NCOM BIKER NEWSBYTES
THE AIM/NCOM MOTORCYCLE E-NEWS SERVICE is brought to you by Aid to Injured Motorcyclists (A.I.M.) and the National Coalition of Motorcyclists (NCOM), and is sponsored by the Law Offices of Richard M. Lester. If you’ve been involved in any kind of accident, call us at 1-(800) ON-A-BIKE or visit www.ON-A-BIKE.com.
Compiled & Edited by Bill Bish,
National Coalition of Motorcyclists (NCOM)
PANDEMIC KICKSTARTED A MOTORCYCLE BOOM
From soft sales and even negative growth at some companies, to the specter of businesses collapsing in the face of Coronavirus, to sudden sales spikes and even triple-digit growth, 2020 has been a whiplash year for the motorcycle industry.
Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, red flags were waving in many pockets of motorcycle commerce according to Forbes.com, and there was a growing dark cloud hovering over the industry, generated in large part by one particular problem: Not enough new riders are buying motorcycles and replacing those that are leaving the sport.
“There have been many reasons postulated for the shrinking ridership numbers and flagging sales, from Millennials being more risk (and motorcycle) averse, to smartphone addiction to enthusiasts aging out of the market,” wrote Forbes contributor Bill Roberson in his article; “The Motorcycle Industry Was At A Crossroads, Then COVID-19 Changed Up The Map”.
When the pandemic hit, something very interesting happened: Motorcycle and bicycle sales started climbing, often at double-digit rates. “It made sense on some levels, since anyone returning to work or life in general was avoiding ride share and mass transit like the plague (sorry) and many ex-riders suddenly rediscovered their mothballed two-wheeled conveyances – or decided to buy new ones,” surmised Roberson, adding that as people began to return to workplaces, suddenly motorcycles, scooters and bicycles became viable options.
Besides being a socially distanced activity anyway, added benefits like discounted tolls, free parking (in non-car spaces) and HOV lane access for motorcycles could help drive even more people to give motorcycles a go.
Also, motorcycle industry insider Robert Pandya told Roberson that many cities experienced an unusual phenomenon unseen in decades: literally no vehicle traffic.
“And the new crop of electric machines, along with the surge in adult-sized small-displacement motorcycle options give perspective riders more to consider than what has long been the primary market focus in the U.S.: selling large displacement, high-margin motorcycles,” explains Roberson.
Pandya noted that businesses and repair shops have experienced some “exceptional months.”
But while the latest boost is good news, the big question is; can it be sustained? Will the sudden high tide of bike and motorcycle sales result in a renaissance for that kind of personal transportation? “We find ourselves in this industry on our heels, and you can look in the rearview mirror all you want,” Pandya told Forbes.com, “but I think the access to technology and design, and our marketing abilities, speaks to this awesome opportunity to go from seven percent [of people riding motorcycles] to eight percent.” Just that small of a rise in ridership could be enough to swing the fortunes and future of the motorcycle industry.
U.S. HELMET USE TRENDS HIGHER
Helmet use by U.S. motorcyclists has trended higher over the past decade, according to a new government survey.
According to the U. S. Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the National Occupant Protection Use Survey (NOPUS) is the only survey that provides nationwide probability-based observed data on motorcyclist helmet use in the United States.
The NOPUS is conducted by NHTSA on an annual basis and the findings of the survey over the past ten years show a gradually increasing trend in the use of helmets by motorcycle riders.
According to the NHTSA survey, helmet use nationwide increased among motorcyclists from 54.3% of all riders (including passengers) in 2010 to 70.8% in 2019. In states with a mandatory helmet law, helmet use among riders was 89.2% in 2019, while in all other states — those that only require helmet use for specific riders, helmet use was 56.5%.
On a regional basis in 2019, riders in the West helmeted up most often, with helmet use noted among 83.7% of those observed. The south was next at 74.6%, followed by the northeast region at 74.1%, and the Midwest at only 43.4%.
Having a passenger aboard is an apparent factor in increased helmet use by the driver, with 79.7% of riders wearing a helmet when they have a passenger compared to 74% when riding solo, based on the data for 2019.
To view the full NHTSA report on helmet use trends online, including how the various criteria mentioned above are defined, go to: https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/812936
TEACHING MOTORCYCLES TO COMMUNICATE
In an international effort to improve road safety for motorcyclists, a number of motorcycle manufacturers are co-operating to connect motorcycles with other vehicles and infrastructure.
In the Connected Motorcycle Consortium (CMC), motorcycle manufacturers BMW, Honda, KTM and Yamaha work together to develop new standards and techniques to connect motorcycles with other vehicles and infrastructure.
CMC started in 2016, because C-ITS (Cooperative Intelligent Transport System) specifications for passenger cars had not taken motorcycle specific safety factors and challenges into consideration sufficiently. The consortium aims at joining forces between motorcycle manufacturers, suppliers, research institutes and associations, to make motorcycles part of the future connected mobility.
The first goal was to define a first ‘basic specification’ for motorcycles to connect and ‘talk the same language’ to other vehicles or infrastructure by means of wireless communication. The next move will be CMC ‘NEXT’ with a wider scope, as motorcycle experts will be looking at further improvements of the specification while at the same time taking account of new functions supported by on-board sensors both in cars and in motorcycles.
“I am very glad that the motorcycle industry has joined forces to develop these specifications,” commented FEMA (Federation of European Motorcyclists’ Associations) General Secretary Dolf Willigers, adding that “The new technologies that are involved here will assist the car drivers in their task and by doing so will make the road safer for motorcyclists.”
Current developments in the industry offer a glimpse of what a solution by CMC might look like:
~ Smartphones – especially when connected via the upcoming, powerful 5G network – could be a major part of the solution, transmitting information between nearby vehicles.
~ Inspired by military headgear, U.S. manufacturers are designing smart helmets for PTWs, with cameras for traffic in front of and behind the driver and LEDs projecting warnings on the visor.
~ Researchers point to the value of intelligent speed controllers.
A number of manufacturers have already presented various innovations towards a fully operational C-ITS:
~ BMW’s ConnectedRide, introduced in 2016, warns bikers when a car comes into the blind spot of their rearview mirror.
~ KTM is working on a Blind Spot Detection system, using short-range radar.
~ Ducati has collaborated with Audi on C-V2X technology warning drivers of a collision when near a crossing or behind a driver who suddenly brakes.
What’s missing for now is the required infrastructure, and the regulatory obligation for all vehicles to be equipped with such systems. The European Commission has launched an EU-wide strategy for C-ITS, facilitating investments and exploring the rules required.
HONDA PATENTS A MOTORCYCLE THAT’S CONTROLLED BY THE MIND
No, it’s not the plot-line from a sci-fi movie, Honda has filed one of the wildest patents of the year, with an idea for a motorcycle that is partly controlled directly by the power of thought!
Of course, all motorcycles are already controlled by the ‘power’ of the mind – the rider ‘thinks’ and the brain sends messages to our limbs that control the bike – but this latest patent for a “mind control motorcycle” shows that Honda thinks there is a more efficient way to do that, with signals from the brain directly affecting the bike’s behavior.
“Honda’s wacky idea is not that you think ‘left’ and the bike steers to the left; this system is more about changing the bike’s settings and assistance systems,” according to VisorDown.com, going on to explain; “Within the rider’s helmet, there are a set of neural sensors that can pick up the stream of thoughts from the rider’s brain. The messages are then sent to the bike’s onboard computer which deciphers the messages and adjusts the required setting in accordance with the demands of the rider.”
EURO 5 IS COMING
Despite pleas from the motorcycle industry and European manufacturers to delay implementation until 2022, particularly due to COVID-19 lockdowns, factory shutdowns and supply chain slowdowns, “Euro 5” is due to come into force January 1. 2021, forcing bike makers to meet ever-increasingly stringent emissions regulations worldwide.
As the name suggests, Euro 5 is the fifth set of European standards for motorcycles aimed at reducing air pollutants produced by two-wheelers incrementally over the years since Euro 1 in 1999, and every few years since the standards have tightened. As time goes by, the EU’s regulations have grown to include safety systems (ABS, traction control) and other technology as well.
Wonder why two-stroke engines have disappeared, why carburetors have been replaced by electronic fuel injection, or why ABS is becoming standard even on lowly beginner bikes? Thank Euro5 and its predecessors.
Today, either directly or indirectly, European regulations are responsible for many decisions in the development of new motorcycles. Because of how strict the standards are and how influential the European market is to the entire global motorcycle industry, Euro 5 will essentially be the de facto worldwide standard.
It’s easier for the OEMs to make one bike for the whole world, instead of a dozen variations for differing regional regulations.
Euro 5 means we can expect another imminent cull and extensive redesigns as current Euro 4-legal models are revamped or replaced to suit the stricter new tailpipe limits, and air-cooled engines are inevitably threatened each time there’s a new bout of emissions restrictions.
Of course, Euro5 isn’t the end, either. In coming years, we’ll see Euro5+ enacted; all new models sold after 2025 must meet that even stricter standard. Look for new exhaust regulations, as well as changes to the rules around OBD2 code sensors, and even weight restrictions — and expect technological advances, to meet all the new rules. The EU’s rule changes may be killing off some much-loved models, but they’re also forcibly moving the industry forward.
JURY FINDS MYRTLE BEACH RACIALLY DISCRIMINATED AGAINST BLACK BIKERS
The city of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, was motivated by race when it created a new traffic plan designed to “suck the fun” out of Black Bike Week, a federal jury has found.
Civil rights groups accused the city of racially discriminating against the Black tourists by treating them differently than white bikers who attend Harley Week earlier each May, citing in particular a 23-mile one-way no-exit traffic chute that funnels them out of town during the peak nights of Atlantic Beach Bikefest, otherwise known as Black Bike Week. The city also puts up barricades and increases its police presence in ways that don’t apply to the mostly white bikers during their event, NAACP attorneys said.
The jurors — five Black and four white — deliberated for more than three hours before delivering their verdict, on December 10, agreeing that “race was a motivating factor,” but they also sided against the black bikers, saying Myrtle Beach probably “would have made the same decision anyway, even if it had not considered race in its official actions regarding Black Bike Week.”
QUOTABLE QUOTE: “Few men have virtue to withstand the highest bidder.”
~ George Washington (1732-99), American military leader and Founding Father who served as the first president of the United States
ABOUT AIM / NCOM: The National Coalition of Motorcyclists (NCOM) is a nationwide motorcyclists rights organization serving over 2,000 NCOM Member Groups throughout the United States, with all services fully-funded through Aid to Injured Motorcyclist (AIM) Attorneys available in each state who donate a portion of their legal fees from motorcycle accidents back into the NCOM Network of Biker Services (www.ON-A-BIKE.com / 800-ON-A-BIKE).