Environmental groups have again asked France’s highest administrative court, the Conseil d’Etat, to push through the introduction of contrôles techniques (vehicle safety checks) for motorbikes in the latest twist in the long-running controversy.
The government has still not brought them in despite the court ordering it to do so last October.
What did the last court ruling say?
The ruling said: “The decree of August 9, 2021, must be implemented, and must, in particular, stagger its introduction, depending on the age of the vehicle.”
It also said that “the control should be introduced alongside the technical reference standards and the conditions for implementing it, particularly when it comes to the approval of technical inspection centres”.
This means that the court said that the government has a responsibility to:
Introduce technical controls (like MOTs in the UK) for motorised, two-wheeled vehicles
Decide the technical reference standards that will be used by inspectors
Approve the technical inspection centres that drivers can use for the controls
However, the measures have not yet been implemented.
New court case
As a result, three environmental associations - Respire, Ras-Le-Scoot and Paris sans voiture - have brought the case to the Conseil d’Etat again, to ask it to apply its ruling on the safety checks.
The associations say that introducing a contrôle technique will improve motorbikes’ roadworthiness, reduce the amount of pollution, and improve the accident rate.
The group’s lawyer has asked the court to "suspend the implicit refusal of the prime minister to adopt all the measures necessary for the application of the decree of August 9, 2021”, reported Le Parisien.
It comes after the group had already written to Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne on February 17, to ask her to impose the motorbike checks, the group said.
The associations’ lawyer, Camille Mialot, said: “In this case, the administration's silence in response to our formal notice is tantamount to refusal, which is why we are turning to the Conseil d’Etat.
“The contrôle technique for motorised two-wheelers should have come into force on January 1, 2022. It is now May 2023, and the state has still not issued the decrees.
“We have a government that is playing for time and has clearly decided not to apply the decisions of the Conseil d’Etat taken on behalf of the French people.”
The associations are also demanding that the government pay a penalty of €1million per day for each day that it continues to delay the implementation of the decree.
Ms Mialot added: "We have exceeded the deadline for the European directive by a year and a half…and several decisions from the Conseil d’Etat have not been complied with. We believe that it is urgent to act and this is why we are asking for significant fines.”
She said it was “worrying” how difficult it has been for “France to get into gear” and implement a measure that “is already applicable in almost all European countries”.
“In Spain, MOT tests for two-wheelers have existed since 1964,” she said.
The government’s alleged inaction on the issue comes after Transport Minister Clément Beaune had promised to impose the contrôle technique. On January 29, he said: “We will do it.”
As a result of the controversy over the planned introduction, Mr Beaune said he had organised consultations with environmental associations and groups representing motorcyclists. The latter is strongly opposed to the measure.
Tony Renucci, director-general of Respire, said these consultations had indeed taken place, “but nothing has happened since”.
He said: “We feel as though the government is making us go round in circles. They’re mocking us because the application decrees are actually ready. So we have decided to take the matter to the Conseil d’Etat again to have this measure applied and finally move on.”
What is the controversy surrounding the issue?
The decision of whether to impose a vehicle safety check on motorbikes has been the subject of a long-running debate in France. This is primarily because an EU directive states that it should be required, but motorbike associations in the country are fiercely opposed.
On January 1, 2022, EU legislation stating that motorbikes and mopeds must become subject to roadworthiness tests came into force.
The French government announced in August 2021 that the checks would come into force, for a gradual implementation beginning in 2023. However, shortly after it outlined this time frame, the government suspended the scheme.
Environmental associations have said that not having the checks “was harmful to the public interest in terms of road safety and the protection of populations against air and noise pollution from vehicles”.
The EU law on two-wheeler contrôles techniques does include “an exception for states that have imposed and notified the European Commission of alternative road safety measures”. But le Conseil d’État has also ruled that France’s government has not “put in place alternative safety measures which could justify a contravention of the EU law”.
It also said that it had seen “neither the written statement nor records of the exchanges made…to determine the exact content of the envisaged steps” that the government said it would take.
Motorbike association la Fédération française des motards en colère (FFMC) has said that contrôles techniques would not help to reduce air pollution, noise, or the risk of accidents.
It claims that only 0.7% of [motorcycle] accidents are caused by a [mechanical] fault.