Hochtaunus problem: temporary road closures for legal motorcycles in the Netherlands too?

Germany: Electric motorcycles not welcome in Hochtaunus (Hessen)

If you thought you were immune to the bans on driving an electric motorcycle, forget it. Temporary road closures for legal motorcycles are currently in place in the Hochtaunus region (Hessen). When the measures came into force, it was not clear whether electric motorcycles – because they are quiet – were also covered by the ban. The traffic authority in the Hochtaunus region refers to the text of the German vehicle registration order. It says: ‘Motorcycles: two-wheeled motor vehicles with or without sidecars, with a cylinder capacity of more than 50 cc in the case of an internal combustion engine and/or with a design-related maximum speed of more than 45 km/h’. In the quote, the sentence refers to ‘and/or’. So one or the other. Electric killer bikes are also banned on that basis, because you can’t determine the number of cc’s, but you can determine the top speed.

You will only see it when you get it. Thanks to Johan Cruijff, we have known for years that it applies to football, but in the Hochtaunus number it also seems to fit well with electric driving. Because electric driving is a possible solution to all noise discussions on dykes, De Posbank and the Limburg hills? After all, it is impossible to notice electrical whizzing past as bothersome. But does the whisper-quiet drive really play a role in this case? If we look at the Hochtaunus motorcycle problem, it is clearly not, because suddenly it is about the number of cc’s and the maximum top speed. Although suddenly… It’s not so bad, because according to the German Federal Motorcyclist Association (BVDM), the history of this issue goes back to March 26, 2019, when a series of road closures for motorcycles were announced, led by the political party CDU. Between May and September 2019, several stretches of road around Großer Feldberg were closed for a total of nine days each. In this way, it was tested to see if such closures have a positive effect on the number of accidents and noise pollution.

Germany: Electric motorcycles not welcome in Hochtaunus (Hessen)

It is striking that no one from the first moment can present figures about the accidents and inconveniences. This is due, among other things, to the fact that there has never been a police check before. It is therefore nothing more than assumptions, and it is something we unfortunately often notice in the Netherlands. The study also does not look at alternative measures to reduce noise and speed. No, close that bite ‘und schnell bitte’!’ Soon there will also be protests from the motorcycle world. Without success and even to the offer to actively think along, BVDM, among others, does not even get a response. For a moment there is hope when local elections take place – very important around this kind of decision-making in Germany – and politicians make some promises and then… don’t keep them. In fact, the motorcycle clubs must be informed by the media that there will also be closures in 2022. Again as a test.

New low

At the beginning of June 2022, a new low is reached when it turns out that even electric motorcycles are not welcome on roads closed to motorcycles, although they were formally allowed before. The explanation behind this is certainly worrying because German law does not distinguish between an internal combustion motorcycle and an electric motorcycle. In terms of accidents and safety, this is understandable, as you can unfortunately also fall very hard with an electric motor. In the field of noise pollution, it is much more complicated. This immediately makes the current discussion about noise pollution quite a bit more complicated, because roads that are now closed do not just reopen like that. Not even for electric motors…

For those who now think that Germany is an exception, unfortunately. Inquiries from Motor.NL tell us that it is exactly the same in the Netherlands. “We also do not distinguish between motorcycles here, even if an internal combustion engine or an electric engine is used. As for noise, the motor must stay within the maximum standard, maximum 80 dB for dynamic measurement and maximum 95 dB for static measurement. Regarding closed roads for motorcycles: Road authorities in the Netherlands can also close roads for certain categories of vehicles, e.g. motorcycles, at certain times. Hereby, the road authorities must balance the interests of road users against the interests of local residents, according to a response from the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management. In other words: the consequences of motor disorders can haunt us much longer than previously thought.

Safe traffic in the Netherlands: 30 km/h in all towns and villages as the norm

Lost Euros

If we look further than just the noise problem, the Hochtaunus story unfortunately also makes it clear that the position of motorcyclists is changing. Not so long ago, in Catalonia, for example, motorcyclists were seen as an extremely interesting source of income in addition to beach tourism. Promoter, part of Motor.NL, was even specially invited to discover how hospitable they were to motorcyclists in Catalonia. Good asphalt, good hotels with motorbike (bike) facilities and attractive discounts, it was all impossible. Unfortunately, it has been quiet from that corner lately.

We are seeing similar changes closer to home. Biker hotels are increasingly being closed or converted, and we recently published an article about Baton Rouge being for sale. And no, not out of luxury. It is striking that motorcycling in the Ardennes, Eifel and Alps (plus 101 other areas) seems to be more popular than ever. Certainly after two years of corona, although that crisis can play a big role in closing more and more motorcycle cafes and motorcycle hotels. The 95-decibel rule in Austria, the strict rules in Switzerland and the closure of more and more roads in Germany obviously do not help.

And now?

This is the question that everyone is asking at the moment, but about which there is not yet a meaningful word to say. Not least because it is still a test, but it is clear that a lot is happening. Just like electric motorcycles can’t solve the closure of roads for motorcycles… It makes it clear once again that Hugo Pinkersterboer from the Motorriders Action Group (MAG) was right about Motor.NL a while ago. It really is one to twelve… And no, that really doesn’t make any biker happy.

Photo: ANP/HollandseHoogte/Olaf Kraak

About Hochtaunus

The so-called Hochtaunuskreis is a Landkreis (a regional administrative unit) in the German state of Hesse. There are more than 200,000 inhabitants, and the capital is Bad Homburg vor der Höhe. Due to the beautiful roads, the favorable location and the fact that you can be there from Venlo in about three hours, many motorcyclists drive that way. Especially in combination with Winterberg, which is about 150 kilometers to the north, it is a very popular destination for motorcyclists from the Benelux, northern France and of course Germany itself. As a result, there is plenty of benefit from motorcyclists, but unfortunately they seem less and less welcome.

Reaction Vera de Bruijn, Motorcyclists Action Group (MAG)

‘The story of Hochtaunus is one that we unfortunately hear more often. The legislative history shows that you may not close a road to a certain category of vehicles solely because of noise problems. The explanation is quite complicated, but it means, in short, that it is permitted, for example, in combination with security. It is a trick that many municipalities use. This often implies subjective certainty because research figures are never actually available, but apparently this is no problem for the judges. This is currently happening in the Netherlands at the Bodegraven around De Meije. Even the police have given negative advice on the closure, but it is advice, and therefore nothing should be done about it’.

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