The mini-motorbike menace

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    The mini-motorbike menace
    By Denise Winterman
    BBC News Magazine

    Not a child’s toy
    They are marketed as toys but have resulted in four deaths. Now, with sales booming, the mini-motorbike has become a national menace, prompting the government to act.

    How can a five-year-old child get points on a driving licence they are too young to even have? By driving a mini-motorbike.

    The bikes stand barely 2ft high, can travel at speeds of up to 60mph, make an ear-splitting noise as they fly past and have become a modern-day menace.

    Also known as mini-motos or pocket bikes, they are marketed as children’s toys and youngsters do not require any formal training or licence to ride them.

    But if a child is caught riding one on the road, pavement or in a public place they will now face prosecution, just like adults do. Any penalty points handed out by the court will be kept on file and activated as soon as they are old enough to apply for a driving licence at 17.

    Insurance companies can refuse to insure them once they have passed their driving test. At the very least, their premium will be sky high. It is just one move by the government to crack down on the menace.

    Cheap imports

    The machines are marketed as toys and sold as being suitable for children as young as five, but four deaths have already been attributed to them, says the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents. It fears there will be more, and wants the bikes banned.

    Source: Home Office

    The deaths include a six-year-old boy who died when he lost control of his mini-motorbike while being chased by a dog. A two-year-old boy also suffered serious head injuries after trying to ride his brother’s bike.

    “These vehicles are not toys,” says Home Secretary John Reid. “I want to see irresponsible drivers stopped and if necessary their bikes crushed.”

    The bikes normally cost about £1,000, but cheap Chinese imports – selling for as little as £100 – have recently flooded the market. Basic safety features are often omitted to minimise costs but they are still capable of speeds of 60mph or more, says the Motor Cycle Industry Association (MCIA).

    Sales are booming. According to Revenue & Customs, there has been a 20-fold increase in the number of Chinese imports coming into the UK, rocketing from 7,000 in 2001 to 144,000 in 2005.

    “Parents think they’re toys, but they’re proper racing machines and extremely dangerous in the wrong hands,” says Julian Hayward, managing director of Wiltshire-based Minimoto Racing.

    “Even the most watchful parents cannot prevent a tragedy and children should only be allowed to ride them at organised centres where they can receive proper tuition.”

    Creating a buzz

    The cheap bikes are easy to buy, especially on the internet. But information on how to ride them safely is not getting to the user because the people selling them are not specialists – they are just making a quick buck, says Mr Haywood.

    Not only did I break several bones in my leg, but the handlebars were also embedded in my leg

    Mini-moto crash victim Jamie Rubio
    A leading importer of quality mini-motorbikes and a race organiser, his company sells racing bikes costing £800 to £3,000. It advises anyone who buys a bike about the race circuit in the area, but cannot force them to use it.

    “Last week we had two kids who drove their mini-bikes down a dual carriageway to get here and have a go on our circuit,” he says.

    “That’s incredibly dangerous and illegal, but I could only warn them of the dangers. They just got back on their bikes and drove home on the same dual carriageway. I ended up calling the police.”

    Why the bikes are so popular needs little explanation. “It’s the buzz,” says Mr Haywood. “The adrenalin really gets pumping when you are going 60mph on a bike that is just 18 inches off the floor.”

    But they can only be ridden legally on private land, with the owner’s consent. Mostly they are used illegally on roads, pavements and in public parks and are being blamed for blighting people’s lives.

    The bikes have become such a nuisance in Coventry that the local council has given police six new off-road motorbikes costing £40,000 to hunt down the culprits. It has also seized and crushed more than 80 bikes and obtained three Asbos where people are prohibited from riding mini-motorcycles.

    Noise annoyance

    Apart from being dangerous, the bikes are extremely loud and in many cases break acceptable noise levels. In Reading 44% of all calls to the council’s anti-social behaviour hotline are to do with the mini-motorbikes and the noise they create. Kent Police received 4,000 calls about them last year alone.

    “These bikes are blighting people’s lives, tearing up public parks and even causing death on roads,” says Alison King, chair of the Local Government Association’s (GLA) children and young people board. “Councils and police will seize and crush bikes that are driven on public land.”

    Must be over 17
    Wear suitable crash helmet
    Hold a valid driving licence
    Be insured
    She’s not joking. Some councils are even crushing the bikes publicly to get their message across.

    Southwark Council in London crushed mini-motorbikes seized by the authority and police in the middle of a local estate and had a blacksmith on hand to make the debris into street furniture for the area.

    Within the motorcycling community, the illegal use of the bikes is also causing outrage. The MCIA says poor quality, unsafe mini-bikes and their misuse are “damaging the image of motorcycling”.

    “Mini-bikes are designed for young people to enjoy their first experiences of motorcycling and it is imperative the machines are safe and used in the correct environment,” says spokesman Craig Carey-Clinch.

    “The misuse of mini-bikes is creating a negative image of motorcycling and having a detrimental on responsible and committed riders.”

    But maybe the message will only get across when delivered by someone who has been injured using such a bike. Jamie Rubio, 18, from Reading, Berkshire, broke his leg after colliding with a car while using a mini-motorbike on the road. He says he could have died.

    “I would tell anyone who is thinking of buying one of these bikes to think again,” he says. “Not only did I break several bones in my leg, but the handlebars were also embedded in my leg.”

    Any opinions folks??


    About bloody time as well!

    Who in their right mind would give a 5 year old a machine capable of 60mph, then let them out on the roads with it?
    They shouldn’t ban the machines, but they should be ridden in a controlled environment on private land until the child is old enough to ride them on the road and has the correct license and what have you.

    Of course by then they could get a regular sized bike.

    These mini motos seem to be have been made for young children to enjoy motorbikes.
    But of course the yokes of society ride them on the paths and what have you.

    Of course the little scroats will still ride these machines on the road and paths despite any so called “laws” and the idiotic parents will still let their little ones out on the roads and say “oh they’ll be all right” until they fly under the wheels of a car or other vehicle then it’s the driver of the vehicle that goes down for man slaughter or dangerous driving.

    Great post Radar, fantastic I look forward to seeing opinions on this.

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