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 A Westminster Hall debate on “Anti-social behaviour and off-road bikes” has been scheduled for Thursday 26 May 2022 from 1.30-3pm. The debate has been initiated by Grahame Morris MP.

The issue

Off-road bikes include a range of vehicles such as quad bikes and motorbikes, including scramblers and mini-motos. For many years there has been a problem whereby off-road bikes are being driven in a dangerous and anti-social manner and causing a nuisance. There have been incidents off-road bikes being driven in parks, on pavements and in other public spaces, resulting in injuries to riders and the public and damage to parks, fields, green spaces and private property.

Legislation

Off-road bikes can be used on private land, with the landowner’s permission. The Road Traffic Act 1988 includes provisions that make it illegal to drive a mechanically propelled vehicle on land where permission has not been given. The Road Traffic Act 1988 (section 34) states that:

It is illegal to drive or ride a mechanically propelled vehicle without lawful authority on common land, moorland or land not forming part of a road, or on any road which is a footpath, bridleway or restricted byway.

It should be noted that unsurfaced unclassified roads (often know as green roads or green lanes) and byways open to all traffic (BOATs) are roads, so riders would need to have a driving licence and insurance, and the quad bike must be taxed and registered (as per the Road Traffic Act). To ride on public land (e.g. parks) riders would need the local authority’s permission.

Legislation also covers the use of such vehicles on the road. Both quad bikes and motorbikes must conform to the Road Vehicles (Construction & Use) Regulations 1986 and riders must fulfil various regulations under the Road Traffic Act 1988. This means such bikes must be approved, registered, taxed and have an MOT (if needed) to be used on the road.

There are various legal provisions that could apply when motorised bikes are being ridden off-road:

  • Under section 34 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 the driving of motor vehicles off road and on public land is prohibited.
  • Persons riding a quad bike could on a footpath, bridleway or restricted bridleway would be guilty of an offence under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000.
  • Even if someone has permission to ride a quad bike on land, if they are found to be riding “dangerously” or “carelessly” (as defined by the Road Traffic Act 1991) they would be guilty of an offence even when they are driving off-road.
  • Under Section 59 Police Reform Act 2002, officers can seize vehicles which are being used illegally, including prohibited off-road use. There have been occasions where the police have used these powers to seize off-road bikes.
  • Noise issues can be dealt with by the local council under statutory nuisance noise legislation as provided by the Environmental Protection Act 1990. This Act places a duty on the local authority to investigate complaints of noise nuisance and serve a noise abatement notice against people who cause a “statutory nuisance.” You can read about nuisance noise complaints in the Library’s briefing on nuisance complaints (30 November 2017).
  • If riders are caught causing criminal damage they can be arrested under the Criminal Damage Act 1971.

In addition, the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 includes powers the police, councils and other local agencies can use to tackle anti-social behaviour involving off-road bikes. In January 2021, the Home Office published statutory guidance to frontline professionals on these powers.

The Government’s position

In response to a written question about anti-social behaviour caused by off-road bikes, the Minister for State for Crime and Policing, Kit Malthouse MP, in December 2021, explained that the Government has provided the police, councils and other agencies with a “range of tools and powers” to response to anti-social behaviour, including “anti-social incidents involving off-road bikes.” The Minister added that areas can decide “how best to deploy these powers depending on the specific circumstances.” The Minister, in response to a separate question, confirmed the Government has no plans to bring forward a national strategy to address these issues.

Recent developments

There have been a series of attempts to use Private Members Bills to tackle the issue of anti-social behaviour of off-road bikes. The latest of these was introduced by Judith Cummins, MP for Bradford South. The Quad Bike Bill would have:

  • require those riding quad bikes on public roads to wear a helmet;
  • extend the registration requirements for legal on-road quad bikes to off-road bikes; and
  • tackle dangerous driving and anti-social behaviour.

This Bill was introduced in March 2022, but will make no further progress. The Library’s note on the Off-Road Vehicles (Registration) Bill, introduced in the 2006-07 session, provides background on some of the previous attempts to legislate on this issue.


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