California motorcycle smog test proposal modified

Thanks to the efforts of thousands of AMA members and other concerned motorcyclists, the sponsor of a proposed California law to require motorcycles to undergo periodic exhaust emissions testing has backed away from the idea, the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) reports.

The measure — Senate Bill 435 introduced this year by state Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Santa Monica) — would have required all model year 2000-and-newer on-road motorcycles with engine displacements of more than 280cc to be tested every two years. The motorcycles would have been included in the state Department of Consumer Affairs "smog check" program, which involves testing for unacceptable levels of pollutants in emissions.

"This is an initial victory for California motorcyclists, but we can’t let our guard down just yet," said Nick Haris, AMA western states representative. "Senators deserve credit for recognizing how this proposal would have created an added burden for motorcyclists, motorcycle businesses, and the cash-starved state bureaucracy, and they reworked the measure to limit its scope to focus on catalytic converters. The bill is on its way to the state Assembly, but we have to remain vigilant because it could revert back to its original form."

Haris added that, in addition to AMA members, ABATE of California and the California Motorcycle Dealers Association put a lot of effort into changing the proposal.

In addition, at least one senator argued the legislation was expensive, unfair to those who ride motorcycles for recreation, and was ostensibly nothing more than another tax. Political insiders saw the proposal as just a creative way for the cash-strapped state to find more money.

"California’s motorcyclists are willing to do their fair share to keep our skies clear, but this bill asked motorcyclists — whose two wheels are far less of a resource drain than four-wheelers — to shoulder an extra burden," said Haris. "The California Legislature has already raided $90 million of user-generated fees from the state’s OHV fund. Some legislators saw this as an opportunity to create yet another motorcyclist-funded program with no thought as to the burden it placed on the backs of motorcyclists."

California’s motorcycle engine emission standards are already the strictest in the nation and, because of their relatively low yearly mileage totals when compared to other vehicles, the state’s motorcycles have the lowest emissions of any motor vehicle category in California.

More than 3,000 motorcyclists used the AMA Action Alert section at to let Sen. Pavley know that they opposed the legislation. They also expressed their concern that the bill could require motorcyclists to always have a stock exhaust system, whereas automobile owners are allowed to install aftermarket systems, which can be less costly.

The emissions testing provision was dropped out of the bill and it cleared the Senate on June 1. The measure is now in the Assembly for consideration, where it could be further amended.

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