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‘Ignoring motorcycles is a missed opportunity’

In all reports and plans that are published by EU institutions, the European Commission, the European Parliament and so on, motorcycles are not mentioned anymore. Perhaps you have noticed it too. FEMA’s Dolf Willigers did…

It’s like we do not exist. This is a pity because motorcycles have many advantages to other means of transport. By ignoring motorcycles, national and European legislators and local authorities miss a chance to reduce pollution, congestion, and parking problems.

Let’s start with a few examples to illustrate what happens these days. In the summer of 2021, the European Commission published a Public Consultation about sustainable transport – the new urban mobility framework. Nothing wrong with that of course, but motorcycles were not mentioned (not even electric mopeds). We sent a letter to the Commission, together with our colleagues from FIM Europe and ACEM to point out that (electric) motorcycles, or powered two-wheelers as we called them in the letter, are a valuable addition to public transport, walking and cycling, as these modes cannot realistically cover all transport needs and the need for private motorized transport will always exist where this is the case.

After this we had a meeting with the European Commission where we could explain our view, but this did not change much, because after our exchange of views nothing happened. Another example: all publications of the European Commission, webinars about urban mobility, guidelines for SUMPS (Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans), they all bear the same mantra: ‘public transport, cycling, walking’. The only exception is made for electric kick-scooters, that seem to be seen as sustainable (with a lifespan of just several months…) because car drivers are expected to leave their cars for them. I am still waiting to meet the first car driver who did that. To finish off, a third example: on 13 January 2023, the European Commission published a handbook, called ‘Network Wide Road Safety Assessment – Methodology and Implementation Handbook’. In all 86 pages motorcycles or motorcyclists are mentioned once, in the context of data collection. Bicyclists are mentioned 61 times, pedestrians 47 times, but motorcycles seem to be just part of ‘motorized traffic’ with the same characteristics and needs as cars and trucks. As motorcyclists, we all know that this is not the case.

Please, don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining. After being active in motorcyclists’ rights advocacy for decades I am past that. But when you observe that a whole category of road users is just ignored, and at the same time see that quite ridiculous vehicles as electric kick-scooters are promoted, see that the European Parliament votes on 31 January 2023 for a resolution on developing an EU cycling strategy because “more dedicated cycling lanes, parking places for bikes and reduced VAT rate could help boost EU cycling industry and facilitate green transition”, and see masses of articulated busses riding in Brussels in rush hour with just a few passengers in them you already raise your eyebrows.

In Paris, and many other European cities, motorcyclists now must pay the same parking fees as car drivers. Motorcyclists pay the same fees as car drivers to enter the London Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), that by the way will soon include all greater London, when the mayor has it his way. There are parking fees for all kinds of motorcycles (including mopeds) in Stockholm. After seeing all this you start to wonder what is happening. Are policymakers, legislators and city councils indeed entirely brainwashed by this mantra of ‘public transport, cycling and walking’ that the European Commission and ‘green’ and road safety lobby groups have been broadcasting for years now? Do they not want to look at the alternative or do they just not see it?

‘We have said it often and will say again: motorcycles are not the problem; they are part of the solution.’

Whatever the cause is of ignoring the obvious, by doing so all these policymakers, legislators and city councils are missing the chance to do something about congestion, parking problems, pollution and let’s not forget providing the opportunity for reliable and affordable door-to-door mobility for the masses. Something that cannot always be provided by public transport, cycling, walking, or electric kick-scooters.

FEMA has organised four European mobility tests in many cities in Europe since 2014, where motorcycles were compared to other means of transport for commuting into the city. We compared the time needed from door to door. Motorcycles were – with one exception, due to an unfortunate choice of route – always the winner by far. All these years and in all places. We have said it often and will say again: motorcycles are not the problem; they are part of the solution.

Written by Dolf Willigers

Top photograph courtesy of Yamaha

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