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Watch now: How UTVs could be used under North Platte's proposed ordinance
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Watch now: How UTVs could be used under North Platte's proposed ordinance

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More workhorse than mustang: How UTVs could be used under North Platte's proposed ordinance

In the wake of North Platte’s most recent snowfall Jan. 5-6, Midwest Cycle & ATV owner Justin Cleveland demonstrates one of the practical winter uses of “utility-type vehicles” that soon may become legal on city streets. Cleveland, who services UTVs in the former Ellett’s Automotive bulding at 111 E. 11th St., had just attached the snowplow blade for Jarid Childears of rural North Platte, who owns the Polaris UTV shown here. The North Platte City Council will hold second-round debate Tuesday on an ordinance allowing UTVs on city streets except for U.S. Highways 30 and 83. UTV drivers could cross those highways, however.

Today’s off-road vehicles come in different breeds, just like the West’s most famous open-range transportation. (Yes, we mean horses.)

So if North Platte’s proposed UTV ordinance has you confusing them with all-terrain vehicles, just imagine that the City Council of the 1890s was thinking of allowing workhorses but not barely tamed mustangs on city streets.

The 2022 council Tuesday will hold second-round debate on the ordinance, which would let “utility-type vehicles” be driven on streets other than state highways.

UTVs could cross those highways — Rodeo Road/East 12th Street, Newberry Access, Jeffers Street and South Dewey Street — under the tweaked draft ordinance the council advanced 7-0 on Jan. 4.

But classic ATVs — best known for their lack of roofs — would remain forbidden on streets and highways under both city ordinance and state law.

North Platte’s ordinance would follow state law in defining UTVs as “any motorized off-highway vehicle” that weighs 1 ton or less, drives on four or more “nonhighway tires” and is no more than 74 inches wide or 15 feet long.

Council members could attach additional conditions to the ordinance before granting final approval either Tuesday or Feb. 1. They added rear-view mirrors to the measure’s list of required safety equipment on Jan. 4.

North Platte servicers and retailers of UTVs and ATVs said they’d be surprised if local motorists would face swarms of UTVs on city streets.

“I just don’t see it,” said Steve Budke, owner of Budke Powersports of North Platte. “First, you have to own one. Second, you have to have a use.”

But Budke and other supporters said some people in or near town who use UTVs on their farms, ranches or acreages would appreciate the chance to drive them across the city rather than plop them on a trailer for a relatively short trip.

Besides, they added, they’re also handy and popular this time of year for plowing snow off driveways or parking lots.

“I could see guys who need to go onto the street a couple miles to get to their next farm or field would appreciate the convenience,” said Justin Cleveland, who opened his Midwest Cycle & ATV repair and outfitting business last April at 111 E. 11th St.

It shouldn’t be said, though, that UTVs are the multiwheeled equivalent of workaday Belgians or Percherons.

If the ordinance passes, local fans and retailers said, you might see a few sport UTVs when summer comes. But unlike the West’s flashiest equine with working blood — the quarter horse — they’re probably not headed for a ranch pasture near you.

Cleveland said sport UTVs typically get their workouts on established off-road trails or sandy dunes.

Trails in the Nebraska National Forest’s Bessey Ranger Division at Halsey are a popular local destination for west central Nebraska sport UTV users, he said.

Midwest Cycle & ATV doesn’t sell either UTVs or ATVs, said Cleveland, who cut his professional teeth working on both types in Hastings and North Platte.

He and his wife, Ashley, bought the longtime home of Ellett’s Automotive for their new business after Dave and Carlyn Burkholder built an all-new shop nearby at 202 Rodeo Road.

After the area’s latest snowfall Jan. 5-6, Justin Cleveland was working on such projects as attaching a snowplow blade for the season to a shiny blue Polaris UTV owned by Jarid Childears of North Platte.

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Childears, who lives on an acreage in the Indian Hills subdivision along South Buffalo Road, said he bought his UTV in 2018.

“I bought that UTV to work cattle,” he said. But in the winter, “I put the blade on it to especially move snow either at my parents’ place, where the cattle are, or at my house.”

Tim Hart, 2201 W. Fifth St., said he asked some council members last fall to consider a UTV ordinance. He grazes cattle on land on both ends of North Platte, with Buffalo Bill Avenue connecting them.

He’d rather load feed, water and fenceposts onto a UTV and drive it between his pastures, he told council members.

With today’s prices of pickup trucks, he added, “I’d rather tear up a $15,000 machine than a new pickup.”

Charles Matson, 915 East F St., told City Council members Jan. 4 he has to tow his sport UTV 70 miles one way to use it for recreational purposes.

He supports making them street-legal in North Platte for the benefit of those who use them either for fun or work. “I think it’ll also help our landscape companies that also do snow removal,” he said.

Cleveland, Budke and Tom Maxwell, owner of Maxwell’s Off-Road & Kawasaki, said Stapleton and some other nearby smaller towns have allowed UTVs on their streets for some time.

They’ve been allowed for about a decade in Cheyenne, Wyoming, Maxwell added.

North Platte Police Department officials modeled the current draft UTV ordinance after one in Norfolk, Police Chief Steve Reeves told the council Jan. 4.

It would let such vehicles be driven on non-state highways between sunrise and sunset by people at least 18 years old with valid driver’s licenses or farm permits. They couldn’t be driven faster than 25 or 30 mph, depending on speed limits.

The ordinance’s language received good reviews from Cleveland and local retailers, though Budke said he has been nervous about making UTVs street-legal in the past.

“You get in a tug-of-war with an automobile, and you’re going to lose if you’re the occupant of that side-by-side,” he said, using another term for UTVs.

Even if the council passes the ordinance, Budke added, manufacturer’s stickers on such vehicles “are saying not to mix these up with the automobile or pickup world.”

But he said he’s impressed with the quality of the proposed ordinance, including its limits on who can drive them and where.

“I think this (measure) is well-considered,” Budke said.

It also uses common sense in closely following what state law does and doesn’t allow, said Maxwell, Budke’s UTV retailing peer in North Platte.

“As far as a danger standpoint, I don’t see anything dangerous about having them out there,” he said.

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