Calls for vehicle-free days in Yorkshire Dales amid concern over noise from motorcyclists fitted with illegal exhausts

Bikers in Hawes earlier this year. Photo: Wayne Hutchinson.

Calls are mounting for motor vehicle-free days in the Yorkshire Dales National Park amid claims record numbers of motorcyclists have descended on it as lockdown restrictions have been eased, ruining the protected area’s tranquillity.

While noise from motorbikes, and in particular from large groups or ones with modified exhausts, has been an issue in the Yorkshire Dales for decades, residents, cyclists and walkers said the wave of riders in recent weeks following months of peace had come as a shock.

A meeting of the Yorkshire Dales National Park’s Local Access Forum heard communities were being plagued by powerful bikes with illegal exhausts and several calls for action, including support for exploring car-free days.

Last month, a YouGov poll commissioned by climate charity Possible found 54 per cent of the British public supported the closure of town and city centres to non-essential vehicles once a week in order to open up space for pedestrians and cyclists.

A Possible spokesman said the poll results were “a timely reminder that local politicians should not be scared of being shouted at by Jeremy Clarkson and his friends over moves to cut traffic”.

Members were told while other national parks were beginning to trial car-free days, officers did not believe the immediate period after lockdown was the right time to launch the system in the Yorkshire Dales.

Swaledale Outdoor Club member Barbara Gravenor said: “This lockdown situation and the pandemic has brought it to the fore in that we did have some beautiful silence and then it came back with a vengeance with hundreds of motorbikes going round the Dales.

“As a cyclist and a walker it would be wonderful if we could have a once a month one Sunday closed roads system like some continental countries do in the summer.”

Referring to residents who lived in a popular motorcycling circuit between Devil’s Bridge and Hawes, Nick Cotton, who has served as the park authority’s recreation management champion, said some areas of the park faced greater volumes of motorcycle noise than others.

He said: “It has been a massive increase, I think even bigger numbers than there were before the pandemic. Of course what you are drawn to is the noise more than anything else.

“You can be two miles away, you can be up at the top of the valley and be aware of it. I’m not going to let it drop because I have had so much correspondence about it. I think we need to think creatively about this.”

The meeting heard noise levels were a police responsibility, but enforcement was reactive, relied on subjective judgement and that it was difficult for officers to single out a motorbike that was making too much noise.

Depending on engine size, a range of 82 to 86 decibels is the maximum legal noise level for a motorcycle, but most police forces use 90 decibels as the limit to take account for the effects of any wear and tear.

While North Yorkshire Police has staged motorcycle noise and speeding crackdowns in the Dales for decades, the government has recently trialled new cameras to measure the sound levels of passing vehicles alongside automated number plate recognition technology after finding noise pollution has serious health impacts.

Indeed, studies have found that exposure to noise is linked to heart attacks, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and stress.

The Department for Transport has also confirmed it is considering the introduction of new powers to “combat excessive noise” from motorbikes.

It said that research had been commissioned into the problem with the aim of giving police and the highway authorities extra resources to tackle it.

Groups representing motorcyclists say they would welcome action, saying those riding noisy vehicles were tarnishing the reputation of the majority of riders.

A spokesman for the Motorcycle Industry Association said illegal exhausts fitted by some riders “attract unwanted attention to the motorcycle community and do nothing to promote the many benefits motorcycles can offer”.

26 Comments

  1. I have a noise meter. Most cars record 60-70dB (legal limit for new cars 82) Many bikes are over 100 and from West Witton we can hear them all the way to Wensley. Police need to be issued with meters in the same way as speedguns

    • It is not always bikes, what about cars with huge modified exhausts? Let’s demonise motorcyclists though they probably deserve it!!!
      How can you identify what vehicle is making a noise from the top of a fell or two miles away down the valley?

    • We live in the North York Moors and it is just as bad here, the motorbikers have been a menace, complete silence to constant roar of bike engines from 3am in the morning to late at night. Plus the speed they are riding at is downright dangerous and then they have been congregating in groups in the small towns and villages with no respect for local residents Surely the bikes should be the ones that are targeted as they are the ones causing the noise and problems. Most car drivers are just using the vehicle to access locations to walk and cycle and then to return home.

  2. We need random check points with not just bikes but cars pulled over for inspection. There are also convoys of souped up cars racing through the Dales and many of these have straight through exhausts.

  3. Since the lockdown restrictions were lifted the noise has been horrendous in upper Wensleydale. We call it the ‘Dales TT’ – Devil’s Bridge, Hawes, then the Kirkby Stephen or Sedbergh option (and round again). What do they bring to the economy? A bag of chips in Hawes? If I didn’t live here, I wouldn’t visit it!

  4. If we have a vehicle free day once a week, can the other 6 days be Cycle free please? I do agree that motorcycles are a big problem, but the cyclist (especially groups) who seem to be in a world of their own, imagining that they are in the tour de France are a real menace.

    • so someone else who sees pushbikers a set of ignorant louts I live in bradford we have them every day from 4am racing in our woods almost running you over never slowing down say owt to them and they start threatening and abusing us it’s about time they were made to go on courses before being let loose on two silent wheels

  5. My motorcycle has a standard exhaust and I don’t try to annoy others but I will be avoiding Hawes etc and spending my money elsewhere from now on. I wonder how many businesses will struggle due to this snobbery and concerted targeting of all motorcyclists who spend money in local amenities like cafes, food outlets,restaurants and petrol stations. Whenever I tour Scotland I find people’s attitudes to bikers radically different and find them accommodating and friendly as they know the revenue from bikers is considerable.

    • I think there’s a difference between touring Scotland compared to a few choice routes in the Dales! As for revenue… touring Scotland and staying in B&Bs, hotels etc is good for the Scots economy, but a far cry from blasting out to the Dales for the day, having a bag of chips then blasting home again.

  6. Motorcyclists using the road up to Streethead and Bisopdale are the worst noise polluters I have ever experienced. Large powerful bikes take the hill with no extra noise but those with illegal exhausts are horrendous. I had to move my caravan from its pitch at Streethead because of the noise.exhaust fumes. Backfiring and revving at the start of the climb up to Streethead. Goodness knows what it was like at Kettlewell and beyond.
    Somebody else’s fun was my worst nightmare.

  7. I and many other motorcyclists have standard exhausts fitted to our bikes so this is very unfair. How about penalizing both cars and motorcycle owners with illegal exhausts. Stop your anti motorcycle barrage. We all spend good money in your communities and prop up your many small businesses. 99.9% of us cause you no problem. I dont hear you complain about all cyclist/walkers In your town not social distancing. Would nice to know how much your local economies would be hit.

    • What nonsense ,it’s more like 95% of motorbikers are an absolute nuisance . On my 10 mile daily commute along a section of what you sensible bikers call “the Yorkshire TT ” in the Yorkshire dales 3 bikers have died in the last 12 months . All of who lost control and ended up in walls . Only this weekend I was fueling up next to a group of middle aged bikers bragging they had reached speeds of 130 plus miles per hour on the local roads . .Gary I could go on and on but I think you get the drift !!!

      • I’ve got the answer just seal off the Dale’s and North Yorkshire no one in and no one comes out.

      • How many cars have been in accidents and how many fatalities or aren’t you interested in them?

  8. I’ve been a motorcyclist for over 40 years.
    Many motorcyclists have illegal, loud exhausts & the Police do NOTHING about it. (Some cars are too loud also)
    “Police staging noise tests in the dales for decades” – How is it I’ve NEVER seen a roadside noise check take place and do 7000 miles a year!
    The Police do the EASY ROUTE – speeding enforcement.
    They will continue to take the EASY route, whilst the Department for Transport spends its time “..considering… new powers…” – big deal!

  9. I live on the edge of Kirkby Stephen, we have similar problems. It’s not all bikes per se, of course it isn’t, but as usual the minority spoil it for everyone. One day last week, can’t remember which, but while I was stuck at home making face masks I heard bikes, one after another, going down the main road into the town for hours. 30mph speed limit, but still sounded like TT races on Isle of Man.

  10. I agree the noise is deafening at times in West Witton. There is absolutely no need for it. The Police and Yorkshire Dales National Park need to stop talking and take action.

  11. We live on the main road between Grassington and Hebden and the noise from most motorcycles is ear blasting.It starts around 5am on a weekend morning and continues until dark.Its a real problem.We cannot sit in our garden or have our back door open.Conversation is impossible.
    We have complained and complained to the police, chief constable and recently the crime commisioner.NOTHING NOT EVEN A REPLY.
    To have the police say they have been addressing this problem for a decade is a laugh.
    Grassington road is forgotten.
    It’s a busy road with farm traffic and tourists.
    Fatalities and accidents are regular Still nothing is done.
    It’s the TT race track.
    We’ve had enough.Something has to be done it’s affecting our health especially
    In lockdown Where our garden is all we have.

  12. The way to deal with noisy vehicles is to take action against noisy vehicles. Legal, courteous motorcyclists have nothing to fear on this account. The equipment exists to identify illegal exhausts and to measure noise.
    Traffic-free days is surely a completely separate issue? Not a bad one, but you’d want to set up park-and-ride first.

  13. I do have sympathy for those who have to endure the constant noise from vehicles on the main routes. But we live on what was the tour cycle route and weekends, we are inundated with hordes of cyclist’s. They are now becoming a nuisance and danger riding in groups with no consideration to anyone else. Also the last few weekends with the good weather there has been a exceptional amount of cars in our village with walkers just abandoning them on the green, the roads and side streets, we suffered abuse when we asked for them to be moved as they were blocking our access. Unfortunately we cannot have it both ways if its advertised for people to come to the dales, we are told its good for the economy, but not always good for the people who live and work here.

  14. Could a type of ‘congestion charge’ as per London, be implemented. Non locals have to pay to enter the national park, with fines if they don’t pay. This would lead to less traffic and noise

  15. Pollys. In Askrigg, the other side of the valley from the A684 to Hawes, the noise of the bikes comes over loud & clear. Particularly noisy bikes with harsh engine tones can be heard for minutes (yes, minutes, not 20s which seems like minutes…) and there are many of them. Then there is the wail of the racing bikes. If they are doing 60 or less, then I must run at 40! Last weekend I went beyond Ribblehead to the head of Dentdale. Even from around 3 miles away, the noise was intrusive.

    We have on the road a significant cohort of criminal road users. They ride aggressively, cause considerable distress & object vociferously to any attempt to regulate them.

    Let’s not even start about the consequences of them ‘losing it’ at speed…

    Considerate, legal bikers are welcome. Hedonistic, criminal adrenaline junkies are not.

  16. All you whining folk need to go and experience the IOM TT races and then you would realise what real motorcycle noise is like and you don’t find the local people there complaining. I’m amused that you think we only buy a bag of chips and that there isn’t a burger with that and a brew to wash it down so that’s about £7 to £10 per head and obviously if there is a ‘hoard’ of us then that adds up. Perhaps you need to talk to local businesses like Pennygarth café at Hawes to see what they think about this idiotic idea. Then of course we will be wanting some of our road tax back because obviously if we can’t use all of the roads all of the time why should we pay the full amount. So when we then take the wife and kids out in the car and we think oh we’ll go to the dales and I’ll show ’em that little place I found the other day when I was out on the bike………yeah now your getting the idea, back to yoks ago when you used to signs on pub doors ‘Sorry No Motorcyclist’ and I didn’t go in them then when I was out in the car either. They are not ‘YOUR’ roads and it is not ‘YOUR’ countryside and most of you whining twerps probably were not even born there you chose to move there.

  17. I ride couple of times a month in dales but for most bikers a motorbike is there 2nd mode of transport and also have a car and take there familys and friends to the dales in there cars I know last time I went to dales with family spend £450 in food restaurants parking charges a jumpers and a couple of new outfits for her and the kids. So if you want bikers to stop that’s ok but you Got to know the family s you Do have coming and spending money are the same people on the bikes you don’t want coming. As for just buying a bag to chips you do know that a lot of there bikes have panniers to carry luggage. I have carryed all sorts back cakes shirt new boots jugs all sorts which I got from haws iam still going to ride every weekend in dales but won’t to taking the family in car go to coast instead with car and spend are money there

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