Inspectors from Cumbria police were asked by councillors how they would stop the scourge of illegal motorbikes in the county.

Summoned by Cllr Brian Wernham (Stanwix Urban, Liberal Democrats), Chief Inspector Joanne Walker and Inspector Andy Leather presented what police are doing and answered questions posed by members of the Border, Fellside, and North Carlisle Community Panel at a meeting at Belah Community Centre.

He said: “It just seems to be a craze, something’s going on.

“They look dangerous, illegal, uninsured, they’re driving at night without lights.

“I’m not an expert but if this continues we’re going to have more lawlessness of some sort.

“There are ways of stopping people on motorcycles when they come to a stop (such as by) using unmarked police motorcycles."

Chief Insp Walker said there are several strict policies and procedures regarding pursuing and physically stopping these vehicles.

“The most achievable option to us, and what we do utilise, is looking at using information and intelligence we’ve got, information from the public, and reports that come in.

We’ve got fantastic CCTV systems around the city as well.

“We’re looking at the opportunities we’ve got there to identify the riders and users of these cycles and establish whereabouts they are being located and stored.”

Police can seize the bikes permanently, Chief Insp Walker said, adding they’ve seized 128 illegal electric bikes in 2024.

“We are making every opportunity to seize them and get them off our roads,” she said.

She added the approach is multi-agency and multi-force, and they work with forces nearby as the issue ‘is not peculiar to Cumbria’.

Additionally, the police are working on a stronger media campaign to educate people on what is illegal and how to report bike riders.

Cllr Wernham said he wants to see more visibility as the problem seems to be growing, and that anything the police are doing is ‘not enough’, and asked how many police bikes there are in Cumbria, which Insp Leather said was ‘nowhere near enough’.

Insp Leather explained with particular regard to the pictured bike, which was shown at the meeting: “We call it a Sur-Ron, a brand name, in effect it’s a high-powered electric bike.

“Without making extensive modifications it cannot be ridden on the road legally, their core use is for off-road trail biking, they’re not designed to be used on the road.

“These bikes reach a fast speed very quickly, which makes it inherently difficult for us to stop them, then (regarding pursuits and forced stops) there’s an element of risk around us taking action, and also not taking action.

He said a rider’s riding could become more dangerous in pursuit and cause a risk to the public.

Undercover motorbikes are ‘not an option’ for Cumbria Constabulary, Insp Leather said, but the constabulary should ‘absolutely’ have them, and it’s ‘a question of funding’.

Cllr Roger Dobson (Corby and Hayton, Liberal Democrats) said it’s a question that Cllr Wernham will ‘no doubt’ want to pose to the PFCC Peter McCall.

Cllr Wernham then remarked that Mr McCall’s office ‘costs £1million a year’ to reflect a lack of funding for the bikes.

Cllr John Mallinson (Houghton and Irthington, Conservative) asked if there are any legal electric motorbikes, which Insp Leather said is difficult under the Road Traffic Act to identify as there’s a plethora of different bikes, but this is something they hope to educate the public on in the future.

“The law is clear, but there are various permutations on what is or isn’t legal,” Insp Leather added.

He said the only way to have a road-legal electric-powered motorcycle is if the primary method of propulsion is via pedal after Cllr Mallinson asked, who later added ‘it just seems odd’ that there’s no other way.

Cllr Geoff Mitchell (Wetheral, Conservative), who said he used to be a policeman in Liverpool, asked if Cumbria Constabulary could lend some bike cops from a neighbouring force while there are none locally, ‘to target these little toerags’.

Insp Leather responded no, ‘but not never’, to securing police bikes for pursuits in Cumbria.