I know it’s painful, but think back for a moment to 2020. While the world was going through a distinctly strange time, both seasoned and new riders saw the special joys of riding motorcycles through new eyes. No matter what else was happening, we knew we could get out and have at least a little time experiencing pure joy—in 2020, seemingly more than ever.
In Austria, however, something else happened in 2020, and it directly impacted riders wishing to ride Austrian roads. From June 10 through October 31, 2020, a number of specific Austrian scenic roads that are popular with riders were officially closed to some bikes. The problem, according to Austrian authorities? Noise. Thus, bikes with idling noise rates measured at greater than 95 decibels were banned on those roads. Unsurprisingly, local and continental motorcycle groups fought against this legislation, as written up neatly in an argument by the Federation of European Motorcyclists’ Associations (FEMA for short, and nothing to do with the American emergency management one).
Why are we telling you this in June, 2021? Switzerland, one of Austria’s neighbors, is currently battling its way through similar legislation. To be clear, in Switzerland’s case, the complaint is not specifically against what are described as excessively loud motorcycles alone. Any vehicles—bikes or cars—with standing (or idling) exhaust noise in excess of 95 decibels are targeted for a ban in Switzerland.
Swiss SP National councilor Gabriela Suter introduced two separate initiatives in recent months regarding this matter, one seeking a ban specifically on motorcycles over 95 decibels, and one requesting placement of sonic radar devices to help with enforcement on that ban. Such sonic radars would function much like speed cameras do, making it easier to automate the process of doling out punishments to riders found in violation of the noise ordinance, once it passed.
However, in mid-June, Suter withdrew both those initiatives. Swiss motorcyclist groups were initially pleased, until the other shoe dropped. As Suter told Swiss news site 20 Minuten, she withdrew them because a new package that includes both motorcycles and cars making noise over 95 decibels at idle is currently being drawn up by the Federal Office for the Environment and the Federal Roads Office.
Furthermore, this ban might not be issued for the whole of Switzerland, but only on certain roads—much like the one in Austria, which Suter cited specifically as an example of how this idea has already been tested outside of Switzerland. Unsurprisingly, the Swiss Motorcycle Federation is fighting back. It’s worth noting that nothing is decided just yet, and all is currently still under heated discussion. There will be additional meetings in summer 2021, and according to Motorrad, the earliest riders would likely see any changes go into effect would be the end of 2022.
If you’re a Swiss rider, we’re probably not telling you anything you don’t already know. If you’re not pleased with the prospect of this legislation, now is the time to reach out to your representatives in the Swiss government and make sure they know how their constituents feel.