France vows to crack down on motorbike ‘rodeos’ after children injured
Issued on: 08/08/2022 – 15:49
The French government pledged a new crackdown Monday against illicit motorbike cruising by youths in suburbs across the country, after two children were seriously injured by a rider near Paris.
The rowdy late-night races and stunts known as “rodeos” have become increasingly popular in particular in low-income neighbourhoods, leading to traffic and noise disruption denounced by local officials and many residents.
On Friday evening, a 10-year-old girl and an 11-year-old boy were hit by a rider while playing tag outside their home in Pontoise, northwest of the capital.
French daily Le Figaro reported Monday that the girl suffered a traumatic blow to the head and remained in serious condition at hospital, while the boy had a broken leg.
The accident came after a 19-year-old man was killed in June after being hit by a bike rider in the western city of Rennes.
“I have asked the police to step up their interventions this month,” Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said in the southern city of Marseille, with a target of 10,000 controls nationwide.
Nonetheless the rodeos are often tolerated or defended as a gritty urban subculture that provides an outlet for disaffected youths, with an upcoming film, “Rodeo“, that appears to glorify the gatherings and generated a strong buzz at the Cannes film festival last May.
“The government is very tough not against urban rodeos that some depict positively, as if it were a spectacle, but against these criminal acts that have killed or seriously wounded women and children, as we have just seen,” Darmanin said.
He said police had carried out 8,000 operations to break up rodeos in the past two months, leading to 1,200 arrests and the seizure of around 700 motorbikes and other vehicles including all-terrain “quads”.
In 2018, parliament passed a law increasing penalties for the riders to up to five years in prison.
But France has not taken as drastic measures as Britain, where police are authorised to ram their cars into suspected criminal riders to knock them over, a practice known as “tactical contact”.