There is a place in France, a “Departement”, it is called the Somme, you might have heard of it. 100 years ago this morning, at 7.30am around 750,000 British troops heard the sound of whistles blowing. The whistles were the signal to “go over the top” and break through the German trenches in front of them. It was a failure, the days of bombardment to soften the German lines had failed and the soldiers walked into a rain of lead from the German positions. By the end of that first day there were 58,000 British casualties, 19,240 killed outright. It remains the bloodiest day in British military history.
That was July 1st 1916, today, July 1st 2016, there is another fight going on in France, a battle for Paris! The French government in their unbounded wisdom has decided that from today all motor vehicles will get an "air quality certificate", a colored sticker corresponding to emission level of their vehicle, they have to display this. So far, so good, nothing wrong with looking after the environment is there but now comes the problem. The oldest vehicles registered before 31 December 1996 will not get certificate. This is so that cities who wish to can use these certificates to ban vehicles that do not have them to help fight air pollution.
So what has this to do with bikes? Well bikes also have to have these certificates and Paris has decided that it is going to ban all cars that were built before 1997 and all bikes built before 2000 from driving on their streets. They would also like to change that to all bikes registered before 2005 by the year 2020. It doesn’t matter that many older bikes are well tuned, run on petrol and so are less polluting than a modern diesel SUV. It also doesn’t matter that they cut down on congestion and cost less environmentally to produce. It seems that the Paris council has decided to not look at the facts or even listen to the recommendations of ecologists and is just going to do whatever it wants, whatever the reality is.
And this is not the only law that French motorcyclists are fighting, Since January 1st 2016 French bikers have been obliged to carry a high visibility vest on their bikes, and if they don’t they will be fined. They will be fined even more if they are found repairing their bike on the side of the road without wearing one. This law however could have been worse, the original proposal was that they would have to wear a fluorescent vest at all times….presumably not in bed, but you never know with the French!
Oooh la la...French biking gear is not quite the same
But wait there is more!
In the past French bikers have had to fight against a law that restricted all motorcycles to 100bhp, yep, you could have a H2R but it would only have 100 bhp. They have fought against having number plates that are larger than any currently available, fought against parking restrictions on bikes in the street, fought against and are still fighting against laws that stop them modifying their bikes. Custom bikes in any shape or form are really rare in France because if you build one you have to go through the French type approval system and that costs a lot of money…more than the bike would be worth!
Luckily, and probably because of all these stupid laws, the French bikers have a great action group called the FFMC , Fédération Française des Motards en Colère which means the French Federation of Angry Motorcyclists. They organize demonstrations and action days all over France and have managed in the past to bring the country to a standstill, even blocking the Paris ring road with 15,000 bikes. They are fighting hard and are well funded but sometimes it must seem even to them that they are fighting a war just like the one in the Somme, except luckily they are just getting hit with bureaucratic bullshit.
So sometimes, when you think the world is against you and your bike, remember, it could be worse, you could be French!