Policing the Isle of Man roads: "There are people doing 130mph in 40mph zones"

With less than 24 hours to go until the TT qualifying week starts, we speak to the new man responsible for policing the public roads during the Isle of Man races, Steve Lapsley.

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Lapsley is so passionate about the TT that he requested a transfer from his home area in Scotland to the island. “I’ve had 20 years in the police service, ten in Scotland and ten in the Isle of Man,” said the new head of the Manx Road Policing Team.

With almost 20,000 extra two and four wheeled vehicles about to descend upon the Manx roads in the next fortnight, Lapsley will face a baptism of fire but he says he can’t wait to get started.

“Yes, it’s a massive workload for us,” he smiles. “I’m working 12 hour shifts for 13 days out of the 16. There’s myself and another supervisor. We spread it out throughout the day because there’s different issues at different times of the day.”

Joining Lapsley will be around 20 officers, including some two officers from Germany.  

“In an ideal world we could have a cop from every European country, because that’s the diversity we get over here at TT,” continued the 40-year-old.

Dangers at the TT

The bushy bearded officer, who doesn’t have his police bike licence but rides a Kawasaki ZX-10R in his personal life, explains that the main purpose of his role at the TT is, understandably, to keep the roads safe and respond immediately to any incidents.

Although the police operate throughout the island’s road network the concentration is on the 37 ¾ miles of the TT course and particularly the Mountain section.

“It is our most dangerous area,” Lapsley says bluntly.

“You have people who have passed their test very recently mixing it with people who have been riding for 30 years, mixing it with tractors, mixing it with push bikes, mixing it with Mrs Jones going to the shops. Sometimes you get people overtaking other riders and then someone else overtaking them. The police can only be at so many places at one time and we just appeal to people to behave themselves, ride to their ability, ride to the road conditions and don’t break the law. Everybody can still have fun.”

Lapsley is at pains to explain that the local cops do not want to spoil anyone’s party.

“We want people to have fun and if you end up getting a ticket from us, you really have to have done something wrong.

“There are areas on the course where you can ride faster than you normally would as long as you are safe but there are areas where there are 20mph zones, 30mph zones, schools etc,” he added.

“We will be out in force this year and if you are doing 50mph in a 30mph zone you will be dealt with.  There is absolutely no excuse for people speeding on the Isle of Man when there are sections of the course where you can go a little bit faster.”

Testing the limits

“You won’t believe some of the manoeuvres we have captured,” Lapsley says, shaking his head.

“There are people doing 130mph in a 40mph zone. I don’t know where they think they are and no biker would excuse that.  

“It’s not a matter of the police persecuting the public, that is just ridiculous. We’ve got a lot of patience and we don’t want people to have a bad time but we have limits.”

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Stephen Davison

By Stephen Davison

Biographer of John McGuinness & road racing's foremost writer & photographer