Yesterday, Monday 8 April 2019, will likely go down in history as the end of motorcycling in Great Britain as we know it. Yesterday, Transport for London introduced their ULEZ – Ultra Low Emission Zone. Today it is the capital, who knows where it will go tomorrow…
This is not a sudden thing, ULEZ has been on the cards for a while. Here at ScooterNova magazine we have reported on it via social media in the past. We have watched with sadness as the day of reckoning drew closer and riders started to open their eyes in panic.
We’re not the only ones to have known it was coming however, the whole motorcycle industry has been aware of it. ‘Euro’ standards for vehicle pollution were first introduced back in 1992 and motor industry has strived to meet ever-stricter regulations since.
The cut-off for motorcycles with ULEZ is Euro 3, or basically anything registered before 2007 when Euro 3 for motorcycles was first introduced.
Who is Exempt?
At the time of writing, motorcycles registered from 2007 onwards are still allowed into the ULEZ area of central London, which is currently the same area as the Congestion Zone. From 2021 the ULEZ will expand to the borders of the North and South Circular Roads.
Motorcycles classed as ‘historic’ with regards to VED are also exempt, for now, as are electric vehicles (we will have a review of the electric scooter conversions from London’s Retrospective Scooters in edition 13 of ScooterNova magazine).
The same rules apply to cars, vans, buses and lorries with regards to ‘historic’ vehicles along with their respective levels of modern Euro regulations.
Our friends at SLUK have recently discovered that many pre-2007/Euro motorcycles and scooters could be exempt from the ban or the alternative daily charge (£12.50 for motorcycles) if the owners are prepared to have their individual vehicles tested at a cost of £175. You can read the interesting SLUK article here which shows how the blanket ‘pre-2007’ ban is flawed.
These tests, by the way, only apply to an individual person’s machine. So if I pay £175 to ride my 1998 Vespa PX200 into London, everyone else with a PX200 will also have to pay to get theirs tested too. What a farce, hey?
Why do we have to pay?
This is the point I’ve been building up to. I was first aware that some older vehicles could be as non-polluting as newer machines back in December 2018. Was what required by the authorities was a manufacturer’s Certificate of Conformity to prove this. As a rider of a non-compliant Vespa PX I have emailed Piaggio Ltd to see what they could do for customers with older machines but have yet to receive a reply.
To be fair, I’ve not heard of any other manufacturers offering to help their customers either, which is a bit strange because while they might all be hoping that everyone suddenly trades in old bikes and scooters for new, the reality is that ain’t going to happen. Some of the more affluent customers may well trade up, but a lot won’t and bike and scooter shops will lose customers and their business of sales and servicing, while the manufacturers will lose out on the sale of spares and accessories. With this in mind, surely if manufacturers offered the authorities the required Certificate of Conformity upon request from customers they could be added to the database allowing ALL vehicles of that type to become exempt. Doesn’t that make sense?
So what can we do?
While I’ve been a scooterist all my adult life, I’ve only been employed as professional motorcycle/scooter journalist for the last 20 years or so, but during that time I’ve seen, read, heard and ridden a lot. But a worrying trend I’ve noticed of late is a fondness to refer to motorcycling as a ‘leisure activity’ with a lot of models also being called a ‘premium product’. Now as far as I know, the peak sales of powered-two wheelers have not occurred due to a demand for luxury bikes to ride on holiday, but a necessity as a solution to a transport problem of one kind or another.
As a former employee in the music industry I also know that when the customer gets bored with one leisure activity or can’t afford it, they drop it like a stone.
So why isn’t the MCIA (the Motorcycle Industry Association) who are supposed to represent the industry, working with the manufacturers to offer these certificates of conformity to the authorities as proof that older bikes and scooters emit less than the 0.15 NOx limit of Euro 3 regs?
**I should add here that subsequent to this blog going live on 9 April my attention was drawn to a story on the BMF website based around a recent MCIA press release not received by myself, in which the MCIA state it was; “extremely disappointed to see that riders of Powered Two Wheelers (PTWs), that occupy minimal road space and reduce traffic congestion, are charged at the same rate as single-occupancy 4x4s from the same era.”
Apparently, the MCIA has also offered to “help TfL develop a database, so that it would have access to accurate NOx data on which to establish the ULEZ status of each vehicle,” with regards to older vehicles, but have received no response.
They have also called upon TfL to, “suspend the charge for PTWs and engage on this topic so that PTWs of all types can assume their rightful place at the heart of the air quality and congestion solution, instead of being erroneously vilified.”
In the long-term when all those people who stop riding bikes and scooters because legislation makes it so difficult for them, it won’t just affect the manufacturer’s sales, but also affect the shops that sell and maintain the vehicles, the spare parts industry, along with oil and lubricants, accessories, tuning, customisation, fabrication, restoration, recovery, clothing and helmets, security and more.
ULEZ has the potential to cause the motorcycle and scooter industry a lot of damage. Ironically, it is also likely to cause further strain on TfL’s already overstretched public transport system and congested roads. As for walking or cycling, that’s fine for some but my former commute into the Capital was 30 miles a day and wouldn’t want to do that on a bicycle, especially in the rain!