Galveston’s streets already are crowded with all kinds of vehicles — cars and trucks, bikes and scooters, duck boats, golf carts and horse-drawn carriages.
A new law might soon add to that crowd.
Gov. Greg Abbott signed House Bill 1548 earlier this month. The bill changes rules about how the state treats off-highway vehicles — things like all-terrain vehicles, golf carts and electric vehicles.
Perhaps most notably, it would allow owners of ATVs and the like to register and affix license plates to their off-road vehicles. It also allows cities and counties to adopt rules permitting such vehicles to be operated on public roads.
The bill technically went into effect when it was signed by Abbott earlier this month, but the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, which is responsible for titling and licensing, was still working on rules and other implementation details, a spokesman said.
A new license plate for an off-highway vehicle will cost no more than $10, spokesman Adam Shaivitz said.
For local off-road enthusiasts, the real question will be whether city governments act on the new law.
Jeremy Rozier, 39, of Galveston, owns both an ATV, what the layman might call a four-wheeler, and a UTV, or utility terrain vehicle. The larger vehicle looks like a souped-up version of a golf cart.
Rozier’s UTV can reach speeds of 60 mph, he said. That’s plenty of speed to keep up with traffic on the island roads, he said.
When he first bought the vehicle, Rozier tried to drive it on Seawall Boulevard during the island’s annual Mardi Gras celebrations. A Galveston police officer stopped him and made him load the vehicle back on his trailer, he said.
“He said, ‘Hey, you know that’s against the law?’” Rozier said. “I didn’t know.”
Galveston allows golf carts to drive on city streets where the speed limit is less than 35 mph.
Thanks to a speed limit change the city council approved in 2017, that now includes parts of Seawall Boulevard.
But for people like Rozier, the only places to ride legally are private property or public land designated for off-road vehicles, which includes beaches on Bolivar Peninsula.
The new law is a popular topic of discussion among off-roaders and Rozier hopes the city will take up the issue, he said.
“We’re all hoping that they allow us to start riding,” he said.
The city’s legal department had not been asked to draft any ordinances related to off-road vehicles using city streets, a city spokeswoman said.
Galveston County Commissioner Darrell Apffel, whose district includes Bolivar Peninsula, said he has heard frustrations from some residents who have to tow their vehicles to the beach on trailers.
He intended to look more into the law to see whether a change would be appropriate on the peninsula.
“It is very interesting, and I’m going to look into it further,” Apffel said. “It could be beneficial for the residents of Galveston County.”