100% Biker 209

100% Biker 209
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On 19th May 2016, something happened in Chelmsford which could have far-reaching implications for us all.

On that day, the County Court granted an injunction to Harlow Council which now bans groups of two or more bikers from taking part in unauthorised ride outs between 10am and midnight on any public land or highway within Harlow.

The move was the result of an unauthorised gathering and ride out scheduled for 21st May by the family and friends of a teenager who had died a few weeks previously. However—and here’s the kicker—the injunction will run until 31st March 2017.

The injunction forbids a range of activities (some 12 are specifically listed) which range from excessive noise to riding in convoy to dropping litter. Any motorcyclist felt to contravene any one of these dozen regulations will be held to be in contempt of court, arrested and even sent to prison. Oh, and that’s not just the single offender—it applies to anyone taking part in the said unauthorised run.

Unsurprisingly, this has caused uproar among bikers nationwide, so much so that Harlow Council was forced to issue a statement in which a spokesman said; “Harlow Council is very sorry that this issue has upset and angered the wider biking community … Harlow Council and Essex Police wants to make it clear that anyone riding bikes lawfully in Harlow on the road to meet up with friends, including driving in a convoy; drive through the town; learn to ride or teach others, or take part in charity event, will not be served with the injunction.”

So that’s alright then. No, actually it’s very far from alright. The injunction remains in place. The elements which could lead to riders’ arrests still stand. Among those elements is ‘any nuisance to other people not participating in the unauthorised ride out’. As anyone who has witnessed the impatience with which even a funeral procession can be treated by other road users will realise that simply being on the same road can be seen—and thus reported to the police as a contravention of the injunction—as a nuisance by that driver who just refuses to wait a minute.

The council’s secondary statement also stated that if an event being ‘organised for charity or any other occasion’, then the council and police should be informed ‘so arrangements can be made to support the event’. That, of course, then opens organisers up to being refused permission by the council or being hit with large bills for policing.

We understand that Harlow, like many urban areas, has a problem with antisocial off-road bikers, but there are already laws in place to deal with that. So why isn’t Harlow Council and Essex Police already implementing those laws instead of adding this draconian injunction which will potentially affect far more people?

MAG’s Director of Communications and Public Affairs, Lembit Opik, has met with both parties but MAG tells us that any resolution ‘will not happen overnight’. Unlike the injunction which was pushed through the court in just a couple of days.

You may never have been to Harlow. You may never want to go to Harlow. But rest assured, councils across the country will be taking note of this and possibly already drawing up their own anti-bike laws.