Like many scooter riders I love riding abroad. In fact a scooter touring holiday has been my main ‘big’ holiday for the last two years and will be again this year. You can’t beat riding across Europe and visiting some of the big cities along the way. A scooter is the perfect way to navigate most of them.
City-hopping will soon become a thing of the past though, petrol scooters are being banned from many European cities and regions. Amsterdam and Paris are two of the closest to us in the UK banning certain 2-wheelers. More will follow and even if you ride a newer four-stroke scooter don’t assume you’ll be ok.
Depending on where you live (or ride), anything pre 2011 can be classed as ‘old’ and ‘dirty’ no matter whether it’s two or four stroke. Bearing in mind the Piaggio MP3 arrived in 2006 and is considered fairly ‘green’ by most of us, even some of those will be confined to the European scrap mountain.
Genoa Italy banned the Vespa!
This isn’t scaremongering or hearsay, this is happening right now across Europe and the epidemic is spreading. The origins of the scooter are firmly etched into the cultural identity of Italy but the humble scooter was banned from Genoa, birthplace of Enrico Piaggio in 2016, the 70th anniversary year of the Vespa. Any scooter built before 1999 was banned from the city between 7am-7pm Monday to Friday. Many other Italian cities are following suit. If the Italians can ban the Vespa then nowhere is safe.
Read on as we take a look at just a few of the places who have already implemented the schemes, banning the use of certain vehicles, or places and countries who will be doing soon. This is by no means all of them, 200 towns and cities across Europe are considering their own restrictions, whilst others have already brought theirs in.
The infographic above is taken from the website of Bolt, a company currently looking for additional funding to set up a new electric scooter production line in the Netherlands. There are currently 1,000,000 scooters in the Netherlands, 77% of them were built before 2011 and the Dutch class them as ‘old’. In 2018 any ‘old’ 50cc scooters will be banned from Amsterdam. That’s a hell of a lot of scrap to be recycled.
The Dutch are also considering an outright ban on the sale of petrol vehicles from 2025.
The French love a new ruling, even if they’re not quite geared up for it (as they found with their high-viz, helmet stickers and breathalyser laws) but from April 1st (no joke) 2017 machines built before June 1st 2000 are banned from central Paris between the hours of 8am-8pm during the week.
As well as the ban on ageing vehicles, the French Crit’-Air system will also be policed using six colour-coded emissions stickers. If you’re not displaying the correct class of emissions sticker for your vehicle fines will range from €68-€135. That also includes overseas visitors.
The stickers will start with a green Crit’Air 1 sticker for electric and hydrogen powered vehicles, through to band six. The stickers will cost from £3.20 and are available before travel from the Crit’ Air website. We tried entering details for a 1958 Lambretta and the website just laughed at us.
Lyon and Grenoble introduced the scheme on January 1st, other towns and cities will follow suit and from July 2018 the Bordeaux region is also planning to ban any scooters built before 2007.
If you’d like to protest against having your scooter labelled as ‘dirty’ you might be interested in one of our SLUK’ Air stickers. If we get enough interest we’ll have some printed in plenty of time for this years Euro adventures.
Back in October 2016 we reported on Germany, where plans are afoot to ban the production of all petrol vehicles by 2030, you can read our story here. Surprisingly from a country famed for its automotive industry the proposal was agreed on by all 16 member states.
It would also be very surprising if the Germans didn’t introduce a few regional restrictions gradually before then, just to ease everybody in gently.
In September 2020 London will become an Ultra Low Emission Zone – ULEZ and the ruling will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Any motorcycle/scooter that doesn’t meet Euro 3 standards will be forced to pay a £12.50 per day levy – the same price as a car.
However, there is a good chance that the current mayor will try to accelerate this process and introduce these proposals sooner.
Euro 3 came in on 1st July 2007 and if your scooter doesn’t meet that standard then you can basically rule-out riding in London. There’s not much chance that ULEZ will stick with Euro 3 either. Euro 4 came in on January 1st and it won’t be stopping there. Once regular commuters have all been forced into buying new, or nearly new scooters there’s every chance the goalposts will be moved again. It’s a great money spinner for the bike manufacturers, not so good for anybody with a penchant for a classic scooter. Or for people who can’t afford a newer machine whenever the powers that be decide to scrap a few million more vehicles to satisfy some green ambition.
A view from the MCIA – Motorcycle Industry Association
We asked the UK Motorcycle Industry Association on their views, a spokeswoman told us “There are no plans to ban any vehicles in the UK, although the Ultra-Low Emission Zone in the UK will charge older vehicles, though not classic bikes (built before 1973)”. Even if they’re not banned the £12.50 per day levy will cripple two-wheeled London commuters.
The MCIA also gave us some details about the latest fuels. “With regards to ethanol/biofuel content, the UK seems to have a different path to increasing biofuel sales than other EU member states but there are no specific details of how this might work at the moment. However, previous discussions indicate that ‘legacy’ fuels would be available in the UK for incompatible vehicles. The market may even provide additives if there is a critical mass of customers, otherwise conversion kits offer a solution for some classic bikes, which would also solve the problem for those who want to take their classic bikes/scooters to mainland Europe”. In essence what this means is that very much like when leaded fuel was banned and unleaded took over, we may see some selected fuel stations keeping a supply of unleaded fuel for use by more temperamental vehicles. Like our classic scooters for instance. With many of them having a tank range of 50-100 miles travelling to rallies would prove very difficult.
The MCIA is in our corner though, “The classic scene is a valuable and valued part of the industry and one which many MCIA members are involved in servicing, from providing parts and services to specialist media. As such, the MCIA works hard to identify legislation which ought not to apply to classic vehicles and to argue the case for its exemption”. All very noble but whether the feeble might of a few thousand classic scooter fans is likely to carry any weight remains to be seen.
The inevitable ban, or at least enforced cull of many machines in the capital will potentially cause complete gridlock in what is already an over-crowded city. Whether or not the infrastructure, technology and funding into viable alternative modes of transport will be ready in time to ease the problems we’ll have to wait and see but the “MCIA is also arguing successfully that motorcycles and scooters should be included in mainstream transport policy and recently launched a whitepaper exploring ‘The motorcycling opportunity’ with partners the National Police Chiefs’ Council and Highways England, which is in a position to make physical changes to roads to make them safer for riders”.
At a recent parliamentary launch for the whitepaper, Transport Minister Andrew Jones described the world of motorcycling as an “An underrated, under recognised, important part of our transport mix”. He added “I think we should be focusing far more on motorbikes than we have been in the past.”
This would suggest riders – and the industry that serves them – is valued by the government.
Burying our heads
20 years ago smoking was socially acceptable and two-strokes were commonplace. The world has changed immensely. Against all the odds smoking was banned inside public spaces on July 1st 2007, it’s quickly become ‘normal’.
Back in the late 1990s we’d never have thought our beloved PX200 would die at the hands of emissions lunatics, neither would we have thought the 125 version would go the same way but it has. New two-strokes are pretty much extinct and now even modern four-strokes are having to meet and exceed ever-stringent rules.
When you start looking deeper into where and how these blanket bans are being brought in and just how brutally they’re being implemented, it starts to get very worrying. At the minute we’re free to enjoy the thrill of a tuned engine in an older scooter. We’re able to ride into and around most countries at will. Sadly in the next three years those rules are going to strangle our two-wheeled travel and dictate what we can and can’t ride.
Our classic vehicles will end up becoming either museum pieces brought out for the odd enthusiasts event where wide-eyed youngsters can listen to them being started, or they’ll be converted to electric or hydrogen power. We brought you news of the Stoffi Crank e-electric last September. Even then it seemed like a gimmick, or a waste of a nice smallframe, rather than an alternative way to use a classic scooter. Just a few months down the line and we’ve just been contacted by a Vespa owner from Amsterdam who is urgently considering such a conversion.
The problem with electric scooters is that they aren’t really ‘there’ yet as a fully practical transport alternative. We dread to think how long it would take to do a long-distance rally on one with slow recharges on the way. Maybe we’ll find out sooner than we’d want.
Let’s not think we are being unfairly picked-on either. In most places these bans also apply to cars, vans and lorries of the same ages and emissions standard. If these bans spread to more cities before a viable alternative is available, then already struggling public transport infrastructure will begin to burst at the seams.
Electric vehicles are not a perfect answer either. They just move the pollution to somewhere else.
The Germans are introducing city restrictions on older petrol vehicles while still a major proportion of their power is produced by burning stuff. How hypocritical is that? Here’s an interesting map of EU electricity and CO2 production. The UK fares better, but we have nuclear power, or at least the French and Chinese will have soon, on our behalf.
Then of course you must consider the forced environmental destruction of replacing perfectly serviceable vehicles before their natural end-of-life. Repair and recycle are far more ecologically sound principals than dispose and buy new.
Fossil-fuel-powered vehicles still have a role to play for the moment, but the clock is definitely ticking…
Iggy & Sticky