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Call for action on Walsall off-road bikers ‘menace’

By Gurdip Thandi | Walsall | Crime | Published:

"Reckless" off-road bikers have been tearing up and down roads and green spaces in part of Walsall, making residents lives a misery.

An off-road bike seized by police on Blakenall earlier this month. Photo: West Midlands Police

Walsall councillor Matt Ward said people living in Blakenall are having to put up with the noisy bikes being ridden illegally at all times of the day, particularly on The Lea field.

He said more enforcement was needed while the council should also look at providing a designated site away from residents for bike users.

Both West Midlands Police and Walsall Council said they work to stop off-road bikers, which includes seizing vehicles and erecting barriers at hot spots.

But Councillor Garry Perry, portfolio holder for community, leisure and culture, said he would not "champion the needs" of off-road bikers, most of whom were operating illegally.

Councillor Ward said the bikers were getting on to Lea field because of a fence on Turnstone Road being damaged in a crash, which he said had not been fixed.

He said: “This is happening on the Lea at all times of the day. I’ve had complaints from residents about the noise and reports of these reckless individuals directly driving at people who are just walking around.

“It’s simply not fair that residents have to put up with this on a daily basis, we need to block off the access points for these illegal bikes and then do a joint enforcement action with the police.

“All options need to be on the table to sort this issue out. I think the council need to look at having a designated site away from residents, that bike users can go to and ride their bikes without causing a nuisance to residents.”

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Walsall Housing Group, which is responsible for the Turnstone Road fence, said it had been repaired but that vandals had destroyed it again. They are now exploring other security measures.

Seized and crushed

A West Midlands Police spokeswoman said previous operations in Blakenall have seen a total of 25 bikes seized and crushed and warnings handed out.

She said: “We often receive complaints about off-road bikes. They are a nuisance on our streets and can be extremely dangerous.

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“The menace of off-road bikes has plagued Blakenall in Walsall for years, a purpose-built track was even created where large groups would congregate causing misery for those who lived nearby.

“We know residents have felt intimidated to report things to us, sometimes feeling helpless and disillusioned when our attempts to stop them have failed.

“Our Blakenall team refuse to give up. They continue to work closely with the community, often in confidence, to listen, understand and deal with the issue.

“While we’re aware that there are still issues in the area, our work so far has made Blakenall a better and safer place.

“We continue to deal with reports made to us and work with partners to try and further reduce them.”

Councillor Perry said community protection officers from Walsall Council often work with families to change behaviour while ‘P’ gates have been installed in places to restrict access.

He added many of the riders were under the legal age of 17, did not have roadworthy vehicles and didn’t wear protective clothing.

He said: “This is about personal responsibility and there is no way I’m going to start championing the needs of off-road bikers when the overall impact on communities is greater.

“When people purchase them, they know the risks they are taking. If there isn’t a designated site for them to go to then effectively, they know that.

“Why should the council have to find a site? Sites for this sort of activity, because of the noise and how that noise carries, are few and far between.

“If communities are identifying that its a specific need for them, they need to come up with a solution.

“I don’t see why the council should seek a piece of land to direct people too when we struggle with land for other issues.

“We need to take a firmer approach on the illicit use of the bike to start with.”

Gurdip Thandi

By Gurdip Thandi
@Gurdo

Local Democracy Reporter covering Walsall.

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