California Drops Motorcycle Smog Check Legislation

06/02/2009 @ 12:20 am, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS


California State Senator Fran Pavley a few months ago made herself motorcycle public enemy number one in California after she introduced legislation that would have required smog checks for all motorcycles of model year 2000 or newer. The bill proposed to start enforcing the measure in 2012, but that has now been changed.

The proposal has been amended to authorize police officers to fine bikers who have removed catalytic converters, instead of requiring the emissions testing. The senate approved the amended bill which now goes to the state assembly. If it passes there, the Governator’s signature is all that’s needed.

We’d like to think that our recently arrival to the Golden State had something to do with the bill getting amended, but in reality the cost of policing the measure, in relation to the miniscule amount of pollution a motorcycle puts out, just didn’t make sense when the two factors were weighed out.

Source: San Jose Mercury News via The Kneeslider

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  • Steve B.

    Thanks Asphalt and Rubber. We need to all stand together against this corrupt group of legislators; Especially when it comes to our 2 wheeled lifestyle.

  • Ferniherst

    Information about California dropping the Smog Check provision in the revised bill appears to be in error. The Senate Transportation committee did pass an amended bill on 05/28/09. However a review of that amendment still very much includes mandatory smog checks for all 2000 and later Class III motorcycles (larger than 280cc) beginning in 2012. In fact, the bill passed the Senate 22 to 17 and is now in the California Assembly Transportation Committee with a scheduled hearing on 06/29/09. All can be verified through accessing bill status at and at for scheduled hearings under the Transportation Committee agenda. Such misinformation also appears to be coming from various sources, resulting in a dangerous drop of interest being expressed to legislative representatives representatives by the California motorcycling public. If I am wrong, Hallelujah! If not, I feel it is important that you let readers know the correct facts!

  • “Minuscule pollution?” Motorcycles contribute to 10% of the smog-producing emissions in CA. Compared to cars, they pollute disproportionately. I’m not sure why this proposal “doesn’t make sense” considering the environmental effects…and this is coming from a guy with 4 bikes, 2 with exhausts. Yeah, I like the look/sound/power of an aftermarket exhaust system, but there IS a good reason for this law to become implemented, even if it isn’t ideal for riders.

    Rather than apply to year 2000 bikes, I’d rather see stricter regulations for motorcycle companies with no restrictions on the aftermarket myself, that way guys and girls that are really into their bikes are able to pollute a bit more w/ their exhausts and people buying bikes of the showroom floor to commute on will absorb some of the pollution.

  • JP

    ” Motorcycles contribute to 10% of the smog-producing emissions in CA”


  • Mark

    “This story is about emissions. More specifically, it’s about the surprising level of emissions spewing from on-road motorcycles and scooters. In California, such bikes make up 3.6% of registered vehicles and 1% of vehicle miles traveled, yet they account for 10% of passenger vehicles’ smog-forming emissions in the state. In fact, the average motorbike is about 10 times more polluting per mile than a passenger car, light truck or SUV, according to a California Air Resources Board comparison of emissions-compliant vehicles.”


    You, my friend, are either misinformed, high, or a moron. Like I said, I am an avid motorcyclist, but I am fully aware of the consequences of my choices, just like everyone else should be.

  • JP

    Motorcycles And Pollution
    Should We All Drive Instead Of Ride?
    September, 2008
    By Andrew Trevitt

    Click to View GalleryA recent column in the Los Angeles Times painted a grim picture for motorcyclists based on emissions data. The story, “Inconvenient Truths About Motorcycles and Smog,” explained how motorcycles emit more nitrogen oxides-NOX, byproducts of combustion that contribute to smog-and concludes by claiming that “Motorcycles, even small ones, are more polluting than Hummers.”

    Saying that a motorcycle pollutes more than an SUV because it emits more nitrogen oxides is like saying soda is more healthy for you than juice because soda has fewer calories. There is a lot more involved in vehicle emissions than just nitrogen oxides, and the column in the Times is, at best, misleading. It claims that “the average motorbike is about 10 times more polluting per mile than a passenger car, light truck or SUV, according to a California Air Resources Board comparison of emissions-compliant vehicles.” I couldn’t find the referenced CARB document on the agency’s website, but I did find actual emissions test data for cars, SUVs and motorcycles on the Environmental Protection Agency’s website. Sure enough, many of the motorcycles are listed as discharging more NOX and other polluting byproducts than cars. In the EPA’s test data an ’07 Honda CBR600RR has an average of 0.08 g/km NOX over the various tests. A Lincoln Navigator, in comparison, shows 0.02 g/km for the same byproducts. Carbon monoxide, another smog-producing byproduct, is listed at between 1.7 and 2.4 g/km for the CBR, between 0.6 and 0.8 g/km for the Navigator.

    There are several factors that allow cars and trucks to have fewer harmful emissions than motorcycles. All the required hoses, canisters and catalytic converters fit relatively easily under a car’s hood, but not so nicely on a motorcycle. That paraphernalia adds cost and weight, which is more of an issue on a $10,000, 450-pound motorcycle than a $25,000, 3000-pound car. And catalytic converters generate a lot of heat, which can be dangerous as well as uncomfortable when they are exposed on a motorcycle as opposed to tucked away underneath a car. Whatever the reasons, the EPA and CARB regulations are more lenient for motorcycles, and as a result motorcycles do emit more smog-producing pollutants than cars.

    But the emissions data is just a small part of the overall impact each vehicle has on the environment, and I don’t think the situation for motorcycles is as bad as it’s depicted in that data alone, or as glum as it’s laid out in the Times article. Primarily, the carbon dioxide emitted by each vehicle must also be considered. CO2 is a product of combustion rather than a byproduct, meaning it is a direct result of the fuel burning. A vehicle that uses less fuel will produce less CO2, and as global warming becomes increasingly important, more emphasis is being placed on fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions. It’s safe to say that since motorcycles are, in general, more fuel efficient than cars-and especially SUVs-their CO2 emissions are less. In that respect, cars pollute more than motorcycles.

    One aspect not considered in the story is how emissions data relates to real-world driving conditions. The EPA measures emissions on a dynamometer using set criteria representative of a mixture of city and freeway driving. But during a typical Los Angeles commute most cars are idling along, no doubt spewing more bad gases than indicated by the EPA’s data. Meanwhile, motorcyclists are allowed to split lanes, keeping their emissions more representative of the testing procedures. On top of that, more motorcycles on the road means fewer cars, reducing congestion for everyone and, in turn, improving the automobiles’ emissions. Certainly these aspects may not be enough to offset the additional pollutants that motorcycles add to the atmosphere, but they improve the situation, perhaps considerably.

    Consider the tradeoffs: Yes, motorcycles generate more smog-producing pollutants than the average car. But they use less fuel, dump less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and reduce congestion for everyone. I’m pretty confident that when I ride to work I’m doing less damage to the planet than most of the cars on the road. It’s frustrating that the local paper in a city that suffers some of the worst traffic problems in the country put a lopsided view on the topic when it should be doing more to encourage alternative transportation. I’m all for reducing pollution and saving the planet, and it’s unfortunate that motorcycles do pollute more than cars in some ways, but let’s be realistic: Motorcycles are more a part of the solution than a part of the problem.

  • Auntie Smoggie

    Make sure you write to Senator Fran Pavley D-Agoura Hills regarding bill 435 to let her know you oppose it. Here is what I wrote:

    Senator Fran Pavley D-Agoura Hills bill 435 is well intended, but will do little to alleviate noise and will only anger the motorcyclists who already have a quiet motorcycle, which is most owners. Why punish the thousands of riders in the state for the abuse caused by a few? I am sure that the owners of bikes with loud mufflers will only put on their original stock muffler for the ride to the check point and get their sticker, only to ride home and spend 5 minutes putting on their loud pipes.

    To alleviate this, the noise levels should be monitored, not a required stamp that will do little or nothing to stop the noise. Set up a guideline that requires pipes to be less than so many Decibels at a set distance from the end of the tail pipe while the engine is revved to 3000 RPM’s. Not subjective, etc. No chance to defeat it in court, the decibel meter does not lie and some models cost less then 100 dollars. Then have the enforcement of each bike done by officers on the street. Putting a stamp on the bike will be useless and one more hoop riders have to jump through. I would support a bill requiring Smog Checking of motorcycles to fight the illegal removal of catalytic converters and other pollution control equipment.

    Use her address on the form or it will kick back to you!
    2716 Ocean Park Blvd.
    Santa Monica, CA 90405