by LAURA SMITH
ROCHESTER NY--A proposal to build a dedicated park for dirt bikes and off-road vehicles is gaining more traction in Rochester, after bikers shared at times moving testimony Tuesday about their reasons for riding.
During a public listening session organized by NYS Assemblymember Demond Meeks, biker "Deqwan" said riding was more than just a sport or a hobby.
"I love the mentorship from the older people, in terms of helping us fix our bikes, learn about bikes. It brought me together with a lot of people I didn't even know, and now I love them like brothers," Deqwan said.
At Tuesday's listening session, Meeks asked riders to give input on issues regarding helmet use, safe riding spaces, and police interactions over bike use on public roads.
Rider Lorenzo Jones questioned whether the creation of a police task force was a proportional response to the use of these vehicles.
"It feels like they're doing an attack against us, to make news about something, to make news that they're getting to the bottom of something," Jones said. "There should be task forces developed for a lot more other things besides us riding bikes."
Local legislative representatives were invited to listen and ask questions of the riders Tuesday. Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren surprised riders by asking them to provide three potential locations for an off-road vehicle park for which the City would commit to doing a cost assessment. The Mayor cautioned, however, that it could take several years to build a special facility.
Mayoral candidate, Malik Evans challenged that timeline, stating that it could be possible to implement short term options for a space to use this summer, while making longer term plans.
Monroe County Legislator Rachel Barnhart asked the riders for input on the impact of proposed fine increases being discussed both by the Monroe County Legislature and Rochester City Council.
Rider Raheim Drisdom says he doesn't think these fines would change behavior.
"I don't think it's going to make people stop riding, I think it's gonna make people run away more. It's gonna make things more dangerous," Drisdom said.
No definitive timeline for a park development was given but the City and County legislative proposals on increased fines are both due for consideration later this month.
LAURA SMITH is a volunteer reporter for Reclaiming the Narrative. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.