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MRF Public Comment - EPA Proposed Regulations

13 February 2001

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
National Vehicle and Fuels Emission Laboratory
2000 Traverwood
Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105
Via Email:

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen:

The Motorcycle Riders Foundation appreciates the opportunity to comment on and participate in discussions surrounding Docket A-2000-01, Control of Emissions From Nonroad Large Spark Ignition Engines, Recreational Engines (Marine and Land-Based), and Highway Motorcycles.

Our interest is in "highway motorcycles," hereinafter referred to as "street motorcycles" or "street bikes."

The first motorcyclists' rights organization to establish a full-time legislative advocacy presence in Washington, the Motorcycle Riders Foundation is the only Washington voice devoted exclusively to the street rider. MRF established MRFPAC in the early 1990s to advocate the election of candidates who would champion the cause of rider safety and rider freedom. MRF proudly claims state motorcyclists' rights organizations (SMROs) and the very founders of the American rider rights movement among its leading members. While we have but 2,800 members, many of our members are SMROs and our combined membership exceeds 250,000.

Summary Statement
The Motorcycle Riders Foundation believes strongly that the EPA should refrain from pursuing rulemaking to establish more stringent emissions standards for street motorcycles. Our shared objective of cleaner air is already being met with new motorcycles certifying far below the 5.0 g/km Hydrocarbon national standard. Rather than saddle it with new requirements that could devastate small business, the EPA should commend the motorcycle industry for its market-based performance in achieving lower overall emissions output. In our view, even non-attainment areas would suffer from a more stringent national standard for street bikes, as the barely perceptible gains in pollution reduction would not be realized. Finding losses in performance and personal freedom unacceptable, riders would rely on machines using older technology , or - worse - turn to the least efficient and most costly personal motorized transport available - the automobile. In short, motorcyclists who would be otherwise inclined to ride to work would drive instead. In so doing, these lost riders would make more inefficient use of fuel, create more gridlock and add to already protracted commuting time. Shifting the entire nation to a more stringent standard by following the dubious lead of California would be an unnecessary, inappropriate action that would hike costs for all consumers, limit the freedom of individual motorcyclists, complicate traffic congestion and damage if not destroy many small businesses in our American motorcycling community without having an appreciable, positive impact on clean air.

Timing of the ANPRM and Community Involvement.
We object to the timing of the Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM), published December 7, 2000, with a public comment deadline of 5 February 2001, although we appreciate the communication from the Ann Arbor office that EPA shall keep the public comment period open beyond 5 February. With a few notable exceptions, the vast majority of the American motorcycling community remains unaware to this date of EPA's desire for a more stringent emissions standard that impacts millions of riders, dozens of businesses and thousands of employees. We are particularly concerned that the most fragile element of our community - small businesses - has not been informed of the agency's interest in more stringent emissions standards - standards which many will perceive as a grave threat to their livelihood.

The ANPRM follows two years of technical talks between EPA and industry. In those talks, however, the topic was a new standard for off-road motorcycles. Highway motorcycles were not at issue in the discussions. The off-road issue is the subject of a consent decree relating to a suit filed against EPA by the Sierra Club; highway motorcycles are not addressed in the litigation. Our community needs the time afforded the off-road community to come to terms with the full impact of new standards.

The Importance of Full Integration of the Motorcycle in Transport Planning.
While we recognize that emission standards for street bikes date back to 1980, the Motorcycle Riders Foundation believes it is unwise to depart from these standards now and risk an impact that softens sales, drives riders from motorcycling and devastates small businesses in our community. While we have made substantial progress, the Motorcycle Riders Foundation is still far from achieving its overreaching, long-term goals:

One, recognition on the part of the American public that the motorcycle is a sound, more efficient alternative to the passenger car as personal motorized transport.

Two, full integration of the motorcycle in transport planning by local, state and national governments.

Any declination in our community - from sales to opportunities for individualization - puts our society that much further from full integration. Any declination militates against society benefiting from motorcycles which offer more efficient transport especially in the commuting scenario, far greater gas mileage, less road wear and a powerful antidote to traffic and parking congestion.

Delaying the onset of new standards by retaining the 1980 standard will lead to several benefits. First, already low emissions reductions (significantly below the 1980 standard) will continue if not improve as manufacturers to make market-driven improvements to engine technology. Second, the action allows federal and state governments to integrate fully the motorcycle into national transport planning, so that use and mileage rates increase toward a more optimal level at which point the contribution of street bikes to the pollution inventory can be freshly considered. Third, the action allows time to assess the impact of higher standards on small businesses -- a vast community of motorcycle after market producers, small-volume motorcycle makers and custom shops nationwide. Fourth, the action provides time to assess the impact of tighter emission restrictions on the motorcyclist culture, including "consumer mechanics."

The California Standard - Inappropriate for the Rest of the Nation.
Mr. Robert French of your office was kind enough to call the Motorcycle Riders Foundation, and we appreciate this outreach effort. While he asserted that the agency would like to propose a new standard but was not settled on what that standard might be, observers in our community with whom we have consulted -those with experience with EPA and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) - remain convinced that the ANPRM is a first step toward nationwide adoption of California's emissions standards.

"Given that California has recently put in place technologically challenging standards for [large displacement street] motorcycles in a time frame that we would likely consider for a possible federal program, we are likely to look very closely at the pros and cons of harmonizing the federal program and whether the California standards are appropriate for a nationwide federal program," the agency wrote. We believe the California standards are inappropriate for a national federal program. Frankly, we question whether California standards are truly necessary for California. Given the extraordinarily low, less-than-optimal average annual mileage of motorcycles nationally, the compressed riding season throughout much of the nation and the substantial reductions in emissions already achieved voluntarily by the world's motorcycle manufacturers, we believe new, more stringent emissions standards are untimely, inappropriate, entail needless cost and present a devastating threat to small businesses in our community.

Personalizing of the Personal Transport.
Wary of motorcyclists' desire to improve the look, sound and performance of motorcycles through improvements to exhaust and other systems - a practice it terms "tampering" - EPA stated it is researching strategies to "mitigate this problem." Concerned that "standards which result in the widespread use of catalytic converters will achieve less benefits than projected due to consumer tampering" with engine systems, the agency asks comment on "the magnitude of these consumer practices" and ways to stop it.

The Motorcycle Riders Foundation is sharply critical of the use of the pejorative "tampering" in connection with the improvement and individualization of motorcycles. More than cars which one travels in, motorcycles are ridden on. Practically worn as much as they are ridden, the motorcycle is the personal motor vehicle in America, and most motorcyclists personalize them as a matter of course. These same motorcyclists question the intent of government that would block by device or criminalize by decree the personalizing of a singularly personal vehicle in exchange for reductions to a contribution to the pollution inventory that is already miniscule and barely measurable.

The Impact on Small Business.
Anti-tampering coupled with a tightening of emission regulations could tear one of the most fragile threads in the motorcycle industry fabric: thousands of small businesses involved in the manufacture and sale of aftermarket products, including custom shops which make repairs and improvements to motorcycles.

EPA also seeks to control the smallest of motorcycle makers. EPA questions the appropriateness of the current federal definition of small business as applied to small-volume bike makers, a strong suggestion of the agency's interest in applying the new, higher standard to all motorcycle makers regardless of the small number of bikes produced. Again, for the sake of a barely perceptible reduction in overall emissions inventory, we would deem such action frivolous and radically anti-small business.

Integration, Regulation and Optimal Use.
The ubiquitous lawnmower that EPA regulates is already fully integrated into our society. Families living in most suburban homes sited on a lot of any size already own and operate them. It is at full, optimal use. The motorcycle is not - and it should be, as it is a safe, sound, more efficient transport alternative to passenger cars. Motorcycles ease traffic congestion, provide less wear to roads, enjoy far greater gas mileage and solve parking problems.

The motorcycle is also infinitely more efficient as a commuting vehicle. The passenger car in America (including light truck and SUV) transports an average of 1.1 persons to and from work in the commuting scenario. The motorcycle transports 1.0 persons to and from work and does so with far greater fuel efficiency and far fewer occasions for inefficient, stop-and-go gridlock.

While the Motorcycle Riders Foundation advances motorcycling as a safe, sound and efficient transportation alternative to cars, full integration - or what we might term "optimal use" - has not yet been achieved. Thus, motorcycles cover a tiny fraction of the miles accumulated by passenger cars.

In 1997, cars, light trucks and SUVs accumulated 2.4 trillion vehicle miles traveled. Of the 5.1 million highway motorcycles operating in 1998, the Motorcycle Industry Council estimates, the average bike clocked just 2,613 miles that year. In short, motorcyclists rode just .55% of the miles driven by cars, light trucks and SUVs.

Similarly, the contribution to pollution by street motorcycles is a tiny fraction of one percent. During one stage of the regulatory proceedings that led to California's stricter emission standards, the California Air Resources Board estimated that the average emission level generated by in-use highway motorcycles was .96 grams of hydrocarbons per mile, a level we might question. Nevertheless, expressed as a function of the number of motorcycles registered at the time of that debate, street bikes emitted six one-thousandths of one percent of the emissions generated by all on-road motor vehicles.

We have serious doubts that reducing this already miniscule contribution to the emissions inventory is worth the steep price our community must pay in new regulations that hamper performance, hike prices, threaten small business, chill the burgeoning motorcycle after-market, all but eliminate custom shops and limit if not eliminate riders' freedom to customize our machines.

Catalytic Converters, Performance and Personal Safety Concerns.
The Motorcycle Riders Foundation has profound concerns about catalytic converters (or "cats") and related systems. The emphasis on this particular technology in the ANPRM is troubling, especially in light of engine technology advances. Based on a venerated 1933 engine design, the 2001 Ural, for example, meets current California emissions standards without a catalytic converter. We would strenuously oppose any effort by EPA or any agency of government to elevate process over performance.

Motorcyclists are concerned that the addition of catalytic converters and attendant systems to most or all street motorcycles might increase the likelihood of personal injury. A crawl-speed minor spill on a gravel driveway which would do nothing more than bruise egos could turn serious if the rider's leg comes in contact with a "cat." At 800 degrees, the device would burn through to the bone.

Motorcyclists are critical of the lackluster performance of motorcycles equipped with the devices. Imposition of "more stringent" standards could result in motorcyclists voting with their feet - and refusing to buy new machines.

We are particularly concerned that small-displacement motorcycles - the machine of choice for novice riders - tend to suffer more performance problems with more stringent emission control systems. Thus, a more stringent standard could inadvertently have a profound effect on rider safety, particularly novices, the most vulnerable group of riders.

The Likelihood of More Pollution with "Cat"-equipped Motorcycles.
In Europe, the average journey length for an automobile is 20 kilometers. At that point, a cat is up to operating temperature (a nominal 800 degrees Fahrenheit). The average journey length for a bike in Europe is far less. With a cat operating at colder temperatures, the result is more harmful emissions, not fewer.

While there are no estimates available on average journey length for motorcycles in the U.S., we believe motorcycle use in Europe is greater than in America, because nations there, sometimes inadvertently, have taken actions which have resulted in greater integration of the motorcycle in transport planning. For example, some governments have encouraged motorcycle use as a connector to other transportation modes (e.g., train stations, airports) by such innovations as motorcycle-only parking spaces that offer bikes protection and security. Convinced that motorcycles sharply reduce traffic congestion, London is making great strides in creating inner-city parking exclusively for bikes; city fathers are also considering exempting motorcycles from an inner-city access toll designed to keep cars from clogging city streets. Some national planning in Europe undertaken to reduce aggressive driving (e.g., "traffic calming" designs in Belgium) has advanced motorcycle safety which prompts more people to ride. Thus, while it is by no means uniformly motorcycle-friendly, Europe is far closer than the United States in taking steps that lead to full, optimal use of the motorcycle.

In motorcycling, we see a mode of transportation that should be favored by government and an engaged, committed community whose growth should be encouraged by government. Restrictions by government that disfavor the mode and cripple growth of the community render optimal use and full integration of the motorcycle an impossibility rather than a necessity.

Tighter Regulations and Their Impact on Culture.
As previously stated, we believe the motorcycle is the ideal personal motorized vehicle, and, while no data are available, we would not be surprised to find that the vast majority of motorcycle owners seeks to personalize this most personal of vehicles, particularly owners of cruisers and sport-bikes. Indeed, the protection of "modified motorcycles" gave rise to Modified Motorcycle Associations which formed an important element in the advent of the motorcyclists' rights movement, and culture, in America.

Not addressed by the ANPRM are what could be considered icons of the American motorcycle culture - show bikes - expensive, individualized motorcycles transformed by owners or, at their direction, custom shops, bikes which rarely see anything resembling normal use.

Government should not dismiss individualization of the motorcycle as "a hobby" but recognize it as a freedom treasured by the motorcyclist culture in America and embraced by millions of Americans. Certainly, it meets the first test of "culture" in that it is passed from one generation to the next. Needlessly tighter emissions restrictions coupled with the pejorative term of "anti-tampering measures" strike at the core of this culture.

On Reclassification of Motorcycles as "Light-Duty" or in a Separate Class.
The same day the American road was opened to motorcars, it was opened to motorcycles. When American motorists drove their first Ford, American riders rode their first Harley-Davidson. Motorcycles belong on the American road with a status at least equivalent to that granted automobiles. Accordingly, the Motorcycle Riders Foundation would vigorously oppose any change to the status of motorcycles anywhere in the Code of Federal Regulations.

The Need for Congressional Review.
The ANPRM is a "major rule" as defined in 5 U.S.C. 804, because it is likely to have an impact on the economy of $100 million in value and would impose a major increase in costs or prices for consumers and individual industries. Accordingly, it will require review by the Congress and the Comptroller General of the United States.

Moreover, the Regulatory Flexibility Act is germane, as a more restrictive emissions standard will have a devastating impact on after-market makers, distributors and a vast array of custom shops and swap meet organizers nationwide. In our view, a radical change to these standards will drive a number of small-volume bike manufacturers to the edge of failure at a time when those businesses are struggling and the economy is slowing. Particularly threatened are the smallest of businesses in the motorcycling community - custom shops - a cottage industry where many if not most owners of cruisers and other motorcycle types take their machines for individualization and other improvements. All of these small business entities will be adversely affected by this proposed rule. We also note that swap meet organizers and custom shops were not listed in the ANPRM as small businesses likely to be impacted.

Because the owners of most custom shops are members of our co-partner associations - State Motorcyclists' Rights Organizations nationwide - and because these and other small business entities in our community are not represented by a national organization, we request that the Motorcycle Riders Foundation be named to the Small Business Advocacy Review Panel you may convene.

Again, we appreciate the invitation to comment on the ANPRM and the outreach demonstrated by your office. We look forward to discussing this issue with you, the Small Business Advocacy Review Panel, and the United States Congress.

Thomas C. Wyld
Vice President, Government Relations
Motorcycle Riders Foundation

President George W. Bush
The Honorable Christine Todd Whitman, Administrator of the EPA
U.S. Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell
U.S. Senator Robert C. Smith
U.S. Representative Don Young
U.S. Representative Thomas Petri
U.S. Representative James Sensenbrenner, Jr.
U.S. Representative Jerry F. Costello
U.S. Representative Gary Condit
U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr.
U.S. Representative James Barcia
U.S. Representative Karen Thurman

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