The U.N. Will Design Your Next Motorcycle

Brent Avis
by Brent Avis
"Regulations affecting the design of futuremotorcycles are less likely to come from officials in national governments, andmore likely to be set by the United Nations, requiring a significant change inapproach on behalf of motorcyclist-advocacy groups."

That's the message that came out of the Third International Riders' PublicPolicy Conference held April 27-29 in Pickerington, Ohio. Organized by the Federation Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM) in cooperation with the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA), the conference brought together more than 100 worldwide motorcycling leaders to discuss the effects of growing internationalism in standards for new motorcycles...

Conference participants included AMA President Robert Rasor, who organizedthe conference as president of the FIM's Road Safety and Public PolicyCommission; Erwin Renette, president of the Federation of EuropeanMotorcyclistsAssociations (FEMA); Tom Pauley, President of the Motorcycle Riders Foundation;and Achilles Damen, vice president of the Road Safety and Public PolicyCommission. Motorcycle manufacturers were represented by Timothy Hoelter, vicepresident of government affairs for the Harley-Davidson Motor Company, NickRogers of the International Motorcycle Manufacturers Association and FedericoGalliano of the Association of Constructors of European Motorcycles.

Featured speakers included Robert Tomlins, acting secretary general ofFEMA; Julie Abraham, director of the Office of International Harmonization atthe U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; and Wolfgang Schneiderof the Automotive Unit of the European Commission.

At the conference, Rasor announced that the AMA, FEMA and the MotorcycleRiders Foundation will provide financial support for a committee to monitor theU.N.'s efforts to create so-called "globally harmonized" standards formotorcycles.

"I hope we'll be able to bring the FIM to the table as well," Rasor said."But for the time being, I think it's incredibly significant that these ridergroups have joined hands, largely as a result of the work of the three international conferences organized by the FIM. We must increase our visibilitywith the United Nations and our watchfulness of their work."

Abraham noted that as of last year, an agreement for the development ofglobal vehicle regulations is now in effect through the World Forum forHarmonization of Vehicle Regulations, a part of the U.N. based in Geneva,Switzerland. To date, 12 parties have signed the agreement: the United States,Japan, the European Union, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom,the Russian Federation, China, South Korea and South Africa.

The standards that could be set by that U.N. group include regulationsrelated to safety, emissions, energy efficiency and theft prevention ofvehicles, equipment and parts. However, Abraham told conference participantsthat the United States currently has 11 priorities for standardizing vehicleregulations worldwide, and the only motorcycle-related item on the list is auniform standard regarding brakes.

Such worldwide standards could offer potential benefits to motorcyclemanufacturers and consumers, by reducing the costs associated with meetingdifferent standards in each country.

"If we harmonize to an appropriate set of regulations throughout theworld," Hoelter noted, "what that means for a company like Harley-Davidson isthat the 24 different motorcycle models that we manufacture can be manufacturedeach in only one configuration, instead of the current eight variations tocomply with local laws of the markets that we serve throughout the world."

But Tomlins cautioned that global vehicle standards could cause problemsfor motorcyclists. He made note of the tendency by international agencies toadopt the most restrictive standards in existence in any member country,leadingto increasingly tough regulations regarding such matters as emissions andnoise.

Tomlins told conference participants that he anticipates the U.N. willdevelop approximately six technical regulations affecting motorcycles over thenext four or five years. And he noted that motorcycling groups need to stay ontop of those issues to make sure they are appropriate for users.

"The best chance we have of ensuring that the globally harmonized bikewillbe a bike that we will still want to buy and ride," Tomlins said, "is throughensuring that when the representatives of the United States go to Geneva, whenthe representatives of the European Commission and the member states of theEuropean Union go to Geneva, their positions will be the same, or be verysimilar to, the position of the representatives of the international riders'organizations."

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