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Perth Doctor calls for ban on kids riding trail bikes


The West Australian today reported on a call by PMH emergency department director Dr Gary Geelhoed to impose an age limit on rding trail and quad bikes.

According to The West, Dr Geelhoed said he did not believe children had the strength to control the bikes.

Though he did not specify what the age limit should be, he said tougher restrictions were needed.

The RTRA categorically opposes such an arbitrary ban on the following grounds:

Like any outdoor adventure activity, trail bike riding has risks.  Those risks can be managed, irrespective of the age of the rider by wearing the appropriate safety equipment, riding a bike or quad of the appropriate size and power for the age and physique of the rider, riding within the limits of the capability of the rider (which in the case of kids generally involves parental supervision) and riding to the prevailing conditions.

Dr Geelhoed may be alarmed at the number of injuries presented at PMH relating to trail and quad bikes but he has presented no evidence as to the proportion of riders being injured.  Data provided by PMH for the State Trail Bike Strategy shows that quad bike injuries rate below the following in terms of proportion of injuries from sporting activities:

  • Bicycle - 18%
  • Football - 16%
  • Soccer - 9%
  • Trampoline - 8%
  • Skateboards - 5%
  • Rugby - 5%
  • Netball - 4%
  • Motorcycles - 4%
  • Quad Bikes - 1.3%
  • Horse Riding - 1.3%

See Chart

The PMH Report notes that trail and quad bike injuries are often more severe than other forms of sporting injury, however the report does not differentiate between injuries suffered by riders wearing or not wearing full protective equipment.

There is no basis for the assumption that age is the sole determinant of injury, and no attempt to relate the rate of injuries to a meaningful basis such as overall hours of participation.

The idea that children 'don't have the strength to control the bikes' as asserted by Dr Geelhoed can be dispelled easily at any junior enduro or junior motocross meeting, or at any Off Road Vehicle area where even young children can be seen competently controlling their bikes.  The key is to ensure that children are riding bikes that are an appropriate weight and power for their physique.

Dr Geelhoed appears to make no allowance for the following positive benefits of the activity, which must surely be weighed against any risks:

Outdoor Activity - would we rather have our kids inside simulating the experience on their PS3s and X-Boxes?

Skills Development - do we really want our kids to first learn to control a vehicle on public roads in traffic?

The RTRA view is that parents are in the best position to judge whether and what their children are capable of riding.  It is perfectly acceptable for a parent to decide that he or she doesn't want their child to ride a trail or quad bike.  It is not acceptable for an arbitrary age limit to be imposed on those parents who choose to share their passion for the outdoors and trail bike riding with their children. 

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