The court ruling comes after a standoff lasting over a year between motorbike owners’ associations who have protested against any requirement for the Contrôle technique vehicle safety check, and NGOs fighting against air pollution and traffic noise.
The Conseil d’Etat, France’s supreme court for administrative matters, ordered the government last year to comply with a 2014 EU directive calling for regular safety checks for motorbikes with engines of more than 125 cubic centimetres, starting this year.
In response the government issued a decree announcing checks on some motorcycles, starting only in 2023.
However, faced with protests from bike owners and associations, the government made a U-turn, with President Emmanuel Macron being quoted by an adviser as saying that he didn’t want to “bother French people” with the measure which he vowed would never be applied.
But the same NGOs that had launched the original case mounted a fresh challenge against the government and, again, the Conseil d’Etat ruled in their favour.
The Council said in a statement Monday that the government had “overstepped its powers” by cancelling the EU directive which it said was aimed at the protection of the environment as well as at the safety of motorcyclists.
This means that motorbike owners will have to have regular safety checks on their vehicles, in the same way as car owners are required to have the two yearly Contrôle technique. This only affects French-registered bikes, so does not apply to tourists or visitors.
It also threw out the government’s claim that the EU directive allowed for “alternative measures” to replace mandatory safety inspections.
Given its “direct and significant environmental impact”, the decision to scrap the inspections should have been subject of a public debate, it said.
Even the alternative measures proposed by the government failed to satisfy the EU’s requirements, either because they were still only at the project stage, or did not improve motorbike safety “in a sufficiently efficient and significant way”, the Council said.
NGOs were delighted, with the head of the Respire (Breathe) association Tony Renucci calling the ruling a “victory for the environment and for public health”.
Gael David, president of Ras Le Scoot (Fed-up with with scooters), said the government would now no longer be able to “use health and road safety as elements in its electoral calculations”.
The setback for the motorcycle lobby comes only two months after the city of Paris introduced fees for parking motorbikes and motorised scooters in the capital, sparking outrage and defiance among bikers.
Since September 1st, bikers parking their ride in the historic centre of the capital have to pay €3 per hour – two in surrounding neighbourhoods – for a maximum stay of six hours.