As in most sectors, motorcycle legislation is changing all the time. Many riders simply roll with the changes, while others would like to see them implemented slower or not at all.
Europe Sets the Standard
With over eight million registered motorcycles in the US, sometimes we forget that we’re not first in the world when it comes to two-wheel revolution. Indeed, what spirit of freedom and rebellion would there be if it was the other way around, 256 million bikes and just 8 million cars?
That’s why looking to the EU and other parts of the world can give us a good idea of where motorcycle legislation is going. In the EU, for example, 1.1 million bikes were sold in 2014, while US bike sales didn’t even top half a million. Asia bike sales are even higher, 7.9 million bikes sold in Indonesia, for example.
New EU motorcycle legislation has included both stricter emissions and safety regulations. To meet the Euro 4 emissions standard, bikes need to be equipped with catalytic converters, evaporative emissions charcoal canisters, and OBD (on-board diagnostics). Further, stricter headlight illumination patterns and ABS will be required. Bikes sold since 2016 are already switching over to meet the new demands, and 2017 bikes will be required to implement new technology. It won’t be much a surprise, then, that US regulations aren’t far behind.
Fuel & Emissions
While it seems that the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has backed off of competition-only motorcycle emissions. Bills S 2659 confirmed this. Bill HR 2892 applies to “autocycles,” defining three-wheeled enclosed vehicles with a steering wheel. Federal safety standards and automotive fuel standards will apply to these.
The EPA’s fuel content regulations also affect riders, as ethanol content sees increasing concentrations that don’t play well with motorcycle fuel systems. The Motorcycle Riders Foundation’s petition is still open to ask the EPA to guarantee universal availability of ethanol blends under 10%.
While the federal government has left if up to the states to determine helmet laws, it’s the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) that mandates motorcycle helmet safety standards and labelling. Last year, the NHTSA proposed stricter regulations, requiring all helmets sold as head protection to be properly labelled, and not just slapping on a DOT sticker, but making sure novelty helmets are also labelled as such.
While it’s true that new motorcycle legislation will force us to change our perceptions and expectations, it will likely improve things across the board, just as we’ve seen in the four-wheeler world. New technology has risen to meet the demand, and today’s vehicles are more powerful, safer, and cleaner than ever though possible. Motorcycle technology will rise to meet the challenge and raise awareness, if it hasn’t already, and tomorrow’s bikes will be better than ever.