BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Dirt bikers have raced through Baltimore for more than 50 years drawing spectators and terrifying others.
They’re illegal, but they can be seen dodging in and out of traffic, popping wheelies, sometimes causing accidents and even deaths — fueling controversy and outrage
WJZ’s Rick Ritter got a rare point of view, speaking with a dirtbiker himself, who says you’d be surprised at who’s behind the wheel, saying there are lawyers and even police officers who ride as well.
Through the streets of Baltimore, you’ve heard the engines, you’ve seen the accidents and even witnessed the deaths or close calls.
“I was bleeding from the back of the head,” Terrance said. “When you got the love for it, you just get back up and ride.”
But perhaps what you don’t know is the culture behind it all and just how deep it goes.
“If I was to give out a bike to every rider in this city, Baltimore city wouldn’t be able to do anything, anything but let it happen,” Terrance said.
The face was hidden in the dark, a Baltimore father of four who’s a professional by day. He’s been dirt biking for nearly 20 years.
A love Terrance said has not only changed his life but thousands of others.
Rick Ritter: Take me through the mindset of it and why you guys do what you do?
Terrance: It’s a stress reliever, I mean, everyone got a stress reliever… that dirt bike speaks volumes.
Instead of turning into another statistic —
“Just because I got on that dirt bike, it saved my life millions of times. Let’s subtract the dirt bikes, do the crime rate go up? Do the murders go up? Does it give these kids a chance to start beefing about whose shoes look better?” Terrance said.
While there’s no denying the popularity – Terrance said many would be floored, if they actually knew some of the riders behind the wheel.
“You’d be amazed man, celebrities that ride all the time, celebrities, there’s lawyers and doctors that ride,” Terrance said. “And another reason why people wear masks too would you want to see your doctor coming down Edmondson and Monroe on a dirt bike?
But with the bikes comes controversy. The videos of wheelies and stunts weaving in and out of traffic and taking over city streets as crowds watch on have all gone viral.
Rick: Dangerous, illegal, ridiculous — what your thoughts when you hear that?
Terrance: We know how far to take it. Stay in your own lane. If you hear a pack of bikes coming, keep driving, you slamming on breaks only going to cause an accident.
Getting out of their way isn’t always possible.
In 2015, two dirtbikers who were racing in the city struck and killed a 24-year-old woman and left the scene. Allison Blanding, the mother of a 6-year-old girl, was simply walking to her car at the metro parking lot in northwest Baltimore. The dirtbikers who caused her death were never caught.
“It’s not only dangerous to the pedestrians and citizens driving the streets, but it’s also dangerous to the riders themselves,” officials with Baltimore City Police said previously.
Police think dirtbikes are such a problem they formed a task force, with the sole focus of catching riders. They’ve confiscated more than 800 bikes and nine handguns.
“You mean to tell me all these murders are unsolved in Baltimore city and you made a special task force for dirt bikes?” Terrance asked.
In fact, Terrance feels dirt biking has long eased ‘beef’ on the streets.
“It’s not just an inner-city culture as far as a minority, everybody ride, everybody ride,” Terrance said.
Rick: You’re telling me dirt biking can bring people together and certainly ease those tensions?
Terrance: You could hate me right now and you live on one side of the street, but when we get on bikes, we could be best friends.
Terrance said he and his fellow bikers simply want a couple of hours a week to legally ride somewhere — what they feel could have a lasting impact on a city desperate to curb violence.
“Baltimore and DC cats have been beefing for years and it took a machine for a DC Person to say how you doing? What’s your name? I ride the same bike you ride. We’ve been walking past each other for years and then we created a bond off a machine. People don’t see that, said Terrance. “All these people are coming together for dirt biking and nothing negative is happening. It’s like everyone is waiting for something to happen. It’s like they want something corrupt to happen and it doesn’t.”
WJZ asked and this concept has absolutely no support from the police or the city.
Terrance compares dirtbiking to Aquille Carr, the former Baltimore city hoops star was nicknamed “The Crime Stopper” due to his alleged role in helping the crime rate drop, with crowds constantly packing the gymnasium to watch him play. He said if given the chance, dirtbiking could have the same impact.
“Everyone in the city was at the gym door, trying to get in. He was a crime stopper in his own way, playing basketball,” Terrance said. “We can be crime stoppers by using a machine. We don’t feel we cause danger. Actually, we feel we bring joy to families.”
It is illegal to operate a dirt bike on public or private property in the city and to own or possess a dirt bike unless it’s securely locked up.
If in violation of the law, it can be seized, police do not need a warrant to seize a bike.