Operation Scrambler: Policing the Peaks

London Motorcycle Crime: A Constable’s Thoughts
February 19, 2018
Reviewed: 2012 KTM 450 EXC-F
March 1, 2018

Following on from the high profile seizure of bikes and arrests made in Humberside by Cheshire’s Rural Crime Team in January, we caught up with Sgt. Rob Simpson to talk about Operation Scrambler.

The Humberside investigation involving seven warrants, the seizure of off road bikes and the arrest and interview of seven men is ongoing, so we hope to keep in touch with Rob and his team for updates as the wheels of justice move.

It’s not currently possible for Rob to comment about the investigation, but he has kindly given us some information that can help us when we’re riding in Cheshire and the Peak District.

Motorcycles being confiscated as part of Operation Scrambler.

Thanks for finding the time to chat with us Rob. Firstly, are lawful and responsible trail riders likely to be caught up in future operations?

Absolutely they will be, but I would like to reassure riders that being caught up in Operation Scrambler doesn’t necessarily mean a negative encounter. It was not set up to target riders, it was set up to manage any issues that crop up in the world of trail riding.

When we have been running days of action, whether that’s with our own off road bikes, or purely random stops of riders by our marked vehicles, we have had some really great interactions. There are riders including our own police officers and staff, who clearly love their sport / hobby and I can certainly see the appeal. I would encourage those riders who are riding legally, to speak to us and get to know us as a team. We want, like them, to root out those that risk the lanes being closed, or give their activity bad publicity.

If you give us ten minutes of your time, we will let you go on your way without any issues. Make sure you follow us on Facebook and Twitter so you can see some of the work we are doing and for more updates.

Motorcycles confiscated as part of Operation Scrambler.

Some trail riders think that police time would be better spent investigating the theft and criminal misuse of dirt bikes.

What do you have to say to them?

Without wishing to distance ourselves from the issue of bike theft, which clearly is very important, we specialize in policing the remote and rural areas as you might expect. We don’t have dirt bike thefts on our patches, but we do have quads stolen and other plant machinery, which we actively investigate. Other teams however do look at the theft of motor vehicles and there is a lot of work done behind the scenes gaining intelligence on those who steal them.

I do however certainly understand people’s frustrations when they see us taking the action that we have recently done in Humberside. We know that riders spend a lot of money on their bikes, and a lot on securing them too, so when it seems that we are seizing hard working people’s bikes which are registered and taxed, it can appear unbalanced.

I can assure you that we do take positive action to target and address bike thieves, but we may not be as good at posting the good work we do in relation to that on social media.

Cheshire Police welcome legal trail riders to the Peak District.

Finally, what advice would you give motorcyclists wishing to enjoy trail riding within the Peak District?

The Peak District National Park is a fantastic place for everyone to enjoy, whatever your hobby. We ask that people respect it, understand that the land does belong to someone and that the rules of the road apply to many of the lanes that you may find yourself riding on. Bikes will cause minor damage to trails that they are being ridden on, but this is accepted on trails that riders are permitted on. The land either side of that trail however is private and may on occasion be a Site Of Special Scientific Interest with rare flora and fauna or even rare or endangered animals.

Those of you that are passionate about your hobby/sport and quite rightly so, on the whole, do everything they can to stay legal. We know that people use smaller plates which yes are illegal, but I do understand why you use them - so they don’t get broken and so on. I can’t however ever say that you are fine to do so, because the law is quite clear.

We do still come across insurance issues, where people believe that they are insured because someone else in the group has organized it or similar. Please understand, it is you that needs to be 100% sure that you are insured before you ride, so please check.

The historic Washgate Lane. A TRO now prevents use by motorcycles.

Many of the counties now have their definitive map online so you can see which lanes are BOATs, which have TROs on them and so on. We met a group from Leicestershire late last year who I have previously referred to as the ‘bench mark’ – They were TRF members, they had maps with them, which they had transferred route details on to from a definitive map. They were even aware of one of the lanes being blocked locally, having checked on discussion boards and on social media. They were fully prepared and we had a good chat about their bikes and their trip over here.

We have done some work looking at signage, and although there isn’t a national sign for off road trails, there are plenty in our area that tell you were you can’t go. If in any doubt the TRF, Green Lane Association and Association of Peak Trail Riders can all advise which highways may be used by motor vehicle and which may not.

I would encourage all lawful motorcyclists to approach the police in the countryside for a conversation and advice without worry, and that they understand Operation Scrambler supports trail riding by prosecuting criminals who misuse and abuse your rights and privileges.

Some of Britain's best green roads are located in the Peak District.

Andrew Richardson, founder of The Association of Peak Trail Riders says:

The separation of the illegal and the legal rider is key to the public perception of motorcycles. It is the general public opinion that drives the politicians and local authorities to make policies or laws that affect us. In particular with the types of machines we ride - we cannot reasonably expect a member of the public who has no interest in motorcycles to recognise the difference between a MX bike or a road legal trail bike.

It is therefore in our interests to show the difference through behaviour and (whenever possible) by explanation. The merging of the likeness to the bikes yobs ride is no doubt used against us for the convenience of some of the anti-access groups who attempt to conveniently put us in the same category. As we know, nothing is further from the truth!

APTR are a welcome ally in green road conservation and trail riding advocacy.

We must support the Police and the authorities in order to reduce and control the problem of illegal and irresponsible behaviour. Currently APTR have been in touch with local MPs and authorities to suggest the law regarding the supply of petrol to minors and youths should be further reviewed and enforced with fuel stations made aware that such fuel sales are contributing to these anti-social issues.

I have also suggested that the councils and local authorities could look to find and provide suitable and safe places for youngsters to ride. The need to provide areas for recreational pursuits should include motorcycles. This means off-road places for younger riders to use, as well as a decent legal road riding infrastructure for trail riders. After all, how the current trend of closing legal routes possibly reduce illegal riding?

Riding lawful routes using legal motorcycles in a responsible way is the backbone of the TRF code of conduct.

Most of our members are happy to volunteer their time to help anyone who is unsure of where they can ride or how best to do so.

Motorcycling, adventure and fraternity.


  1. Police out near Wroughton, Wiltshire this afternoon, looking like they were dealing with MX bikes and a transit van.

  2. Would it be too much to ask the police to concentrate on the areas where the actual problem is, and leave us alone?


    Sort out the illegal riders in the towns: THAT’S WHERE THE PROBLEM IS.

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