RENEWED calls have been made for a police crackdown on illegal motorbike riders plaguing towns in Hyndburn.

It comes after Oswaldtwistle man Kevin Gregory, 56, said he was punched in the chest and nearly knocked into the Leeds and Liverpool canal after taking a photograph of a rider.

Mr Gregory, who lives in Aspen Fold, said: “I was walking my dog, George, on the canal towpath near the Hare and Hounds pub, like I do regularly.

“One went past in the opposition direction and I heard him coming back. I thought, ‘I’m sick of this,’ so I got my phone out to get a photo, which I did.

“As he got towards me, he punched me in the chest really hard.”

Mr Gregory, who works at Blackburn Rovers, said he could easily have been knocked into the canal during the incident, on February 6.

He was left in so much pain, he went to hospital for x-rays, although no broken bones were found.

He said: “Can you imagine being hit in the chest at 30mph? If he got off the bike it would have been a different scenario.

“There is a problem with nuisance riders; they have no respect.”

The suspected rider’s name was revealed after Mr Gregory’s daughter Becky shared his picture on the internet, and he was reported to the police.

More than 6,000 Facebook users shared the image. Commenting on the picture, Rishton man Phil Graham wrote: “And what do the police do when we report it? Nothing. It’s like the police won’t acknowledge there’s a problem.

“I think the only way to sort out this problem is to hit the police where it hurts and refuse to pay our council tax.”

Illegal riders have hit and killed a dog on the canal towpath in Rishton in the past, with one also spooking a horse, causing its rider to fall off in December.

Last year, police pledged to crackdown on the riders, and the problem was prioritised at a Police and Communities Together meeting, but the problem continued.

A police spokeswoman yesterday confirmed an investigation was underway, and said officers would be interviewing the suspected biker.