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‘Banning motorcycles is not the answer to sound issues’

Following the ban on riding motorcycles in parts of the High Pyrenees Natural Park, a measure to limit noise pollution, FEMA’s Wim Taal was interviewed in the French magazine Trail Adventure.

The English translation (click on the image for the French version):

Trail Adventure 33, June/July/August 2023

Last March, Spain implemented a measure aimed at limiting noise pollution by banning the circulation of motorcycles in certain parts of the Hautes-Pyrénées Natural Park. Wim Taal, communication manager of the Federation of European Motorcyclists’ Associations (FEMA), reacts to this discriminatory measure.

Interview by François Barrois

“On the road or on the trails: no matter where you ride a motorcycle, sooner or later you will be confronted with a closed road. Complaints by residents is often enough for local authorities to ban motorcycles.

When we learned that parts of the Hautes-Pyrénées Natural Park (El Parque Natural de los Altos Pirineos) were now off-limits to motorbikes, we were disappointed to say the least. Not only because this is yet another closure to add to the long list of roads we have seen closed across Europe for years, but also because this ban appears to constitute discrimination specific against the motorcyclists we defend. The regulations described in the “Action Plan for the Declaration of a Special Protection Area of Acoustic Quality in the Alt Pirineu Natural Park” consider motorcycles as “particularly noisy” vehicles, regardless of their certification or the level of decibels they are allowed to emit.

Sound is a sensitive topic in the motorcycling world and our member organizations are receiving more and more complaints about noise made by motorcyclists. What is happening today – as seen in the Pyrenees – is that a category of road users is being singled out and is not only being blamed, but also faces significant restrictions. It’s a real witch hunt for bikers.

We now suffer from the impossibility of riding a motorcycle on certain days and in certain areas, while other road users are left in peace, no matter how much noise they cause. This is blatantly disproportionate and an unacceptable legal inequality. We are fighting against this at national and European level. Does the misbehaviour of some individuals justify that all motorcyclists are deprived of riding pleasure?

FEMA understands that sound can turn into noise in people’s perception. We know that too much noise leads to annoyance, health problems and ultimately countermeasures, such as closing roads or even cities to motorcycles. In Europe, the closure of roads to powered two-wheelers seems to be the only solution found by the authorities to deal with incidents involving reports of noise pollution. This brings us to the following question: “Does the bad behaviour of certain individuals justify that all motorcyclists be deprived of their pleasure of driving? “. The answer is a resounding “no”! Road closures do not solve the problems but moves them to other roads. A FEMA survey showed that 74% of European motorcyclists do not find it logical to close roads to motorcyclists when motorcycle noise gives rise to complaints.

‘Let’s not forget the economic effects of motorcycle bans: regions popular with motorcyclists depend on these tourists for their income’

At a European level, FEMA sees no justification for stricter legal noise limits for new motorcycles, as some politicians would like. The vast majority of European motorcyclists use legal exhaust systems and stricter technical rules and regulations will not solve anything. FEMA believes that there is much to be gained from constructive cooperation between the authorities and the associations we represent. Educating motorcyclists might be a much better solution than banning motorcycles or considering new laws. The solution lies in human behaviour rather than technical restrictions.

Finally, let’s not forget the economic effects of motorcycle bans: regions popular with motorcyclists depend on these tourists for their income. Restaurants, campsites, hotels, cafes, you name it, all need the regular income generated by us, the great biker community. And our absence from these places could also make a lot of noise…”

Source: Trail Adventure

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