Bikes: Really a problem?

Bikers at Strand Quay back in pre-lockdown days

We get plenty of comments on stories in Rye News which we enjoy reading, and most of them get published. Just occasionally a subject comes up that dominates the comments columns and right now, that subject is motorcyclists and their weekly meet-up at Strand Quay.

We first published an article on this a few weeks ago and since then the Environment Agency, who own the Quay, have asked for opinions – and they are certainly getting them. In addition, the problem was discussed by the town council this week.

The council’s discussion seems to have centred mainly on noise and speeding of motorbikes who use Strand Quay as their meeting place, although they, as demonstrated below, are not the main cause.

A number of bikers have written to in give their point of view, pointing out, among other things, the interest shown in the bikes parked at the Quay by both locals and tourists, together with the money that they spend not just in establishments close to the Quay, but also in pubs, coffee and tea rooms, and restaurants elsewhere in the town.

In return, the anti-biking viewpoint has complained of noise, speeding and the ability of bikers to park free.

“Unjustly demonised”

In view of all this, I recently went down to the Quay to have a look at the bikes and talk to some of the bikers and found them to be respectful of Rye and its surroundings, responsible in the way they treated and rode their (often very valuable) machines, and more than a little upset at the way they felt they had been unjustly demonised by some of the locals.

But let’s examine some of the complaints that have come in to Rye News.

Noise: It is, without doubt, a fact that a motorcycle engine makes a louder noise that that of the average car, even with the manufacturer’s latest exhaust and silencing technology. Many bikers also fit an after-market exhaust which is designed to increase and change the tone of the exhaust noise.

It should be noted, however, that when bought from a reputable supplier, these exhausts will still display the BSI Kitemark and therefore be within current noise regulations. One or two complaints suggesting that bikes could be heard several miles before arriving in Rye, would seem, even allowing for an after-market exhaust, to be somewhat exaggerated.

One reader claimed that over a given period on one day, some 300 bikes passed his home. I don’t know whether all these were counted individually or whether the figure (which, on the face of it, sounds a little excessive) is an estimate, but let us assume it is accurate.

“Simply passing through”

On the weekend I went to talk to the bikers there were around 30 bikes in the car park (although there was room for more). On this basis, therefore, only 10% of the bikes that passed our reader actually stopped in Rye, the remainder were simply passing through en route to other destinations, and, indeed, I saw evidence of this while talking to the bikers parked on the Quay.

Speed: Several readers have complained about excessive speed, and while this may be the case in some instances (as it is with cars and vans), the majority of bikes that I observed appeared to be travelling within the legal limit. Certainly one or two estimates of speed that have been made would simply not be possible under normal circumstances.

Should they pay to park? As a general rule, parking is free for motor bikes and scooters around the country. Some may not agree with this principle, but as this is the norm, there seems to be no reason to change it just for Rye.

The real problem here is not primarily the bikers, but that Rye is on a major east / west trunk route – the A259 – and, until such time as the Highways Agency realises that our local roads are totally unsuited to 21st century traffic (and don’t hold your breath waiting for that), we are going to have to suffer increasing levels of noise and pollution, whether it is cars, vans, HGVs or motorbikes, and the price we currently have to pay for living in this lovely old town is that we have to accept this.

It is easy to blame one section of the community for something that a few very vocal people find an inconvenience, but, as the council heard, it is cars rather than motorcycles who are most guilty of speeding. It is also a fact that the majority of motor bikes are simply passing through without stopping (a point that the council meeting, according to the report, seemed to have entirely missed), so any attempt to prevent bikers gathering at Strand Quay would have very little effect on overall noise levels.

For a number of years I lived at the lower end of the Strand where I overlooked the river and the A259. Compared to the noise of HGVs, bikes were rarely a problem and at 7am every Saturday a JCB would arrive in St Margaret’s Terrace opposite, and drag its bucket over the unmade road in an attempt to rectify the damage caused during the preceding week by lorries exiting Jempsons’ haulage yard. The noise was far worse than anything originating from motorbikes!

Image Credits: John Minter .


  1. Thank you for a balanced article. The vast majority of after market exhausts are, in fact, legal albeit noisy. Mine is no exception, but always passes the MOT. As ever, the problem is a small minority who speed (which is when bikes are at their loudest….), particularly early in the morning at weekends. This is a police matter and could be easily dealt with by them if they had the resources. Objecting to bikers on the Strand would make no difference whatsoever, and would be a step backwards for our vibrant lovely town.

  2. The claim that a few bikes can be heard approaching the town from several miles away is not inaccurate, I can bear witness to that on an almost daily basis. It would seem however, from the regular timing of these events, that it is a small number of regular offenders. Some persistent police action would probably deal with it but sadly unlikely to be forthcoming

  3. I agree with Simon Parsons. Living on one of the principal “A” roads leading into Rye, about 2 miles distant, motorcyclists and cars take full advantage of the fact that this is one of the few derestricted stretches of road in the area. Speeds well in excess of the supposed 60mph limit are witnessed daily. But it is the sound of the presumably modified motorcycles that are the real problem as they can be heard for many minutes – in fact they can be tracked by ear where they are! Whether or not they are headed for Strand Quay is, quite frankly, irrelevant.

  4. First off, Mr Minter has inaccurately portrayed those who are distressed about the noise and speed to be “anti-bikers”; that is simply not the case and he unfortunately conflates two separate issues. It is hard to say what percentage of bikers and car drivers speed and make excessive noise but from the many complaints of Rye residents this has become a continuing problem that has yet to be resolved. New Road, Military Road, Winchelsea Road, Udimore Road and Rye Road are the main thoroughfares into and out of town and it is particularly in these locations that speed and noise are a problem and not an “inconvenience” for a very few local people” as Mr Minter states. So this Friday morning at 6.48 I was inconvenienced by 3 loud motorcycles waking me up. I have no idea of the speed but the noise was definitely over the limit. This has happened most Saturday and Sunday mornings since April or May (I haven’t counted) and also some other mornings. And in the evenings at different times, sometimes well past 22.00.

    As to how far away, most definitely I can hear loud motorcycles across the marsh from Kent before coming into East Guldeford and well down Military Road before they enter Rye; my guess would be it could be up to 2 miles.

    It has seemed to me that the tendency has been to ignore the issue of speed and noise and the wellbeing of people who live here (as Mr Minter has done) and focus on the economic benefit that bikers bring to a few businesses. I am all for economic benefit for businesses but that should not take priority over the quality of life of residents. I very much doubt reduced speed and less noise will negatively impact local businesses. And of course, keep the Strand parking area open if the Environmental Agency has no objections, which it appears they don’t. However, it would be good to survey Rye residents who live near the Strand and ask them their experiences about the use of the parking area.

    • You are absolutely spot-on with everything you have written. I get attacked because people think I am anti-bikers. I am not. I’m anti the excessive noise pollution and the breaking of the speed limit, and the lack of care or interest in the quality of life of those that live in Rye and other surrounding places. Why do our weekends have to destroyed because some bikers want to race through ?


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