What is the end game of this push?
Many publications have gone into overdrive to assure motorcyclists that nobody is trying to take their beloved two-wheelers away from them. While that might technically be true, at least for now, there have been numerous attempts to restrict the use of motorcycles on public roads in the recent past. Some of these bike bans have been successful and others have been rolled back or never went into effect. However, these attempts seem to be happening more frequently, so the likelihood some will stick also increases.
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One of the most concerning items comes via the so-called European Green Deal. It aims at reducing net greenhouse gas emissions on the continent by at least 55% by the year 2030. While motorcycles aren’t mentioned in the plan, for many riders it’s obvious this will be used to enforce only all-electric bikes will be allowed on public roads. Thanks to packaging constraints, electrifying anything with two wheels to be ridden longer distances is problematic.
Not shockingly, motorcycle owners aren’t onboard with a ban on internal combustion engine bikes. A study done by the Federation of European Motorcyclists’ Associations (FEMA) revealed last fall indicated 92.91% of respondents were not in favor of such a ban. That might be shocking to those who live in highly urban areas and only associate with those who don’t ride, which is part of the problem. Many of the bans which have gone into effect or are being considered aren’t being influenced in the least by people who actually own motorcycles.
The UK has been more overt with its proposed ban on internal combustion engine motorcycles. Last summer, the island nation unveiled a plan to decarbonize transportation by 2035, which includes L-class vehicles, covering motorcycles. In other words, those will have to be zero emissions vehicles by the deadline.
German federal states weighed banning the use of motorcycles on Sundays and during public holidays. This ban ostensibly was about noise pollution, with some trying to figure out how to reduce the noise of all bikes to nothing more than what a lawnmower or passing truck would emit. I know everyone’s excited to ride a two-wheeled lawnmower. Enthusiasts weren’t happy, so they took to the streets in big numbers with 5,000 joining into a protest in Friedrichshafen and 8,000 in Stuttgart.
I’ve covered before how Paris has looked into restricting the operation of internal combustion engine motorcycles and scooters as a way to reduce noise pollution. Already, there is a ban in place for any two-wheeled vehicle made before 2000 from entering the city in the name of reducing air pollution.
There was a proposal to restrict motorcycles manufactured before 2007, but that has been tabled for the moment. The postponement isn’t about French officials realizing maybe such a thing is draconian, but instead is to allow for the government to validate new speed cameras so it can fine violators and collect a bunch of money because of course.
New York City took a heavy-handed approach to the use of illegal dirt bikes in the Big Apple, posting video on Twitter of those, street bikes, and ATVs being crushed by a bulldozer. Some thought it was too much, but city brass claimed the focus on two-wheeled vehicles came about because they were being used to commit violent crime. People were understandably confused about what the true reasons for making the video were, considering many of the vehicles featured in it could have been resold and used legitimately. Going after motorcycles seems like an easy way for politicians to look like they’re being tough on crime because of the perception that nobody will care.
Even Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is getting in on banning motorcycles. Fueled by Carlin Dunne’s fatal crash back in 2019, organizers and others were talking a lot about just getting rid of all two-wheelers from the competition. That talk became reality on August 11, 2021, ending a tradition which began back in 1916.
Don’t think motorcycles are the only motorized two-wheelers getting banned in certain areas. While environmentalists seem to have a real soft spot for e-bikes, those have been barred from San Clemente’s beach pathways. The California city stopped short of banning them from inland trails when this was announced back in January of this year, but that might be next.
Meanwhile, Durango has been grappling with e-bike bans as well. There’s a hot debate about instituting such a thing in the Colorado city, with people saying those riding the electric bikes speed on trails, ride recklessly, and have been overwhelming facilities. The complaints sound eerily similar to some of the reasons motorcycles have been targeted.
Banning motorcycles isn’t a phenomenon unique to the West. There have been outright bans in places like the Philippines and Singapore is considering a ban. Even more notable is the fact the Chinese Communist Party has used motorcycle bans in certain parts of China as a coercive tool. Usually, these bans have been justified by the government as a way to save lives since motorcycle crashes are more likely to be fatal. Of course, the more ubiquitous nature of bikes are a primary form of transportation in that area of the world changes what a ban does, but this does show nowhere seems to be immune to the idea of wanting to tell people they can’t ride motorcycles or at least certain types of motorcycles in specified places.
Sources: Politico, Elsevier, Hindawi, Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, Le Repaire, Top Speed, Twitter, DW, The OCR, Durango Telegraph, Environmental Badge
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