Police in Newtownabbey are gearing up to host a unique project to educate young people on the correct, safe and appropriate way to ride off-road motorcycles.

The Motorcycle Awareness Project (MAP) youth education programme is a six-week initiative developed to help reduce the anti-social behaviour associated with these bikes in the community while improving road safety.

Participants - invited to the programme by local officers - are young people involved or viewed as likely to become involved in anti-social behaviour involving off-road motorcycles.  Some participants are also motorcycle enthusiasts that just don’t have the facilities that they need in their local area.   They will be given twelve 4 hour sessions over a six week period on motorbikes specially-adapted to reduce noise.

It is hoped this project will reduce anti-social behaviour and other issues by showing the young people how to use these vehicles safely and responsibly. This includes the use of correct protective equipment and emphasising the need to use these bikes in the appropriate areas with permissions.

Constable Chris Boyd from the Neighbourhood Policing Team, who has been influential in bringing the scheme to the Newtownabbey area, said: “The aim of this project is to give our young people an opportunity to be professionally taught how to use these vehicles in a safe and controlled environment. They will likely bring this knowledge back to their friends and family while adopting a more sensible and lawful attitude towards riding these bikes. 

“It is hoped that the young people will go on and encourage their peers with a view to getting involved in this fantastic sport at a competitive level.

“I became aware of the pilot scheme in Craigavon and, after contacting Antrim & Newtownabbey Borough Council for support, I attended the project along with a local councillor to see this in action. 

“We found the participants were engaged, enthusiastic and the skills that they learned over the weeks were being applied as if they had been doing this for years. I thought this would be something that could benefit many young people in our area. 

“The programme aims to promote understanding of the dangers associated with off-road motorcycling and teach the fundamental skills needed to ride safely.

“The programme focuses on early intervention for young people who are involved, or likely to become involved in, unsafe riding of these bikes with participants to be identified by the PSNI.

“The course itself begins with a basic introduction to off-road motorcycling, safety checks, correct kit and equipment and explains the correct workings of the bike. A focus on technique follows which gives the young people not only the confidence but the skills and knowledge to move on to the track itself.  The manner in which the teaching takes place is geared at a level according to their needs.  As the course develops the participants are taught first aid, further bike maintenance and riding technique. As the skill level and confidence on the bikes increase, the participants gradually work up to more powerful bikes.”

Newtownabbey Neighbourhood Policing Team, Antrim & Newtownabbey Borough Council, Department of Justice, Northern Ireland Housing Executive & Antrim & Newtownabbey Policing & Community Safety Partnership have all contributed to funding, planning and the delivery of this project.

Hailing the joint initiative as “very worthwhile”, Chair of Antrim and Newtownabbey Policing and Community Safety Partnership (PCSP), Councillor Julie Gilmour said: “Reducing anti-social behaviour is one of our main priorities and this project aims to achieve that by providing young people with the knowledge and skills that will help them become more responsible when using these vehicles.”