Parents are being warned by the Motor Cycle Industry Association (MCI) to be cautious and informed when purchasing mini bikes for off-road use by their children.
In the UK around 7,000 new bikes which are designed for children and young-people to use away from the road in appropriate supervised places are sold annually. These are high quality machines sold with proper advice and back-up from reputable suppliers.
However, the MCI is aware that there has been a massive increase in the import of poor-quality copies of these very small 2-wheelers, from around 10,000 in 2002 to 70,000 in 2003. Such machines are often sold at very low prices, from as little as around £100, via mail-order or internet outlets with no local presence or specialist training.
Alternatively, they are sold at local outlets that are not motorcycle specialists and offer inadequate advice about safe and responsible use or maintenance. Many of these machines are of lower quality, produced by unregulated factories in less-developed countries and generally do not meet European standards for safety, reliability, noise or pollution. It is also problematic trying to get parts for repairs.
There are numerous ways a young person can benefit from getting involved in motorcycling at an early age, from social development to improving road awareness and coordination skills. But it is imperative that young people start motorcycling responsibly and safely.
Mini-bikes are produced for off-road use and some adults as well as the young people are not aware that places such as parks are not legally off-road. This type of behaviour can get both parties into trouble with the police and lead to arrest. Before purchasing a mini bike it is important to be aware of the following:
- Check for European Approval of safety, noise, pollution etc
- Buy from a reputable dealer
- Parks, playing fields and other grassy areas are not suitable off-road areas - they are public places
- Illegal use - Can lead to bikes seized, arrest and prosecution. Owners and riders can be prosecuted
- Maintenance - lack of parts and service opportunities
Young people who want to enjoy two-wheels can benefit from a nationwide network of clubs and local organisations that operate to provide fully-supervised recreational and competitive use of motorcycles and other vehicles by children and young people, and can be contacted via the ACU, AMCA and BSMA. These are legitimate and responsible groups of parents and others who recognise the educational and developmental benefits to children and young people understanding the responsible use of motorised sport and recreation vehicles and who have an interest in the future of UK motorsports.
Craig Carey-Clinch MCI's Director of Public Affairs said "The vast majority of young people act legally and responsibly. However, the MCI recognises there is a problem with some illegal use of these bikes.
"It would be a huge mistake to tar these youngster, parents and other adults in a position of responsibility, with the same brush, as those who through negligence or encouragement, allow their youngsters to abuse the street and other public places with illegal use of vehicles or through vandalism.
"Therefore it is important that parents and young people are fully aware of the legal requirements and responsibilities of owning and riding a mini-bike designed for off-road activity.