that is still being worked on. Bushell explains the higher risk associated with riding in town alongside motor vehicle traffic means a higher insurance rate for off-road vehicles.

“The risk is very low so the cost is very low – so for a quad, it’s like $28 that goes to ICBC,” said Bushell. “But if you’re in Chase and you’re doing a golf cart on the street, your insurance would actually be like $300… So we’re working out the bugs on the insurance.

“That would be up to the rider whether he wants to have insurance to operate on the roads – it’s mandatory on the mountains and it would have to be mandatory on the roads.”

Bushell adds the district is looking at having an annual licence sticker available for purchase that would show riders are properly insured to ride along designated routes.

The long-term vision of the bylaw, says Bushell, is to help grow Sicamous’ off-road vehicle/sledding industries, “especially in spring and fall when you have that lull, from September right through to November.”

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