TWO trail riders have pleaded guilty to riding their motorcycles on a bridleway. Dean Richardson and Peter Geddes were fined £100 each (including costs) by Chesterfield magistrates after being caught riding down Piper Lane bridleway in Old Brampton, Derbyshire.

“The riders were summonsed under section 34 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 for unlawfully driving a mechanically propelled vehicle on a bridleway,” said a spokesman for the Crown Prosecution Service. “It’s been a particular problem on that bridleway and we hope this serves as a warning.”

Photographic evidence showing a group of four motorcyclists approaching two riders at excessive speed was presented to the court on 18 May, but two of the motorcyclists escaped identification due to the untraceable plates on their bikes.
“Any prosecution in respect of unlawful use of bridleways is welcome,” said British Horse Society access director Mark Weston, adding he was disappointed that some illegal trail riders are escaping conviction.

There have been seven successful prosecutions of trail riders so far, but many have failed, because it could not be proven “higher rights” — in other words vehicular use — did not exist on certain bridleways. The new Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006, which came into force on 2 May 2006 (news, 18 May), ensures bridleways and footpaths are protected from trail riders and other, motorised, recreational off-roaders.

“Riding on a bridleway is now a criminal offence,” said Felicity Turner, a founding member of Green Lanes Environmental Action Movement (GLEAM), which began in 1994. “But we only caught these trail riders by taking photographs.”
In court, Richardson and Dean said they were relying on a map prepared by the Trail Riders Fellowship (TRF), an organisation of which they are not members. They claimed the map showed Piper Lane, and other bridleways in the area, as Byways Open to All Traffic (BOATs).

But the TRF claims not to publish maps of the area. “The law is so convoluted there it’s up to members to assure themselves of the legality of their activities by checking with local authorities,” said Ian Packer from the TRF. “If they want to ride on a path they must ensure they could prove it is a legal byway.”

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