Paris' ban on older motorcycles begins next month

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If your particular (peculiar) motorcycling goal is to ride your 1947 Triumph T100 down the Champs-Elysees to commemorate the Allied liberation of Paris, you'd better move quickly.

Beginning July 1, Paris will begin phasing in new vehicle restrictions to deal with the city's air pollution problem. Cars built before 1997 and motorcycles from before 2000 will be banned.

Paris is not the only major city that is dealing with air pollution problem by restricting motorcycles and other personal motor vehicles. Mexico City imposed restrictions last month when pollution conditions reached dangerous levels. Vehicles with license plates ending in certain numbers are prohibited from being used in the city on certain days, thus cutting down on overall traffic. New Delhi, which according to one World Health Organization study has the worst air pollution of any city tested, has tried similar restrictions in the past, but targeted cars only and exempted motorcycles. Rome banned car and motorcycle use for certain hours when weather conditions created a severe pollution problem.

Paris air pollution

What makes the Paris ban different is that it specifically targets older vehicles that were built before more stringent emissions controls were implemented and it sets a slightly stricter standard for motorcycles than for cars. This first phase bans motorcycles from before June 1, 2000. Tighter restrictions will be phased in, and by 2020, motorcycles from before 2004 will be prohibited.

Motorcyclists and vintage car groups have protested, but with no success and not in great numbers. Others have argued that the measures disproportionately affect lower income groups. The city is offering aid to people who are affected, to help them find other transportation options.

Motorcycles provide plenty of advantages to crowded cities dealing with traffic problems: They take up less space on the road and in parking lots, in addition to using less fuel than almost all cars. The dirty little secret about motorcycling, however, has been that for most of the recent past they have been worse polluters than cars, because of less extensive emissions controls.

By targeting the specific vehicles that pollute more, Paris' restrictions have a chance of being more effective than measures such as those in Mexico City and New Delhi. But they also hit harder at motorcyclists.

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