Quad bikes bill will help police tackle noise and safety issue in Bradford and beyond - Judith Cummins

THE constant, loud, piercing drone of quad bikes is an all too familiar sound in many of our towns and cities. These vehicles have important and legitimate uses in agriculture and related industries, but they are tools, not toys, and their careless, reckless and unsafe use on our streets is a menace.

My constituents have had enough. Most issues are not caused by road-legal quad bikes, which, like any road vehicle, must be registered, have an MOT and be driven by a responsible adult with a licence and insurance.

Instead, our streets are plagued by quads legal only for off-road use, which do not require registration. Most off-road quads are not approved for use on public highways precisely because they do not meet road safety standards. The lack of registration also means that they are harder to trace by police.

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The anti-social use of quads centres in cities and the suburbs, but the vehicles used are often stolen from farms. The National Farmers’ Union estimates that some 1,100 quad bikes are stolen from farms each year, costing farmers upwards of £3m. If just a fraction of those end up on public roads, that is hundreds of illegal quads running rampant on our streets. These vehicles are designed for herding animals in fields, not tearing up Tarmac in our towns and cities.

Picture: Adobe.Picture: Adobe.
Picture: Adobe.

Data from West Yorkshire Police shows that anti-social quad use is a growing problem. There were over 10,000 reports of anti-social use of quads and bikes in West Yorkshire in 2021, a shocking 42 per cent rise on the previous year.

The problems of anti-social quads are threefold. At the most basic level, they are a disruptive and persistent noise nuisance. Just one anti-social quad rider ripping through a neighbourhood will disturb hundreds and hundreds of residents. That constant noise causes distress to residents and undermines public confidence in our police.

They also damage the local landscape, tearing up fields, green spaces, embankments and parks. Only last week, a constituent contacted me about a convoy of no fewer than seven quads racing between families on park space. On more than one occasion, community sports groups in my constituency have had to cancel or postpone matches and training because of damage to their local playing fields from quads.

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Most seriously, they are a risk to other road users. I recently spoke with a constituent who told me they had seen a young person on a quad weaving through traffic on two wheels on a busy A road in excess of 40 miles per hour, a danger to every road user and pedestrian nearby. What was the rider’s choice of

headwear? Was it a helmet to protect their life? No, it was a balaclava to protect their identity.

I propose to make wearing a helmet compulsory for all quad users on public highways. In Northern Ireland, it is already a requirement. Why that is not the case in the rest of the United Kingdom is a mystery.

Police have powers to seize these vehicles, but they still face an uphill struggle. The police will always prioritise public safety. Where they judge they cannot risk injury to pedestrians, other road users, the rider or their officers, they will not give chase to quads. So to take action, police must link a quad being used anti-socially to an owner with an address.

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That can take hundreds and hundreds of hours of police time, piecing together official reports from the public, scouring community intelligence on social media or reviewing CCTV from businesses such as petrol stations for that one frame showing the rider’s face, all to make a strong enough case to act.

That work does get results. In Leeds, after a ride out involving over 100 vehicles in 2016, police were able to take action that resulted in 13 convictions, with sentences between 12 months and two years. However, it is labour-intensive and should any one link in the chain break, the police can do little.

My Quad Bikes Bill also proposes extending the registration scheme for licensed road-legal quads to cover all quad bikes, including those allowed for off-road use only. That establishes a clear line of ownership right from the point of sale. It means that, once seized, stolen quads can be more easily returned to their rightful owner.

Finally, police will be empowered so that, once they have taken a problem quad off the road, they can make sure it stays off the road.

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We need to stop seeing these vehicles as toys. If we continue to let them slip through the cracks in legislation, we will fail to protect legitimate owners from needless theft, we will fail to protect residents dealing with chronic noise and we will fail to protect all road users and pedestrians who remain at risk.

It is time we brought in measures to provide consistency, protect road users and legitimate owners of quads, and stop the blight of their dangerous and anti-social use on our streets and paths.

Judith Cummins is Labour MP for Bradford South and presented her Quad Bikes Safety Bill to Parliament – this is an edited version.