RECKLESS youths on motorcycles are using public footpaths as a race track and are putting lives at risk, police have said.

North Swindon neighbourhood officers led an operation in a bid to crack down on the illegal off-road use of scooters and scramblers, which residents have complained is causing a nuisance.

With check points in Abbey Meads, Greenmeadow, Haydon Wick and Penhill, officers, including an off-road policing unit, took to the streets and one officer narrowly escaped injury when a rider on a scrambler sped towards them in an attempt to evade capture.

Another was given a warning before he began to ride on the pavement and officers also fined a tractor driver who was using a footpath as a shortcut.

PC Stephanie England, community beat manager for the area, said the culprits knew they were breaking the law and could face losing their vehicles once they were caught.

She said: “I think it was quite successful in terms of letting the community know we were there. We were obviously patrolling in high-visibility clothing and acted as a deterrent to those we saw on the night.

“We managed to stop one rider before he committed an offence and took his details, but then we spotted a bike with two people on it using the footpath from the direction of Pond Lane.

“He was weaving in and out and avoiding officers at the checkpoints. When he got over to the other side of the bridge into Abbey Meads he sped up and came very close to one officer.

“He was certainly going fast enough to cause serious injury if he had hit someone and the girl on the back was also not wearing a helmet. It just goes to show they are a danger to themselves and to others.

“Lots of young kids use the parks and there were dog walkers out in the evenings too. We believe they are using the footpaths as a track as they are quite wide and form a bit of a loop – it’s a game to them. They think they cannot be touched but we have several powers including a one-off warning before we can confiscate their vehicles from them. We can also fine them £30.”

Anyone with any information should contact North Swindon police on 101 or Crimestoppers, where information can be left anonymously, on 0800 555 111.