Ontario Law Change Allows All Off-Road Vehicles Access to Public Roads

While it's still up to the local municipality to decide, the Ontario government allows for Side by Sides and UTVs to receive the same privileges that apply to ATVs.

More useful information has recently been published by the Ontario government regarding the use of UTV and SxS equipment in Ontario. Follow this link to Ontario Reg. 134/15 here. It details exactly the roads and highways in the province where UTV operation is permitted and the ones where it is not. Ontario Reg. 135/15 clearly describes exactly what type of equipment falls within this classification, read all about it here.

The one thing that needs to be clearly spelled out is that this designation simply changes the definition of an ATV to include UTV and SxS equipment. It DOES NOT supersede any municipal regulations that may be in place. If you could previously ride an ATV on the shoulder of the road in your area, you can now ride an SxS with a passenger(s) in the same fashion, and in accordance with the legal design of the vehicle, as long as you follow the regulations as linked above.

This is great news for our sport and the tourism industry for sure, but we can also be sure there are those that will not like these new regulations and they may well try to fight this at the municipal level which could result in the loss of road riding privileges for all types of ATV equipment in a particular area.

What all of us need to do is be absolute ambassadors for our sport and ride well below our speed limits, especially within any town or residential type areas, wear all mandatory safety equipment, show extreme respect for cars and pedestrians, signal our turns, keep our bikes quiet and never even blip the throttle where it might bother anybody. Rear-view mirrors, while not mandatory for all types of equipment, are a real safety asset when riding on the road; they are a great and cheap addition to any bike. Follow the law, and don’t be a dummy, or even accommodate the few idiots that have the ability to wreck it for all of us.

See you on the trails!  Legally. 

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This is the single most important news to benefit ATV / UTV riders in Ontario basically since the inception of the sport! The provincial government has finally legalized (as of July 1, 2015) all of the varieties of ATV: That goes for all 2-ups, all UTVs and Side-by-Sides that were, until now, illegal to ride on any public road in Ontario. Read the Ontario government news release here, and my fall 2014 article here.

This applies to any municipality that has previously approved the riding of single passenger ATVs on the road in their catchment areas, and local rules still apply, such as not on certain roads, divided four lane highways, etc.  Helmets, seat belts (where applicable) must be worn at all times, speed limits must be obeyed (generally, 20 km in a 50 km speed limit or less, and 50 km in posted areas over 50 km), insurance, plates, all the normal rules apply. 

Click here to learn more about purchasing, insurance, permits and regulations for ATVing in Ontario

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Riders will still need to know the local regulations, particularly in southern Ontario where many areas do not permit riding on any public road, and this legislation changes nothing for them, leaving local governments to permit or deny access as they see fit.

I do suspect many smaller towns and tourist-oriented areas will take another look at this now, as many of us want to be able to get into, or at least close enough to towns so that we can get fuel, eat, stay in local accommodations and generally support the local economies of areas that have trail systems, and even ones that don’t. Farmers, for instance, have a lot of equipment like this and need to access their fields, etc. by using public roads to get there. Many of us have been bogged down with this issue for years, forcing us to risk a $110 ticket to simply get from one trailhead to another because roads are the only way to make the connection, where notably, 1-up ATVs were already perfectly legal, as are 2-up snowmobiles in the areas that permit riding on the road.

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The best part about this legislation is that it should (will) prove to enhance our sport in general. It will increase sales for equipment dealers. Many of us who have been putting off getting a SxS because of the legal issues around them will be more likely to buy one now. It will also help get those of us who can’t, or would prefer not to drive, out into to the bush to enjoy our practically endless trail systems. The riders in our neighbouring provinces and states will also be much more interested in spending their tourism dollars in Ontario now that it is becoming legal.

Don’t forget to support the local ATV clubs who make all of this possible, by purchasing trail passes, memberships, and even volunteer to help out. The revenue is essential to maintain our awesome trail systems!  This will also enhance the resort and motel operators, restaurants, gas stations and others who supply and support our sport. Great news for the tourism industry in Ontario and our sport in general!

About Adam Columbus

Adam is the former webmaster for the Algonquin West ATV club webmasters. He lives north of Huntsville, Ontario with his family. He is also an ex-business owner from the GTA who is now semi-retired.

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