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Off road motorcycles - the law and reporting incidents

The law on riding off-road

If you own or ride one of these vehicles it is your responsibility to know the law. You can only ride an off-road motorbike legally if it is on private land and you have the land owner’s permission. Land owned by the local council is not classed as private land. Council land includes the beaches, promenades, car parks and parks.

Off road motorbikes are regarded as motor vehicles which must comply with Construction and Use regulations 1986, and be built to a specific standard in order to be ridden on a public highway. If they are to be used on a public highway all off road motorbikes must have: DVLA registration (log book), road tax, a valid MOT, fitted, working lights and registration plates.

The rider must be aged 17 or over (or 16 if the vehicle meets the definition of a moped), hold a valid driving licence (and must ride their vehicle in accordance with the licence held, including learner's driving licence), have valid motor insurance and wear suitable safety equipment, for example a motorbike helmet. If the above conditions are not met, it is illegal to ride an off road motorbike on the road. Failure to comply with the law can result in prosecution under the Road Traffic Act 1988 and Police Reform Act 2002. Riders could be banned from driving, fined, or could face prison.

To some this may seem like 'harmless fun', but we have to respond to reports of children and young adults with serious injuries who were illegally riding without wearing any protective clothing or helmet.

We work closely with the police, housing providers and other agencies to use civil powers under the ASB, Crime and Policing Act 2014. This law allows the police to use injunctions, protection orders and dispersal orders to protect our communities. It also allows us to impose conditions on those riding the bikes.

Riders, and in some cases parents who are held accountable for the actions of their children, can be arrested and prosecuted, and illegal off-road bikes can be seized and crushed.

Harassment, alarm and distress

Section 59 of the Police Reform Act 2002, makes it an offence for a motor vehicle to be used on a road or public place in a manner which causes harassment, alarm or distress. This includes the noise which is caused by off-road machines that are fitted with exhaust systems that do not conform to road standards. A noisy exhaust is a common factor for complaint.

Those people who ride horses or walk on common land can also be distressed or alarmed by the presence of a loud machine in a usually quiet setting. In such cases the police have the power to warn the user of the bike to remove it and if it persists have the machine seized and destroyed.