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Coronavirus: Illegal off-road bikes ‘worse‘ during lockdown

Golf clubs, beaches and beauty spots are just some of the locations in Wales where illegal off-road bikers have been filmed since the start of lockdown.

There have been incidents across all of Wales‘ police force areas in recent weeks with several arrests.

Gwent Police said it had seen a rise in “illegal off-roading” during lockdown.

And in Swansea, in April, bikers were filmed driving in between people on the beach.

Dyfed-Powys Police also on Saturday that they had given fixed penalty notices to 19 people in five vehicles travelling to the area from Merseyside to go off-roading.

Roger Maliphant, one of the directors of Swansea Footgolf on the city‘s beachfront, said it was just “a matter of time” before there was a fatality.

“Sometimes there‘s two of them, sometimes there‘s eight or nine of them,” he said.

“They‘re not to know who‘s behind a hill when they jump off it, either with the quad bike or the scrambler bikes.

“It could be a small child or it could be an elderly person who‘s not going to survive being hit by a bike.”

Mr Maliphant said his course had been damaged numerous times over the past few months by illegal bikers. The business is currently closed because of the coronavirus lockdown, but he said there was still evidence the bikers had been back.

“My heart sinks every time I come back here really, because I‘m just expecting to see some damage.

“It‘s not just us being singled out, there are lots of golf courses and green areas nearby that have been targeted by them.

“I hear reports of increased activity all around the Gower area.”

Andy Oram, from Pennard in Gower, filmed a group of bikers at Three Cliffs Bay on Gower at the end of last month.

“What was extraordinary was that I‘ve walked down on Pennard beach a couple of times a week for the past 19 years, but I‘d never seen that before,” he said.

“They are clearly taking advantage. It‘s almost like it‘s become a free-for-all. It‘s opened up the countryside.

“These things don‘t happen during normal times. This is something extraordinary and it‘s because of a lack of human presence.”

Earlier this month, Gwent Police used drones and long-range CCTV cameras to help catch several illegal bikers on mountains in Caerphilly county.

Caerphilly councillor, John Ridgewell, said illegal off-road bikers had been a problem for years but things had become “significantly worse” during lockdown.

“In the past it‘s always been a weekend activity – but now it‘s every day of the week,” said Mr Ridgewell, of Ynysddu.

Insp Aled George said: “This is a significant, widespread and long-term issue.

“There are no easy solutions to this, so we‘ve used a number of practical measures.

“We‘ve brought in additional officers and a zero-tolerance approach.”

He said officers were using long-range cameras and drones to survey the mountains, along with officers on the ground to catch riders in the act.

“Off-road biking is illegal at anytime. This is not a legitimate form of recreation, this is not a form of exercise,” he added.

“The vast majority of the public are sticking to the rules, but we‘ve run this operation to take action against people who are flouting those rules and we‘ll continue to run operations like this throughout the current crisis.”

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