Maybe, but slipping under the radar of the average rider is a raft of legislation across Europe that is chipping away at motorcycling.
I’m not about to open up that hoary old can of worms that is ‘riders’ rights’ but to try to highlight some of the many changes in motorcycle legislation that are being rolled out across Europe.
The 3rd Licence Directive has received a fair amout of attention but many of the other bits of legislation are much less well-known. The sheer scope of some of these are worrying to say the least, whilst others seem ridiculously trivial.
A common theme seems to be that aside from the major driving licence debate, many of these changes are being pushed through by national governments without consultation with the riders’ organisations in those countries or with Europe-wide bodies.
One effect of this piecemeal legislation is that definitive information isn’t easy to find. Whilst there are briefing papers on the individual issues on various websites, they are often out-of-date or incomplete, or foreign-language.
There doesn’t seem to be one single, definitive list of what’s already changed and what’s planned for biking in the next few years. Even FEMA doesn’t seem to have a full briefing on what’s going on across Europe. As a result, I’m sure there are mistakes and inaccuracies in this particular article, and I’ll be glad to accept any corrections.
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But the following list will give you some idea of just how much motorcycling is under threat.
- At the head of the list is the European 3rd Licence Directive, which will introduce an intermediate A2 tier of licence between the current 33hp ‘restricted’ category which can be gained by passing a test at age 17, and ‘direct access’ to full power bikes. Direct Access to full power bikes will be put back to 24 from the current 21.
- New rules on braking systems on all new bikes, which will be imposed shortly. All new machines will have to have either linked brakes or ABS fitted as standard.
- New laws will also allow for ‘anti-tampering’ measures to prevent and/or make it illegal to improve performance. This seems to cover parts like alternative sprockets and aftermarket exhausts.
- Type approval is being extended to cover some replacement parts, specifically mirrors, brake pads and brake shoes and tyres. This would make it illegal to replace any of these parts with a non-approved part and goes far beyond the ‘e-mark’ legislation currently in place.
- Compulsory protective clothing in Belgium. Belgium imposed new rules on 1 January 2011 which required all riders and passengers on two wheelers to wear long sleeves, trousers, gloves and boots that cover the ankle (plus the obligatory helmet, of course!). There’s no requirement for this to be ‘protective clothing’ as far as I can see, so it would appear to be a very minimum standard. But it’s still compulsory
- Compulsory protective clothing in the UK whilst taking your bike test. In a very similar measure, the DSA recently announced that candidates turning up for their bike test in ‘inappropriate’ clothing could be turned away untested. Whilst the ‘appropriate clothing’ is no more than as recommended on CBT (ie, helmet, stout jacket and trousers, gloves and ankle-protecting footwear), it’s been rushed through with no apparent consultation with the motorcycle industry.
- Compulsory hi-vis clothing in France for motorcyclists from 1 September 2011. This one’s kicked up a terrific stink in France with riders, with an estimated 100,000 turning out in demos on Sunday 18 June, in numbers which paralysed cities and towns up and down the country. According to reports, more than 15,000 bikers clogged up the heart of the capital blocking the Periphique, Lyon (France’s second largest city) saw more than 10,000 bikers, 7,000 demonstrated in Lille, and Toulouse was totally blocked by 8,000 bikers. Smaller demonstrations took place in dozens of other cities.
- France to ban bikes over seven years old from cities centres. This was announced just before the hi-vis demo, so almost certainly added to the turn-out.
- New French laws will also ban filtering and force all riders to remain stationary in traffic jams and retro-fit bigger rear numberplates [Rather bizarrely, Belgium has just legalised filtering on 1 January 2011, so long as it’s within limits – you can’t ride faster than 50Km/h or more than 20Km/h faster than the traffic you’re filtering past.]
- New French laws will give the police power to seize GPS units ‘capable of storing the locations of fixed speed cameras’. In the past, it was illegal to use a GPS to locate speed cameras and your GPS could be confiscated if used in this way, but it’s not clear whether this means any GPS capable of POI alerts contravenes the new regulations even if there are no such POIs in the memory.
- Compulsory hi-vis in Ireland. The law was introduced a couple of years ago, but after a softly-softly period, it’s apparently been announced that it’s now to be strictly enforced. [EDIT] This appears to apply only to learner riders at the moment but there is a proposal to extend this to qualified riders [/EDIT]
- Spain has banned headphones in helmets. It applies to car drivers too, but it means that using bike to bike/passenger intercoms is illegal south of the Pyrenees, as is using an earpiece to listen to GPS directions.
You may not be worried by any of this. You may feel it’s an intolerable assault on motorcycling and the ‘lifestyle’ that goes with it. I’m not going to argue for or against either viewpoint, but if nothing else, this list should give you an idea of the potential minefield that travelling in Europe is fast becoming.
Far from having pan-European ‘rules of the road’ which was one of the goals of a single community, travelling across Europe is fast becoming a minefield of different national laws and petty rules of which we’ll all have to be aware when crossing borders.
But the worrying bit is that all these measures seem to be happening at more or less the same time. A conspiracy theorist might think that wasn’t entirely an accident. And that’s what’s adopted by one country might seen be seen as a ‘good idea’ for the rest of the EU.