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More and more German car drivers switch to light motorcycles

Thanks to a change in German legislation, car drivers can now easily leave their car and start riding a 125 cc motorcycle.

When FEMA published a poll, asking European motorcyclists if they thought car licence holders should be allowed to ride an A1 motorcycle, a large majority of motorcyclists said car drivers should have easier access to light motorcycles.

In response to our poll, motorcyclists said car licence holders should be allowed to ride an A1 motorcycle, as long as they take some motorcycle lessons to master riding a two-wheeled vehicle. In some European countries, car licence holders (B licence) are already allowed to ride an A1 motorcycle, a motorcycle of 125cc, but there is no coherent European policy on this matter.

Since the FEMA poll, legislation in Germany has changed. Drivers who have had their B licence for at least five years, who are at least 25 years old and who have completed theoretical and practical training of at least 13.5 hours can ride a 125 cc motorcycle (a final driving test is not necessary). This specific A1 licence does not allow the holder to ride a light motorcycle abroad.

The Kraftfahrt-Bundesamt – the German federal motor transport authority – tells us that in the first six months of this year around 27,000 B licence holders (21,994 men and 4,899 women) took the opportunity to get an A1 licence under the new rules. Let’s take a look at the ages of those that did:

  • up to 30 years 12%
  • 31 to 44 years 40%
  • 45 to 60 years 46%
  • 61 years and older 2%
Olaf Biethan (BVDM chairman) considers it urgently necessary to take into account the needs and advantages of motorized two-wheelers in future traffic planning.

German motorcyclists’ organization BVDM, a member of FEMA, welcomed the opportunity for car drivers to ride a 125 cc. Olaf Biethan, chairman of BVDM: “The 125 cc bikes are vehicles that are typically used for everyday riding. Anyone who leaves their car behind and instead rides a 125 cc or a comparable scooter relieves our roads. Less traffic jams, fewer pollutant emissions, et cetera. It also protects the environment sustainably. Far fewer raw materials and energy are required and wasted to build and operate a light two-wheeler than a car, which is used by just one person on most daily journeys.”

Olaf continues: “A light motorcycle or scooter can also be an inexpensive way to get started with electric mobility. Significantly cheaper than an e-car and without emissions in the city. The range is also not a problem in daily traffic. And under the current circumstances: when walking or cycling is out of the question due to the distance, the risk of infection with the coronavirus is lowest when using a motorized two-wheeler. Less than in the car and especially in public transport. You are always in a well-ventilated room and wearing a helmet also significantly reduces the spread of possible viruses.”

Motorcycle registration figures show that the 125 cc option is definitely accepted in Germany. In May 2020, 111 percent more light scooters were registered in Germany than in the same month of the previous year. In the case of light motorcycles, it was 60 percent more. The total registrations of motorcycles in Germany from January to May 2020, due to Corona, were 10 percent lower. Light motorcycles (+ 22%) and light scooters (+ 44%), on the other hand, increased significantly despite Corona (source: IVM).

Sceptics will say that allowing car drivers on A1 motorcycles will lead to more accidents. Matthias Haasper from the Institut für Zweiradsicherheit (IfZ), the German Institute for Motorcycle Safety tells us how it really is:

“It is not yet possible to make a statement about the number of accidents at this time. It is well known that the possibility of riding light motorcycles for motorists (‘A1 with B’) has only been possible since the beginning of 2020. In addition, riding school operations were temporarily suspended across Germany until the end of May due to the pandemic.”

“The official figures of the Federal Statistical Office with a particular focus on light motorcycles are not yet available, so this question cannot be answered at the moment. The interpretation of the accident figures with a view to ‘A1 with B’ is also difficult because the users are in different age groups. For this reason, an age class-dependent special evaluation must take place in the long term. But even then, it is often difficult to attribute a potential change in the numbers to a single cause. Such an analysis will be possible and useful in the spring of next year at the earliest.”

“What we can say so far, however, is a general decline in the number of casualties among users of powered two-wheelers, especially this year from January to July. This also includes the group of light motorcyclists.”

Written by Wim Taal

This article is subject to FEMA’s copyright

Sources: BVDM, Kraftfahrt-Bundesamt

Top photograph: Honda