PRA chairman Brian Madderson has defended petrol station rules requiring motor cyclists to remove their helmets, after a protest by bikers in Liversedge, West Yorkshire.

Seven bikers blockaded the Co-op Texaco petrol station on Bradford Road for two hours on Saturday August 2 turning away 70 cars.

They were protesting about staff who asked them to remove their helmets before activating the pumps, claiming they were being discriminated against, and carrying a placard reading “Helmets no, burkas yes, discrimination".

Speaking on BBC Radio Leeds on Thursday, protestor Luke Nicholson denied that the protest was racist, and claimed people wearing other types of headgear such as baseball caps and hoodies were not asked to remove them.

He said being asked to remove hiis helmet made him feel like a criminal. He admitted that bikers wearing helmets may look intimidating but insisted they only wanted to refuel.

The Co-op told the radio station they needed to see the face of customers before dispensing fuel because of the problem of theft and drive-offs, to check customers were old enough to purchase fuel, and on health and safety grounds because there were fears bikers with helmets would not be able to hear if cashiers needed to alert them.

In an interview, the PRA chairman told the radio presenter that with so much forecourt crime it was good practice and common sense to require helmets to be removed, and the petrol station owner was taking pre-emptive action to protect its staff and products.

He said someone wearing a helmet was intimidating to staff and there was evidence of people wearing helmets while carrying out violent crimes to hide their faces and as protection against anyone trying to stop them.

He added: “The bikers should respect cashiers doing their job. The shop is available to them if they take their helmets off.”