According to the British Motorcycle Federation, European motorcycle-related businesses rack up €10 billion in annual sales and employ more than 200,000 people, meeting the needs of over 30 million riders.
To EU bureaucrats, an industry with numbers like that calls out for one thing: pointless, burdensome regulations. And the European Parliament's Transport Committee is hard at work thinking some up, for inclusion in the upcoming EU Third Driving Licence Directive.
One of its proposed rules would raise the minimum age for "Direct Access" -- letting beginners earn big-bike licenses without working their way up in engine size -- from 21 to 24. That might sound reasonable at first, but according to the BMF, "all the problems with Direct Access licencing involve riders far older than 24."
The Transport Committee is considering several other similarly ineffective proposals. One would require riders to pass a road test to qualify for a big-bike license instead of automatically moving up after two years on a small bike. Another would create a new class of "mid-size" bikes -- and, correspondingly, a new class of license to earn.
Such restrictions would burden riders, but a recent study, funded in part by the EU itself, suggests they would have little to no impact on road safety. As the BMF notes:
[T]he findings of the recently completed €2.5 million "Motorcycle Accident In-Depth Study" (MAIDS) research project, funded by European taxpayers, the motorcycle industry, and other bodies including the BMF...have been largely ignored.Instead of improving road safety, or educating car drivers to put the cell phone down and keep their eyes on the road, the EU proposals throw regulatory roadblocks in the way of people who want to ride.
MAIDS research showed that the three key factors in rider safety are the behaviour of other road users; rider experience and the road environment, but European Parliament Transport Committee proposals relating to the draft EU 3rd Driving Licence Directive ignore these.
Last May (this has been going on for a while), BMF government relations executive Trevor Magner said:
The proposals in the Third EC Driving Licence Directive have continued on this path in which more bureaucracy is to be introduced for questionable benefits.More recently, on February 10, Jacques Compagne, Secretary General of the Association des Constructeurs Européens de Motorcycles (ACEM), weighed in:
They're difficult to justify except as "busy work" on the part of the European Commission; the government should reject the draft Directive and return it to the Commission for redrafting into a simple and understandable system that will truly improve road safety.
The Transport Committee argues that the changes proposed are for road safety reasons. However, the Motorcycle Community challenges this view and strongly feels that road safety will not be enhanced by the current proposals.When even French guys are telling you your regulations are too burdensome, you know you've gone too far. At a time when Japan is belatedly relaxing its restrictions on bikers, it's disappointing, if not surprising, to see the EU moving in the opposite direction.
The real effect of these proposals will be to make motorcycling less accessible and have significant negative effects on individual mobility and urban congestion. These proposals will seriously damage the whole motorcycle sector, which provides more than 200,000 jobs, and will endanger the existence of well established motorcycle companies. We all support improved road safety, but these proposals tackle the issue in an entirely inappropriate way.