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Motorcycling must be affordable to prevent transport poverty

Authorities should not limit motorcycling by taxing them as much as cars or by restricting access to certain roads and cities. Motorcycles should be treated as a solution for urban congestion and as the affordable alternative for driving a car, public transport and cycling.

Everybody who visited a car dealer recently, or who had a look at the pricing list of new or used cars must have noticed: cars are getting expensive and small cars are also getting scarce. Cars are getting more expensive, larger, and heavier. We also pay a lot more for petrol, diesel, parking and taxes than we did only a few years ago. The result is that soon people will abandon the car because they cannot afford to own one anymore. Despite promises from policy makers and tax incentives in many countries, electric cars may be cheaper to run, they are still very expensive to buy.

‘To fulfil the task of providing transport to the masses, motorcycling must be affordable.’

S&P Global Mobility reported on 31 October 2022 that the price of lithium, a major component of batteries, has increased sevenfold. It also reports that mining and refining it is mainly done by Chinese companies. The same is the case with nickel, which will create a large dependency of China. With growing prices for the raw materials that are needed to manufacture the batteries for electric cars it is doubtful that prices will decrease soon. To the contrary, they probably will rise even more.

A very early observer of the phenomenon of transport poverty was the Dutch automotive importers and manufacturers’ association RAI Vereniging. Martijn van Eikenhorst, Manager sections Equipment, Motorcycles and Scooters told us: “With rising costs of cars there is a growing gap between cars and bicycles. Powered two-wheelers fit in this gap and will play a growing role in mobility. As RAI Vereniging, we use the concept of the mobility ladder: there is a fitting vehicle in the whole range of transport needs, from bicycles for short distances, to electric assisted bicycles, speed-pedelecs, and mopeds for longer distances, then light and heavier motorcycles, etcetera. When people cannot afford a car anymore, they will look at the nearby step on the mobility ladder and often will find motorcycling the best alternative.” (photo by Wim Taal).

What will happen when people cannot afford their own car anymore? Many will switch to public transport. They will be confronted with several problems. In many countries, public transport has become more expensive during and after the Covid pandemic. Less travellers meant less income, to which the providers reacted with higher fees and a reduction in lines and/or frequency. Not only it is getting harder to reach your destination with public transport, it has or will be in many places also become (much) more expensive. Many people will not only not be able to afford a car anymore, but also public transport will become (too) expensive for them.

There is a name for the situation that citizens are not able to pay for transport. It is called transport poverty. On 27 October 2022, the parliamentary committee on transport and tourism (TRAN) of the European Parliament had a hearing on ‘Preventing Transport Poverty and Increasing Fairness in Mobility’. A mouthful, but then this is an important topic. Not being able to travel has consequences for work, study, social relations, sport, etcetera. Not being able to travel to work or school means that you are not able to earn your own income or to study for a better job which leads to more poverty.

There is nothing new here. We have seen the same in Europe in the decades after the Second World War, when motorcycles were the transport mode for the working people, and we still see it in other parts of the world. In Asia, (light) motorcycles are the most common way of transport. Of course, to fulfil the task of providing transport to the masses, motorcycling must be affordable.

Electric mopeds and small motorcycles with an internal combustion engine are still very affordable. Larger motorcycles can be quite expensive and larger electric motorcycles are, just as with cars, even more expensive. Given the current development of prices of raw materials combined with a rapid growing demand from the car industry, it will stay this way for a long time. All the more reason not to focus on battery electric vehicles and abandon the internal combustion engine for motorcycles, but also leave room for alternatives like eFuels.


Perhaps more important: Legislators, road authorities, and city councils should not limit motorcycling by taxing them as much as cars or restrict access to certain roads and cities but treat them for what they are: a solution for urban congestion and the affordable alternative for citizens who cannot afford other means of transport and/or for whom public transport and cycling are not the solution for their transportation needs.

Written by Dolf Willigers

Top photograph courtesy of

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