Police had to intervene on the Antwerp ring-road on Saturday when hundreds of motorcyclists started performing wheelies and blocking the passage of other vehicles on the road. The bikers were taking part in the ROC Europe (Riders of the Century) event, one leg of which goes from Antwerp to Ghent. According to the VRT, motorcyclists spread out over the full width of the motorway, preventing any other vehicle from overtaking. They also performed wheelies – raising up the front wheel and riding along on the back wheel only.
According to witnesses, many of the riders were improperly dressed, and some of the bikes were missing licence plates.
Federal police intervened, and announced they would be bringing serious charges against at least 40 of the participants. They are also considering withdrawing the driving licences from some offenders for a period of two weeks. The organisers of the event had reached an agreement with traffic police beforehand, but that did not include riding stunts or interfering with other road traffic, police said. “Things went wrong from the start,” a police spokesperson said.
One of the organisers, Brad Valkenburg of the group Wheelie Time, accused the police of over-reacting. “Stunt riders come for this event from countries all over to do crazy stuff on one wheel,” he told Het Nieuwsblad. “There were participants from France, Germany and Belgium. This is the second time it’s taken place. Last year we could do anything, and there wasn’t a single problem.”
This year, by contrast, the numbers of those taking part went from 150 to 600, and police cracked down on stunt riding. “Every rider had to be breathalysed at the start, not in itself a bad thing. But later the police were inspecting everything, and writing out tickets for anything not in order.”