The Government is to fund scrambler and quad bike tracks in a bid to reduce antisocial behaviour by young bike users in Dublin and Limerick.
Just under €200,000 of funding is being made available to eight initiatives which will provide training in bike skills as well as maintenance and safety.
"Not everyone will agree or think it's a good idea. Personally I do. But with that needs to come the legislation and the enforcement," said Andrew O'Byrne of the Moyross Development Company in Limerick, one of the main beneficiaries of the Department of Justice funds.
The money is part of a carrot-and-stick approach from the department, Minister of State for Law Reform James Browne told The Irish Times. As well as increased funding, the Government is at an advanced stage in drafting legislation making it easier for gardaí to seize bikes which are being used improperly.
Under the plans, those who get in trouble with the Garda will be banned from membership of Government-funded bike clubs, Mr Browne said.
He said communities “were effectively losing their public spaces” due to misuse of scrambler and quad bikes. “We’ve seen GAA and soccer pitches torn up by the use of bikes.”
The Minister also cited a number of serious injuries caused by scrambler bike misuse. As recently as October a woman was severely injured in Darndale, north Dublin in a hit-and-run involving a scrambler. In the same area three years previously, Ilabek Avetian suffered devastating brain injuries after a bike hit him as he sunbathed in the park.
Mr Browne said in response to the issue, officials have identified two distinct types of bike-users. One group uses them specifically for criminal purposes, such as transporting drugs. “The other were young people who had a genuine interest in bikes but didn’t see the damage they were doing.”
The latter group is who the bike clubs will be targeting.
The Dublin projects will be based on the Moyross initiative which has been up and running for several years and has about a dozen participants.
The project has the use of a field which serves as a makeshift track, although Mr O’Byrne hopes the county council will provide a more permanent home. The Garda Roads Policing Unit have also assisted by providing motorcycle competency tests for participants.
There has been some negativity towards the project, said Mr O’Byrne, “which is understandable as there have been a number of serious accidents around the estate”.
The problem reached a peak during the first Covid-19 lockdown when there was about 50 young people misusing scramblers around the area. He said there would be another peak after Christmas when people get such bikes as presents.
The aim of the project is to teach young people how to safely use a bike on a track, with the required protection, “and to get their buzz and adrenaline rush that way”.