Life on bikes

Large BikeLife ride out protest planned this weekend

Following a police clamp down on illegal motorcycle activity, a large BikeLife protest ride is planned in the West Midlands this weekend.

A recent police operation against illegal motorcycles performing stunts on a Coventry industrial estate has resulted in a potentially huge mass protest ride out being planned in the city this weekend.

David ‘Dec’ Evans, the father of a BikeLife rider killed performing stunts on his quad bike, called for the event less than a week after more than 20 people were detained by police in a drone-led operation that led to the recovery of multiple stolen motorcycles.

Footage of the police operation that has sparked the protest ride

A huge effort to share awareness of the ride, with a significant number of posts appearing in biking groups, forums and other social media means the ride could be one of largest BikeRide events seen in the UK. The aim of the ride is to persuade local authorities to provide a dedicated area for stunts to be performed.

In a post calling for BikeLife members to attend the event Mr Evans stressed, “This is a peaceful protest and all bikes, vans, cars and pushbikes must meet all legal requirements to be on the road for [the] ride out.”

Potential for trouble

Although the organiser has asked for a peaceful and legal protest, other BikeLife events have seen numerous incidences of illegal activity and the use of non-road legal motorcycles, often leading to arrests.

One event, in London’s Chelsea area, saw BikeLife riders deliberately block the progress of an ambulance on an emergency call. In Leeds, riders terrorised the city centre, leading to the arrest and jailing of 13 riders for between 12 and 24 months. In Birmingham, a group calling itself ‘The Reckless Ryders’ bragged about shutting down the city centre with 40 scrambler bikes in 2016. Images posted online showed most of the riders wearing face masks, no helmets and no number plates on their motorbikes.

When Biker & Bike contacted West Midlands police asking how they will approach the event a spokesperson said, “We are aware that a number of bikers are considering coming to Coventry this weekend to protest against a petition.

“Together with local authorities and others we will plan to keep disruption for those who live, work or plan to visit the area on Saturday to a minimum, while ensuring a safe and peaceful event for all concerned.

“We recognise the impact protests can have however, we and the council have a duty to facilitate the fundamental democratic right of peaceful protest. As a force we are vastly experienced in accommodating and preparing for such events having run police and partnership operations around similar protests in other areas of the West Midlands.”

Calls for a dedicated area for stunts

Protest organiser Evans, an advanced driving and supercar instructor, is also behind an online petition calling for a dedicated stunting location. He started the petition following the death of his son, prominent West Midlands BikeLife member, Tyrone Evans Shields, AKA ‘Mr Mechanic’.

The petition, which has raised nearly 3,800 signatures, calls for a ‘strip to give bikers a safe and controlled place to ride in Tyrone’s memory as he would have liked. We want to try and encourage riders off the main roads and onto private land where they can ride safely and in the company of one another. This also prevents any harm coming to those of the public by keeping bikes off main roads.’ The question of how riders will take non-road legal bikes to the location isn’t answered.

Mr Evans’ son was killed on a public road when a stunt he was performing went badly wrong. His funeral was attended by up to 600 motorcycles, quad bikes and cars and was closely monitored by West Midlands police to ‘assist the safe passage of the procession’ according to social media posts released by the force. The area subsequently became a focal point for stunts on illegal scrambler bikes.

A BikeLife video released following the death of Tyrone Evan Shields. Warning: contains language some viewers may find offensive.

The problem in the West Midlands

Birmingham, Coventry and other towns in the West Midlands are blighted by illegal motorcycling activities. In June 2016, Solihull was the scene of a five-hour rampage which led to the arrest and subsequent trial of 11 riders.

More recently, police released drone footage of an illegal gathering of BikeLife stunt riders at a Coventry industrial estate. Police detained 20 men aged 18-29 and a number of children, some as young as 14, in an operation that seized nine motorcycles, 75% of which turned out to be stolen. The police operation, conducted under a new ‘zero tolerance’ approach, has led directly to this weekend’s planned protest.

West Midlands Police Inspector Andy Bridgewater said at the time, “Most of the bikes are being driven through Coventry to this site by people wearing face coverings or balaclavas, pulling stunts in the streets, riding on pavements, and directing traffic as though they own the roads.”

The pre-planned operation followed police receiving around 60 calls every weekend about illegal riding on the industrial estate.

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