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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 June, 2003, 11:51 GMT 12:51 UK
Training call to 'nicked' bikers
Crashed motorbike
The number of motorbike deaths in Wales has soared
One of Wales' top policemen has suggested that motorbikers caught breaking the law should be able to take the penalty points or go on a training course.

The call comes as the death toll among motorcyclists in Wales is soaring.

There have already been 11 riders killed in north Wales this year, more than in the whole of 2002.

North Wales deputy chief constable Bill Brereton told BBC Wales' Week In Week Out that police were "morally bound" to cut the number of deaths.

Mr Brereton advocated a "caution plus" system for biking offenders which would say, "Look, mate, you're nicked. What would you rather do, points and penalty, or spend a weekend with our happy smiling police officers on a Bikesafe training course?"

A conscious decision was made that we were going to have some in-your-face policing out there
Chief inspector Mark Owen

North Wales Police adopted the Bikesafe education and training scheme in 1998 amid a leap in motorbike fatalities.

In recent years biker deaths have fallen - but this year they have rocketed. The latest was on Saturday.

Enraged

This pattern is repeated in other parts of rural Wales. In Dyfed-Powys, there have been six fatalities this year, compared with one at the same point in 2002.

Bill Brereton
Bill Brereton says bike offenders should have a choice of penalty
North Wales has introduced a zero-tolerance policy towards biking offenders this year.

Many motorcyclists were enraged, accusing the police of victimisation and of picking them up for offences for which car drivers got away.

But officers charged with bringing down the death rate said they made no apologies.

"It is stiff medicine," chief inspector Mark Owen told the programme.

Magnet

"We had to nip this in the bud before it got totally out of hand. A conscious decision was made that we were going to have some in-your-face policing out there."

It's like being unleashed - you can do 160, whatever you like
London rider talks about Welsh roads

The twisting, challenging roads of north and west Wales have become a magnet for sports bikers from areas such as the Midlands and the south-east of England.

One despatch rider from London told Week In Week Out he visited Wales regularly. "It's like being unleashed - you can do 160, whatever you like," he said.

But relatives have to come to terms with the loss of a loved one.

Rachel Harvey's husband Neil was killed when his bike skidded as he rode home from work one afternoon. She had never resented his love of biking and even organised a motorcycle hearse for the funeral.

Motorcyclist and pillion passenger
North Wales Police have a zero-tolerance policy on biking offences

"It turned a lot of heads - I think he would have liked that," she said.

But the sense of loss is profound. "It's such a shock, and it's had such an effect on a lot of people - friends, family," she said.

Grief

Police believe some some bikers are coming to grief because they may ride only on fine weekends, and could be over-estimating their abilities.

"Their bikes are off the road for six months of the year and all of a sudden there's thousands of them descending on the roads of north Wales, and they don't give themselves enough time to build their skill levels up," said Pc Peter Coole, the project manager for Bikesafe North Wales.

"They're riding machines very similar to the ones they see on the race track, they can buy the same leathers, they can even get their bikes sprayed the same colour.

"But race tracks have got gravel traps where people can slide gracefully into and get up; unfortunately on the roads, the chances are you'll hit something hard".

Week In, Week Out is on BBC1 Wales at 2235 BST on Tuesday 3 June, and on BBC 2W at 2115 BST on Wednesday 4 June.


SEE ALSO:
Bikers urged back to basics
19 Apr 03  |  North East Wales
Sky campaign targets bikers
31 Mar 03  |  Wales
Crackdown after biker deaths
25 Mar 03  |  Wales


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