Common Tread

Singapore to ban pre-2003 motorcycles in 10 years

Apr 25, 2018

Motorcycles registered before July 1, 2003, will be banned from the roads in Singapore in 10 years as the small island nation tries to reduce air pollution. Both everyday riders and fans of classic motorcycles are irate and are questioning the government's data.

The Singapore National Environment Agency recently announced that the older motorcycles will be illegal after June 30, 2028. In announcing the change, the NEA said that motorcycles make up 15 percent of Singapore traffice but produce 50 percent of the carbon monoxide from vehicles, and older motorcycles pollute the most. New motorcycles sold in Singapore must meet the strict Euro 4 standards in place in Europe. Many motorcyclists questioned the NEA's pollution estimates, but the agency has stood firm on its plan to get the bikes off the road.

Owners of older bikes are facing the prospect of having to scrap their bikes or export them, since they will no longer be legal after 2028. Motorcycles over 35 years can be registered under a "classic" designation, but can only be used with tight restrictions. But a motorcycle from, say, 2000, will not be old enough in 2028 for classic registration nor new enough to be used on the street. It will be essentially illegal and worthless in Singapore.

One despondent rider who posted on the Singapore Classic Motorcycle Group Facebook page under the name Chris Chow said that maybe the only thing left to do for owners and lovers of old bikes is to use up their machines while they can.

"I think for some of you, it's time to ride the shit out of your bikes," he wrote. "No, not abuse. Use them as they were intended. If they're tourers go for that tour. We have a few more years for that. Redline!!! Enjoy your ride, folks."

Not a motorcycle-friendly place

Even before the new rule, Singapore motorcyclists felt under seige. Singapore has a policy of zero vehicle growth on its congested roads. (The video above shows a typical motorcycle commute.) To control the number of vehicles, there are a limited number of Certificates of Entitlement available, which go up for bid at auction. COEs are good for either five or 10 years and can cost as much as the vehicle itself, whether a car or motorcycle.

The Singapore Motor Cycle Trade Association says the government has been squeezing motorcyclists by shifting some of the finite number of COEs from Category D for motorcycles to an "open" category for other vehicles. This despite the fact that increasing the percentage of motorcycles would help reduce traffic congestion, as the SMCTA argues in the video below.

The NEA has offered motorcycle owners incentives of up to S$3,500 (US$2,625) if they scrap their bikes within the next five years. That might be enticing to owners of cheap motorcycles, but even a new Honda Grom costs S$5,000 in Singapore, and that's before you pay for the expensive COE. The cost fluctuates, but the SCMTA's video shows a recent average of above S$6,000. So the incentives would cover only a fraction of the cost of replacing a pre-2003 motorcycle with a new Euro 4-compliant model.

While we have seen restrictions on motorcycles in cities ranging from London to Paris to Bogotá, Colombia, for reasons ranging from pollution to congestion to crime, the everyday riders of Singapore, who can't afford a car and don't want to resort to overcrowded public transportation — or who use their motorcycles for business, such as food deliveries — are facing the harshest future I've seen yet.