After years of manufacturers updating, overhauling, or outright discontinuing motorcycle models due to European emissions standards, we’re pretty familiar with the escalating system. Though The Continent’s pollution standards shape the worldwide market, most places still allow older motorcycles on the road. That isn’t the case for several European cities, and restrictions will likely only tighten as we progress through the decade.
Barcelona, Spain, enacted one of the most recent driving/riding bans when it launched the Low Emissions Zone (ZBE) on September 15, 2020. The law governs 95 square kilometers (36.7 square miles) of the Catalonian capital but excludes the cities industrial sectors. To enter the ZBE, gas-powered automobiles must be manufactured after 2000 and diesel-powered cars have to be produced after 2006. Motorcycles split the difference, with models made after 2003 qualifying to access the city sector.
Vehicles qualifying for entry must display the government-issued sticker to gain entry. However, authorities only enforce the rules on weekdays and only between the high-traffic period of 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Barcelona also plans to expand the ordinance to include commercial trucks and buses later in 2021, but other European cities like Paris, France, have implemented driving bans since 2016.
The City of Lights’ current regulations went into effect on July 4, 2019, and restrict access to motorcycles complying with Euro 2 emissions standards (2005 model year). Paris plans to tighten restrictions to Euro 3 motorcycles (2008 model year) in 2022 and progress to Euro 4 models (2017 model year) in 2024. Similar to Barcelona’s laws, authorities only monitor the situation between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. during the workweek.
Tightening vehicle standards aren’t the only means to controlling traffic in busy city centers, though. London, England, has expanded the territory of its ban, with only Euro 3 compliant vehicles allowed to enter its Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) since April 8, 2019. On October 25, 2021, British officials will extend the zone to include many of the surrounding suburban and city access roads. Vehicles not qualified for the ULEZ can purchase a one-day pass for £12.50 ($17.66 USD). However, if an unqualified vehicle is caught in the zone without a pass, the owner will incur a £1,000 ($1,413 USD) fine.
Elsewhere in Europe, Italy has banned all two-stroke vehicles in over 200 cities and the capital city of Rome currently has a tiered system for Euro 2 and Euro 3 vehicles. In Amsterdam, the Netherlands capital’s "Clean Air Action Plan" will ban internal combustion commercial taxis, scooters, vans, and buses by 2025 and block all gas and diesel-powered vehicles by 2030. As cities and nations continue the march toward lower emissions, more driving restrictions will go into place, and only time will tell how that impacts the worldwide motorcycle industry.