France Crit’Air zones: biker anger and where do rules limit drivers?

A mass demonstration by motorcyclists is being organised in Rouen on Saturday after exemptions for them to the low-emission area there ended

Motorcyclists will be protesting the end to their exemption from regulation in the city
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Motorcyclists are planning a protest this Saturday in the city of Rouen, as low-emission zone restrictions begin to apply to them in the city from today (August 31).

Rouen introduced a zone à faibles émissions (ZFE, or low-emission zone) in September 2022, covering most of the city, but motorbikes were exempt for the first year.

From today, however, motorbikes will also be affected by rules, which see the oldest vehicles barred from entering certain parts of the city.

In addition, all motorbikes passing through Rouen’s ZFE will need a Crit’Air sticker displayed on their vehicle to show the level of pollution it emits.

Read more: A guide to Crit’Air stickers in France

To this end, the Fédération française des motards en colère has organised a mass demonstration in the city, believing bikers should be exempt from the restrictions imposed by the zones.

There are 11 cities where ZFEs are in place, although the exact restrictions vary depending on the city.

Recent changes however, mean that all but five cities are postponing the more restrictive rollouts after backlash from drivers.

Low emissions zones are major sites of debate across both sides of the Channel, as London Mayor Sadiq Khan is currently facing backlash for his decision to increase the range of London’s ULEZ (ultra low emissions zone).

Read more: Debt collector of UK fines ‘illicitly’ got data of drivers in France

Motorbikes are solution for less pollution, say protest organisers

Several cities that have introduced low emission zones in France included exceptions in their rollout.

For some, this was ‘grace periods’ where those found guilty of breaking the rules were informed about the new regulations for up to six months after they were brought in before fines started being given.

In Toulouse, cars that would be banned from entering the city can obtain a ‘ZFE pass’ that allows them to use their car within the zone’s limits for a certain number of days per year.

Read more: Crit’Air: Older cars in Toulouse can bypass rules with attestation

In cities such as Rouen and Nice, the zone’s rules initially only apply (or in Rouen’s case now, applied) to cars, with motorbikes exempt for a certain period of time.

Motorcyclists say the rules are unfair, however, and should not impact them in the same way as cars.

“We want to mark the end of our exemption, and highlight the metropole's lack of dialogue,” said Jean-Philippe Ridel, one of the upcoming protest’s organisers.

“We haven't had a meeting for a year, and the aim is to let the situation fester so that people get fed up… we intend to continue to put forward our legitimate arguments by demonstrating that motorcycling is one of the solutions for less polluting mobility,” he added.

The protest will see a number of roadblocks put up around Rouen between 11:00 and 16:00, with motorcyclists making a procession through the city between 13:00 and 16:00, local media reports.

Although the exact number of motorcyclists that will turn out for the protest is unknown, riders from as far away as Paris are expected to attend.

Where do the rules apply now?

Currently, there are 11 cities that have introduced a ZFE, although specific regulations differ between them.

By 2025, metropolitan areas with a population of over 150,000 are due to bring in a ZFE within their city limits – however, there is growing backlash, both from the general public and city officials themselves, that the current timeline is untenable.

As mentioned above, a number of cities with ZFEs already in place have pushed back their deadlines to introduce further restrictions on drivers, so it is not totally out of the question that the wider rollout of ZFEs in France could change.

You can read our article here for the latest updates about ZFE zones in France, as well as what it means for your vehicle, as well as how both residents and non-residents can obtain the mandatory Crit’Air stickers, if passing through these zones.

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