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.

NCOM BIKER NEWSBYTES

Compiled & Edited by Bill Bish,

National Coalition of Motorcyclists (NCOM)

SELF-DRIVING VEHICLES COMING YOUR WAY

Circling back to the NCOM Legislative Task Force Meeting during the recent NCOM Convention in Des Moines, Iowa, examining existential threats to motorcycling, NCOM-LTF Member Ed Schetter notified the NCOM Board of Directors that “Mercedes Benz is claiming the first Level 3 autonomous technology will be in production for their 2022 EQS equipped with Drive Pilot.”

Level 3 is known as conditional driving automation, and it uses various driver assistance systems and artificial intelligence to make decisions based on changing driving situations around the vehicle.  People inside the vehicle do not need to supervise the technology, meaning they can engage in other activities.

During the NCOM-LTF’s presentation on “The Demise of Gas-Powered Vehicles,” Schetter reported that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is investigating 11 crashes since 2018 in which a Tesla vehicle with “Autopilot” has struck one or more vehicles involved in an emergency response situation.

Tesla currently operates at Level 2, partial driving automation, which falls short of self-driving because it comes with the expectation that a human will always be alert and ready to take over.

“We will keep you updated on the quickly changing technology on the road today,” notes Schetter, who in addition to serving on the National Coalition of Motorcyclists (NCOM) Board of Directors and Legislative Task Force, is Executive Director of ABATE of Ohio.

PHILADELPHIA TO HALT STOPS FOR MINOR INFRACTIONS

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania will become the first major city to ban stops for minor traffic infractions, with a historic piece of legislation that puts the brakes on police pulling over drivers for so-called “secondary violations.”

The City Council approved a bill 14-2 that bans police officers from stopping motorists for minor violations, such as having a broken taillight or not having certain stickers displayed.  Drivers who are guilty of those minor violations will instead receive a warning or a citation in the mail.

“So that an expired license plate or fuzzy dice in the mirror isn’t a death sentence that it can be in some cases,” said Councilmember Curtis Jones Jr., who is a co-sponsor of the “Driving Equality Bill.”

Jones said the city reviewed 2.8 million stops and found that Philadelphia police pull over a disproportionate number of black drivers for minor violations.  Supporters contend the new law would “end traffic stops that promote discrimination while keeping the traffic stops that promote public safety.”

The bill now goes to Mayor Jim Kenney, who is expected to sign it into law, after which the police department will have 120 days for training and education before the changes begin.

PRICES INCREASE ON BIKE PARTS DUE TO RAW MATERIALS SHORTAGES

The world may be getting back on its feet, notwithstanding the ongoing effects of the global pandemic, but the manufacturing sector in particular will surely struggle to go back to normal.  With mass lay-offs following months of closure, companies around the world are finding themselves severely undermanned as business begins to open up, and demand increases.

Furthermore, the already problematic shipping container shortage further aggravated by the Suez Canal blockage in March 2021, parts shortages, supply chain breakdowns, and backlogs of cargo ships waiting to dock, continues to present challenges to global trade.

As such, multiple industries — the motorcycle and automotive industries, particularly — are experiencing production delays brought about by raw materials shortages, such as with the semiconductors and microchips in recent months.  Now, price hikes in materials have hit the tire industry, with the cost of producing rubber increasing.

As expenses go up, so do prices across industries, as inflated tire pricing not only affects motorcycles, but costs for heavy industry machinery such as trailers, airplanes, and trucks.

MOTORCYCLE MANUFACTURERS PLACE ONUS ON INDIVIDUALS IN NOISE DEBATE

The ACEM – European Association of Motorcycle Manufacturers – has spoken out on the noisy motorcycle debate, issuing its response to growing efforts across the continent to ban bikers from certain routes over complaints motorcycles exude too much noise.

The union, which represents 18 manufacturing companies and 20 national industry associations, is concerned bikers are being unfairly singled out for an issue that is endemic across all road users, saying modern motorcycles don’t exceed the permitted decibel levels compared with many four-wheel alternatives.

Interestingly, the ACEM also supports the use of devices that measure noise and issue fines, since it places the onus on the individual potentially abusing the regulations, rather than the industry as a whole.

The debate over noisy motorcycles has stepped up in recent years, with the issue leading to a number of measures being implemented across popular routes throughout Europe.  Germany and Austria have been particularly pro-active in introducing rules seemingly aimed specifically at the motorcycle industry, going so far as to ban motorcycles entirely from certain stretches.

However, as the ACEM points out, Euro4 and Euro5 motorcycles are already designed not to exceed the permitted 77dB of noise (on average), but, that said, these machines can be altered by various customization techniques, just as with cars.

With this in mind, the ACEM’s position is that manufacturers, the industry in its entirety and every biker shouldn’t be unfairly targeted with specific motorcycling bans since the issue comes down to individual practice and can just as easily be mirrored across all modes of transport, thus applicable to all road users or none.

As such, the ACEM has taken the stance of supporting the use of noise pollution devices, despite them coming in for sharp criticism from bikers, so long as the devices are placed in key locations, shifting the onus back onto the individual – regardless of machinery – and without using the sweeping brush of preventing all bikers from using certain routes.

CALIFORNIA TO BAN GAS-POWERED ‘SMALL OFF-ROAD ENGINES’ (SORE)

As of 2024, California will ban “small off-road engines” (SORE) primarily used in gas-powered lawn equipment, such as lawnmowers, leaf blowers and chainsaws, in a new law signed by Governor Gavin Newsom.

The legislation, Assembly Bill 1346, will apply not only to fuel-fed lawn equipment, but also to generators and emergency response equipment operated by internal combustion engines (ICE), and “other assorted categories” including golf carts.

AB 1346, authored by Assembly member Marc Berman (D-Menlo Park), directs the California Air Resources Board to adopt regulations by July 2022 that would prohibit the sale of new “small off-road engines” — a category that includes all gas-powered engines under 25 horsepower — but does not regulate the use of existing equipment, and includes exceptions for farmers and emergency responders.

According to CARB, there are more small engines in California than cars, 16.5 million vs. 13.7 million, but have not been the subject of regulation and lack adequate pollution control devices.

Soon, all such equipment sold new in California will be required to be zero-emissions; either battery-powered or electric plug-in.

INFRASTRUCTURE BILL ON HOLD, FOLLOWING EXTENSION

If you don’t know what’s happening with the infrastructure bill, you’re not alone, as even political insiders who should be in the know seem not to be.  The vote on this ‘highway reauthorization bill’ is complicated by action to be taken on another measure, a sweeping social spending and climate package, that has been politically tied to the infrastructure proposal by congressional Democrats and President Joe Biden.

Despite both chambers of Congress agreeing to extend the FAST Act deadline, H.R. 5434; the “Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2021,” Biden put the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill on hold, telling Democrats that a vote on the highway measure must wait until the party agrees on spending trillions more for his far more ambitious social policy and climate change package.

In addition to providing billions in new funding to rebuild America’s deteriorating roads and bridges, improve airports and rail services, and expand high-speed internet access, the infrastructure bill still offers several pro-motorcycle provisions such as expanding prohibitions on motorcycle-only checkpoints, prohibiting law enforcement activities that profile motorcycle operators, evaluating biker profiling by law enforcement, specifies that motorcycles must be considered in autonomous vehicle operation, allocates increased motorcyclist safety funding, and reauthorizes the Motorcyclists Advisory Council at the U.S. Department of Transportation.

KAWASAKI MOTORCYCLES TO GO FULLY ELECTRIC BY 2035

It seems that all vehicles, including motorcycles, are destined to become battery-powered in the near future.  Honda, BMW, as well as Yamaha, have all announced their plans to go full electric by 2050.  But for Kawasaki, their self-imposed deadline is coming much sooner, being in 14 years’ time, and by 2035 all of their motorcycles sold will be electric-powered.

To help maximize resources and increase management flexibility, Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI) has spun off its motorcycle division into the aptly named Kawasaki Motors, which will focus solely on the motorcycle business.  KHI, meanwhile, will continue to oversee the company’s interests in producing aircraft, ships, industrial equipment, and trains.

“Outdoor leisure activity has been popular during the COVID pandemic,” said Yasuhiko Hashimoto, KHI President, adding that “We will strengthen our environmental efforts with our sights set on post-pandemic lifestyles.”

These electric motorcycles in the pipeline for 2035 are so far intended for markets in developed nations, like Japan, the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Australia.

HONDA, KTM, PIAGGIO & YAMAHA FORM SWAPPABLE BATTERY CONSORTIUM

Honda, KTM, Piaggio and Yamaha all got together to sign a letter of intent about their EV battery swapping plans, with the project’s stated goal being to agree upon a set of shared standards to which all four companies plan to adhere, thus creating the Swappable Batteries Motorcycle Consortium.

Battery standardization has been one of the key stumbling blocks to electrification, but the big issue with battery swapping has always been the cost of the infrastructure.  If there are to be enough batteries in circulation, this would require enormous investment by a manufacturer.

If every company used a different battery type, it would be both expensive and wasteful. However, if a battery in a docking station fits multiple bikes, scooters, mopeds and other small machines, it becomes more viable.

The hope is that by working together not only can they share costs, thus lowering prices both for the bikes and the infrastructure, but that they can work together to improve battery technology resulting in longer ranges and shorter charging times.

“Honda believes that the widespread adoption of electric motorcycles can play an important part in realizing a more sustainable society. For that purpose, we need to solve several challenges such as extending the range, shortening the charging time and lowering the vehicle and infrastructure costs to enhance convenience for customers,” according to Honda Motor Company Limited motorcycle operations chief officer Yoshishige Nomura.

“In the Consortium we have created, the founding members from the motorcycle industry and other stakeholders will work together towards standardizing swappable batteries, their charging systems and surrounding infrastructure to create the environment for their use.  Our final goal is to ensure that motorcycles will continue to be chosen as a useful method of transportation in future mobility,” Nomura concluded.

QUOTABLE QUOTE: “If you have enough breath to complain about anything, you have more than enough reason to give thanks about something.”

~ Mattie J.T. Stepanek (1990-2004), Poet & Peace Advocate

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).