I witnessed my first motorcycle accident aged 13 in 1976. David demanded to race his 1958 vintage 150cc single-cylinder James Captain against my 1967 Raleigh Wisp. It was ostensibly futile. The James was feeble by modern standards, but it still produced a lot more power than my moped. The difference was that my brakes worked.
We lined up on a closed strip of Tarmac leading to an old railway yard. A narrow 300-yard straight ended in a sharp right-hand bend bordered by a dry-stone wall. David's twin fired the starting gun (his air rifle) and I led for 250 yards, but I could hear the James thundering behind me.
Approaching the corner, I braked and David roared past. He lost control and smashed his leg against the wall before ricocheting back on to the road in a mess of steel and blood. He was barely conscious.
Stupid stunts like that on MOT failures with dead brakes and non-existent suspension were how many of my generation learnt to ride. Modern teenagers have a better option. For prices starting not far above £100 they can buy mini-motorbikes with ventilated disc-brakes and monoshock suspensions. Until recently it filled my heart with joy to see so many motorcyclists of the future enjoying themselves on these educational toys.
Sadly, the Government does not regard them as toys. Sunk deep in its addiction to the twin stereotypes of the fragile child and the feral adolescent it perceives mini-motorcycles as threatening. Either they will injure their users or terrify the public. Ergo, they must be stopped.
At first this crusade against enjoyment contented itself with warnings that mini-motos may only be ridden on private land, and lectures from police officers asserting that the machines are anti-social and "can be lethal". Next, police forces began using new powers to crush bikes they found being "ridden illegally or irresponsibly". Now one of New Labour's finest wants to go further.
In the Commons last month, Chris Bryant MP tabled a Ten Minute Rule Bill that would introduce compulsory registration for all off-road motorcycles. It would require about 250,000 machines kept for private use to complete the same formalities as road legal vehicles.
As Craig Carey Clinch of the Motorcycle Industry Association points out: "The scheme would be expensive, legally complex and ineffective. Implementation would cost money which would be recouped largely from people who are not part of the problem, rather than those that are already committing multiple offences."
These are the idiots who ride their mini-bikes on public roads, in parks or along canal towpaths. I find the most effective response is to laugh at them. Anyone over 5'4" looks daft on a mini-motorcycle. But if humiliation does not, work police powers are already ample.
Mini-bikes used on public roads without registration plates and insurance contravene road traffic Acts. Riding in parks and on footpaths is illegal. All that is required to prevent such abuses is enforcement of existing legislation. Bringing charges against a motorcyclist with number plates requires exactly the same amount of labour as apprehending one without.
Granted, Ten Minute Rule Bills are the parliamentary equivalent of graffiti. But they allow MPs to express support in principle, and the hysteria about mini-motos is such that I can easily imagine the Government adopting Mr Bryant's proposal. Then the cost of owning mini-bikes will rise, potential motorcyclists will be deterred and teenagers can go back to harming themselves on lumps of rusting junk. Tremendous.Reuse content