Saturday, 17 December 2016

Why Peterborough Green Party Wants to Help Young Motorcyclists

Young people on mini motorcycles
Young people on motorcycles

Earlier this month, I told you about a terrible accident in Peterborough involving a young man riding an illegal mini motorbike on a residential road at night with no helmet and no lights. Over the past few years, young people riding these bikes anti-socially around Orton - and Orton Goldhay in particular - have caused great distress to residents, who have long feared that an accident could happen.

Young people on illegal bikes on our residential roads and pavements are a danger to themselves and everyone else. Thanks to the internet, it's now easier than ever to acquire one of these bikes and many of the models you can buy online are cheap, poorly constructed and dangerous. While people continue to ride these bikes illegally accidents will continue to happen. It's easy to criminalise these young riders, but doing so doesn't tackle the issues at the heart of the matter in our community.

Nowhere to Go

You may be thinking that the Green Party and a project that encourages safe use of environment-polluting mini motorbikes would not be comfortable bedfellows. However, we are just as concerned about our natural environment as we are about the built environment that people live in.

It has become very clear to me that mini motorbike enthusiasts in Orton have nowhere to go to ride their bikes safely and legally. Instead, they bomb around Goldhay with no lights, no helmet and no idea of how to ride responsibly. For the safety of everyone and the protection of our residential environment this is something we have to address.

Gauntlet Auto Project

When I appeared on BBC Radio Cambs to talk about the accident and the problem of mini motorbikes in Orton Goldhay, I was introduced to a gentleman called Wayne Arbon who is involved in running the Gauntlet Auto Project in Ramsey, ten miles outside Peterborough.

Wayne Arbon at the Gauntlet Auto Project in Ramsey
Wayne Arbon at the Gauntlet Auto Project in Ramsey

Arial view of the Gauntlet Auto Project in Ramsey
Arial view of the Gauntlet Auto Project in Ramsey

Established in 1995, and registered as a charity, the Gauntlet Auto Project is a Saturday morning club for young people who would like to learn how to ride mini motorbikes, discover how to ride properly and responsibly and find out how to maintain their bikes to ensure they are safe and in good working order.

Gauntlet Auto Project promotes:

  • Safe motorbike riding 
  • Young people's self-esteem 
  • Mechanical and IT skills 
  • Youth volunteering 
  • Good citizenship

The sessions run on Saturday mornings, 10am-12:30pm. Each session costs £10, or £7 if you have an annual membership of the club, which costs £30.

Set in seven acres of beautiful farmland, the club has taken care to protect the natural environment that surrounds it, installing bug hotels and bird boxes to encourage nature to thrive.

The project is set in stunning farmland
The project is set in stunning farmland

A range of motorcycles
The project offers riders a wide choice of bikes
to ride to suit different levels of skill and experience.
A view of the workshop
In the workshop, young riders learn how to
fix and maintain their bikes.

All Welcome

There girls on quad bikes and motorcycles
Not just for the boys! I saw several girls on bikes today.

The project welcomes boys and girls, people with all kinds of disabilities (Wayne told me they recently held a session for deafblind children who had a fantastic time!).

There are six tracks, catering for riders at different levels of ability:
Quad loop
Figure 8 track
Loop track
Jump track
Training oval
Go kart track

What's the Problem?

There is no problem! The project just needs more publicity and more funding. And for young people in Orton who can't easily get to rural Ramsey on a Saturday morning it also needs the help of our local community to arrange a minibus to take them to and from the venue.

Two motorcycle riders
Riders take their turn around one of the six tracks.

We're really keen to help this project to thrive. If you live in Orton and would like to go to the club but need help with transport to get there, please let me know. If there is enough interest, we may be able arrange a minibus.

Of course, motorbikes do have a negative effect on the environment. However, projects like this can build riders' awareness of this and encourage them to maintain their bikes appropriately, make the more ethical consumer choices where possible and ride in a manner that is respectful of air quality and wildlife.

The difficulty with motorbikes in general is that they run on unsustainable fossil fuel, namely petrol. One of the most serious effects of these mini motorbikes is their contribution to climate change by producing carbon dioxide. The Green Party is keen to dramatically reduce the production of carbon dioxide from all methods of transport. We endorse walking, cycling wherever possible, car-sharing, and the use of busses and trains. However, public safety and an end to anti-social behaviour concern us too, and while ownership of these mini motorbikes continues to surge we want parents (who pay for them!) and young people to acknowledge all of the dangers associated with these bikes: the safety concerns, the anti-social behaviour and the effects on the environment. 

A Treasure

This facility is a treasure. It is run almost entirely by volunteers whose dedication to helping young people is very humbling. To keep any project going for more than 20 years in an incredible achievement, especially considering Cambridgeshire County Council recently halved the amount of grant money that it makes available to the project (a fact that saddens me greatly).

We've grown very used in Orton to venting anger and frustration at mini motorcyclists and with good reason. But you should see what I saw today. Thirty young people fully engaged in learning how to ride mini motorbikes correctly and responsibly in a safe environment under the watchful eye of caring and experienced volunteers and fellow bike enthusiasts. I didn't see anyone messing about or causing problems. Wayne tells me that after a short time with the club, kids who had driven anti-socially in the past start to take pride in doing things the right way. This is exactly the sort of project we should all embrace.

To find out more visit the Gauntlet Auto Project website.
Unit 5 Park Farm, Wood Lane, Ramsey, Cambs PE26 2XA
Telephone 01487 711161


  1. A worthwhile activity that requires publicity and support to actively direct youths boredom and provide unforeseen opportunities to them.
    Wistow resident and motorcycle rider