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Off Road Bikes

Off road bikes can be a lot of fun and a great hobby for their young riders. Yet many parents and young people are unaware of the law and legal responsibilities which apply to the ownership and riding of these vehicles.

All bikes including quad bikes, monkey bikes, scooters and small machines that have a petrol engine and mini motors and go peds which are powered by an electric motor are classified as not suitable for use on roads or pavements.

This brings these bikes under the laws that make motorcycling safe for everyone. It does not matter how small the bike is, how slowly it travels or that it has been designed for children.

Under the Police Reform Act anyone caught riding an off road bike in an anti-social way can be prosecuted. Breaking the law on off road bikes can have serious consequences, you run the risk of:

  • Having your or your child's bike seized, (ifyou are able to claim the bike back after seizure you may still have charges of more than £100 to pay).
  • An anti-social behaviour order
  • A heavy fine
  • A civil claim for injury to yourself or others

Be clear. Be safe. Be legal.

Advice for Parents

Did you know that if a your child rides an off road bike on a road or on public land that they require insurance?

Think carefully before buying a bike and consider your personal responsibilities.

If you decide to buy a motorbike or quad bike for your child, you are responsible for that young person and their actions. You may be prosecuted for permitting your child to ride on a road or public place and this will affect your own car or bike insurance.

Look into organised motorbike groups in your local area for your child to join.

Contact your local council for a list of areas where your child can ride their bike freely.

Always ask permission from the owner of any private land before allowing your child to ride on it.

Advice for Riders

The only places where off road vehicles can be lawfully ridden is on private land with the direct permission of the land owner or at an organised, supervised off road centre, (bear in mind that you will probably need off road insurance).

Protect yourself from accidents and injury by wearing full protective clothing at all times and a helmet which fits correctly and is securely fastened.

Always transport your off-road bike to a legitimate riding area in a van or trailer.

Remember off ride bikes can not be ridden on pavements, public land, parks, pathways, or public bridleways.


Can I ride on wasteland or the disused railway lines? 

The simple answer is no. There is a common misconception that common land or wasteland is free for anybody to do whatever they like. This is not the case. There is a historical right of access for leisure purposes and even for grazing animals but all other use is not allowed. The law that covers bikes is Sec38, Road Traffic Act 1998. Riding motor vehicles on common land or wasteland is almost always illegal.

What about our parks and playing fields?

The borough council owns most recreational areas including parks and nature areas and there are specific laws covering these areas, preventing the use of mechanically propelled vehicles. Other areas are owned by certain trusts, none of which agree to the riding of these machines off road. Your local borough council has a list of areas that you can ride on. However, these are very limited and there may be a charge.

What about rights of way and bridle paths?

These historic rights of way date back to a time when horses were the primary means of transport. All the law surrounding this preserves the rights of people to walk and ride horses along them. That means no motorbikes or quads! The two groups do not mix and it is simply not safe!

Can I use motorbikes on the pavement or footpath?

Again, the simple answer is no. Only vehicles that meet the required standards and are registered with the DVLA can be used on our roads, pavements and car parks. As well as being registered, they must be taxed and insured. Also an MOT will be required for vehicles over three years old. There is no exemption for vehicles designed for off road use and young people are also not exempt. This is all covered in the Road traffic act 1988.

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.