Sterling OKs ordinance allowing nonhighway vehicles on most city streets

Hayden Goldie rides shotgun with Mark Imfeld on the Joe Stengel Trail in August. Local  UTV enthusiasts want to use the trail year-round, instead of just April through October, but snowmobilers are concerned  about the toll that wear and tear would take on the trails.

STERLING – Starting May 1, Sterling residents with utility terrain vehicles and certain other nonhighway vehicles will be able to buzz along many city streets.

The City Council on Monday approved an ordinance similar to those in place in Rock Falls and Dixon.

Under the new rules, from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, side-by-side utility-task and all-terrain vehicles can travel on city streets with speed limits of up to 35 mph, except for Lynn Boulevard, which will have marked crossings, and West Third and Fourth streets west of Avenue G. Those roads are prohibited.

They may travel only on city-owned roads. Once a road crosses city limits and the new stretch becomes the concern of Sterling Township or Whiteside County, nonhighway vehicles are not allowed.

By state law, such vehicles may cross but also are not allowed to travel on state roads such as Route 2 (Lincolnway) and Route 40 (Locust Street) or roads with a speed limit higher than 35 mph.

Sterling OKs nonhighway vehicle traffic by John Sahly on Scribd

Low-speed vehicles, such electric or gas-powered bicycles and golf carts, already are allowed on Sterling roads with speed limits of 30 mph or less, while power-driven personal mobility devices, such as seated scooters and Segways, are allowed almost anywhere pedestrians can go.

Under the new rules, vehicles must be inspected by the police department and meet certain equipment requirements, which are spelled out in the ordinance. In addition, annual city permits are required, drivers must be at least 18 with a valid driver’s license, and vehicles must have seat belts and be insured.

Permits will be issued from May 1 to April 30, will cost $100 the first year and $50 a year after that, with no prorations or refunds, and will not be transferable.

Lawn mowers and vehicles with a straddle seat and no steering wheel, such as dirt bikes and single-seat ATVs, are prohibited.

Sterling’s new ordinance is markedly similar to the one the Rock Falls City Council passed Nov. 2, 2022.

It was modeled after Dixon’s ordinance, now more than 7 years old.

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Kathleen Schultz

Kathleen A. Schultz

Kathleen Schultz is a Sterling native with 40 years of reporting and editing experience in Arizona, California, Montana and Illinois.