Anyone who regularly rides or drives into London, or is thinking of doing so, should be aware that the Mayor and Transport for London have just made getting around the capital a little more difficult and potentially more expensive too.
When does it change?
While those of us who regularly ride powered-two-wheelers are fully versed in the fact that they cut journey times through traffic congestion, don’t take up as much room as cars and arguably pollute less too, that unfortunately hasn’t stopped bikes and scooters of a certain age falling victim to the newly expanded Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) around London that comes into force today.
Plans for the ULEZ were laid out under Boris Johnson when he was mayor of London and initially it covered just the central part of London that was the Congestion Charge Zone. However as of today, 25 October 2021, the ULEZ has expanded to the much wider area of London within the North and South Circular roads (A406 and A205) courtesy of current mayor Sadiq Khan. The scheme charges ALL vehicles that do not meet Euro 3 standards for bikes and scooters, Euro 4 for petrol cars or Euro 6 for diesel cars £12.50 per day to enter the zone. The ULEZ applies 24 hours a day, every day of the year apart from Christmas Day. A penalty charge of £160 (reduced to £80 if paid within 14 days) is applied if the daily charge is not paid.
An approximate guide is that motorbikes and scooters that do not meet Euro 3 standards are most vehicles pre-2007 (petrol cars and vans are most vehicles pre-2006 and diesel cars and vans are most vehicles pre-2015). Buses, coaches and lorries must meet or exceed the Euro VI standard or pay £100 a day.
Who is exempt?
The expanded ULEZ area apparently contains around 3.8 million residents. Vehicles in the ‘disabled’ tax class are exempt from the charge, as are London-licensed taxis, private hire vehicles which are wheelchair accessible and historic vehicles (over 40 years old). There are also exemptions for agricultural vehicles, military vehicles, certain types of mobile cranes and non-road going vehicles which are allowed to drive on the highway (e.g. excavators). So as far as scooters are concerned, at the time of writing any Vespa PX from 1980 onwards, all PK, Cosa and T5 models will liable for the daily charge for entering London, as will all Serveta and SIL Lambretta scooters from 1980 onwards too.
How green are they?
So as well as a scooter’s ability filter through stationary traffic (yes, electric and hybrid cars cause the same traffic jams as petrol and diesel powered cars), and take up far less space both on the road and when parked than the humongous SUV type vehicles everyone seems determined to drive these days, you’ve got to ask how polluting the manufacturing process of a new car is compared to my little 1998 Vespa PX for example, that has required no plastic to be moulded or steel to be formed for over 20 years. And that’s before you consider the minerals that are mined for use in electric and hybrid cars that governments are trying to get everyone to buy.
And before all of you with ‘historic’ vehicles snigger to yourselves and say it doesn’t affect you, remember that various cities in Europe are already operating a blanket ban on ALL 2-stroke vehicles regardless of age.
London, Birmingham, Bath and Glasgow all currently have low emission schemes of one kind or another and others are planned in cities such as Manchester, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Sheffield, Newcastle and beyond.
Is there another way?
Riders in London with scooters and bikes that will still meet emissions regulations but which do not have the manufacturers Euro 3 standard (like the Vespa PX) can take their scooters to the one special test centre in the city for individual testing at their own expense of £175. Once passed, it will be noted on your vehicle logbook and your scooter can travel in and out of the zones at will be no daily charge. For regular commuters who don’t want to sell their older scooters this could make financial sense, as annoying and expensive as it is. What is also extremely annoying is that if the independent test centre tests and passes 10 Vespa PX scooters in succession on the same day, the powers that be will still not recognise that vehicle as exempt and the next rider must still pay their £175 for testing. How ridiculous is that?
Contacting and joining organisations such as Motorcycle Action Group and British Motorcycle Federation and asking about exemption for powered-two-wheelers from such emissions legislation is not a bad idea, and maybe vehicle manufacturers and the Motorcycle Industry Association could help get scooters and bikes of a certain age exempt too. While I’m sure the likes of Piaggio and Yamaha would prefer to sell as many new vehicles as possible, their dealers still make a living servicing and selling spare parts for older models too, and it all helps the industry as well as the economy.
** ScooterNova is an independent scooter magazine, published bi-monthly in the UK. Edition 28 (Nov/Dec 2021) will be published on 30 October 2021 and is available from all good scooters shops, or have it delivered directly to your home via our secure online shop here.