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Corona crisis: Greece has turned to motorcycles

‘For substantial, fast and efficient transportation there is one solution: motorcycles.’ FEMA veteran Thomas Kakadiaris looks at motorcycling during the coronavirus crisis from a Greek perspective.

For years, a large number of traffic experts and traffic planners have made clear their support for public transport, often supporting policies which neglect powered two-wheelers. In Europe as early as 2011, the contribution of powered two-wheelers (motorcycles, mopeds) as a solution to the issues of transportation within the urban fabric started being timidly recognized. Now coronavirus (COVID-19) has arrived and suddenly our whole life, together with transportation issues should be reconsidered on a new basis.

Doctors assume that the virus spread control is approaching, but at the same time, they are sounding the alarm about the risk of infection and a new wave of the pandemic. A new reality is here. It will be here for a long time, if not forever. Social distancing in grocery stores, that is 1.5 to 2 meters, seems to be the dominant safety formula. We may have to get used to live in a society in which we must maintain distance between us in public places, including transportation, schools, bars and restaurants. Quarantine will not be easy for any of us; many jobs are being lost, economies are shrinking, and social isolation threatens to change the way we live. Remote work and the necessary technologies may be a part of our new reality but people’s travelling, and goods’ transportation cannot be ignored. Above all, they cannot be abolished.

Even in quarantine, we, here in South Europe, have turned to powered two-wheelers. The couriers are supplying goods to all of us. The coronavirus crisis highlighted the importance of those workers who have been so despised by the State or have suffered severely during the 10-year economic crisis in Greece. The ‘kids’ – so called by the Greek State coronavirus campaign, some of them over 55 years old – are bringing to our homes what we would not have had if they were not riding their mopeds. The kids are alright!

Goods must be transported, and people must go to work, to school, to stores. Keeping distances in public transportation vehicles would be a bet, especially during rush hours. Perhaps airports are an easy case because they are well-organized facilities, with security personnel guiding the travellers, but in public buses or in the underground, how exactly will it be done? Their capacity will be reduced by 60% or 70%. Suddenly all arguments of traffic experts would disappear.

We know that we will now have ‘tips’ for walking and cycling. Is anyone there estimating that walking and riding a pedal bike will cover our everyday needs? Are you saying that they should come to the point of proposing transportation solutions like those of Amish (*)? So, the question is how do we organize transportation and tourism when we are allowed to travel again?

Unfortunately for anti-motorcycle campaigners, cars and motorcycles have remained. Only one passenger per taxi, only two passengers and the driver in private cars (provided they are ‘close contact’, i.e. family) and the whole theory of eco-mobility without a motorcycle flies away. Whether they like it or not, corona mobility has come and here in the South Europe, we have to love the powered two-wheelers once again. We have been writing that motorcycles are the solution for mobility problems. It is time for Statesmen to re-consider how they are treating motorcycles and motorcyclists. They have to abandon hostility as a permanent attitude towards the motorcycle and to reconsider laws, traffic structures and financial issues in a true and substantial look. We have to reorganize the way our State treats the motorcycle and the motorcyclist. We are not talking about ‘favours’ and ‘facilities’. We are talking about sensible changes. We want the Greek State to consider once again why one-liter engine motorcycles pay the same road taxes with a car of the same engine displacement. We want to know why the cost of the tolls for a motorcycle reaches 60% – 70% of the toll costs for a car. Let someone explain to us why the cost of maintenance and road worthiness testing of motorcycles is so expensive. Let someone explain to us why when someone imports a 30-year-old motorcycle, taxes are calculated on the value of the motorcycle reduced only by 54%, while respectively taxes of a car calculated on the value reduced by 95%! Let someone explain all this to us, especially here in the South of Europe, where the powered two-wheelers will always be present (thankfully) on our roads.

‘It is time for Statesmen to re-consider how they are treating motorcycles and motorcyclists.’

We may be optimistic, but most of all: let us be realistic. Soon we will be able to move freely again. We will soon be able to travel freely, although for a period of time there will be restrictions on how we travel. In order to maintain the distance between us, we have to accept a reduction of public transportation vehicles’ capacity. For substantial, fast and efficient transportation there is one solution – as it has been for many years now: motorcycles.

Personal transportation and freight transport will be served by all types of powered two-wheelers. The whole context, financial, legal, educational and the legislation should be reconsidered. Encouraging the use of the powered two-wheelers means better infrastructure, more parking areas, more training, less taxes. The use of powered two-wheelers allows us to travel and move everywhere, maintaining the necessary social distances. Now we are at the era of corona mobility and we will see the ‘revenge’ of the motorcycle in the post-coronavirus era!

Written by Thomas G. Kakadiaris (Director of MOTOTHESIS He.M.I. of MOTOE Greece)

This article was originally published in Greece as Thomas’ Sunday column in the newspaper ‘Ταχυδρόμος’ (‘The post man’).

Top photograph courtesy of Moto Kurye

(*) The Amish are a religious group, which rejects new technologies, even electricity. Its members choose traditional methods of transport service, e.g. life-saving vehicles, etc.