Open Letter From Tom Zimberoff To California Senator Fran Pavley


On March 23rd, I reported on a new bill introduced by California State Senator Fran Paveley (D) intendig to require all motorcycles (beginning with model year 2000) to be tested by July 1, 2011 under the California State’s vehicle “smog check” program. Below is a letter from best seller author Tom zimberoff (Art Of The Chopper 1 & 2) challenging the justifications for such a bill.

The Honorable Fran Pavley, State Senator 23rd District, The Capitol, Room Nº 4035
Sacramento, California 95814

Dear Senator Pavley,
My letter pertains to SB 435 and what was characterized on your Web site as a loophole in California law, singling out motorcycles for further emission regulation and enforcement. If this bill passes, well, many motorcycles probably will not. Is that necessary? Practically everyone who rides a motorcycle has an abiding respect for ecological issues. It’s a matter of self interest for us, just as it is for everyone; perhaps more so because one of the joys of riding is to inhale the myriad scents in the air as they change continually with passing landscapes. There is no comparable experience for hermetically cocooned and air-conditioned automobile drivers. But I digress.

I challenge your figure of “5.2 tons of smog-forming pollutants” (in California daily) resulting from motorcycle use. It is preposterous, Djakarta, Bangkok, or Tehran notwithstanding. The California Air Resources Board says motorcycles generate six thousandths of one percent (0.006%) of the emissions generated by all road vehicles. For example, there are more than seven million registered cars and trucks in LA County; fewer than 125,000 motorcycles. Of the latter, the preponderance are ridden only once in a while or on weekends. And that number includes scooters: hardly motorcycles at all. Those who ride for sport exclusively will be affected disproportionately by your proposed legislation. That’s not only discriminatory, it’s bad fiscal policy.

California has already adopted the strictest emission standards in the country. No one has proven that motorcycles pose an increased threat to air quality under the status quo. It doesn’t make sense to expand a bureaucracy and its administrative costs because, even though you might fine every scofflaw biker in California, you won’t add more than chump change to the state budget. On any given day the cookstoves in hundreds of McDonald’s and other fast-food franchises spew more carcinogens into the atmospheric miasma than all of the motorcycles in LA County combined by an order of magnitude. And I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts the smoke innocently spewed by your own backyard barbeque out-pollutes the grand total of all motorcycles on the road on any given day in your district. Now, add up your neighbors’ grills.

In all fairness, consider this hypothetical situation too. Would you legislate the length of snow skis so they become less than optimal for an exhilarating downhill run just to discourage enthusiasts of that sport from felling swaths of forested slopes and piling into their cars by their millions to head for the hills? They could still ski, but where would the fun be? What difference is there in principle? Suppose you can pass this proposed legislation. Would you smog-check, say, motorboats? How about sailboats with auxiliary engines? How about diesel trains or ocean-going ships docking in LA, Long Beach, and Oakland? I’m all for that. But how about lawnmowers too? If we took all motorcycles off the road it would not contribute to a significant reduction in air pollution. When we achieve President Obama’s goal to ween ourselves from conventional, combustion engine propulsion for cars, as I trust we will, motorcycles should be exempt. However, they can and should be augmented with bikes employing newer, cleaner technology for those who wish to ride them: most likely riders who commute to work. Nor should fire-breathing, gas-guzzling, hydrocarbon-emitting sports cars be restricted (and they will not be) because they cause no significant adverse impact. Sports cars and bikes are as much a part of our American heritage and culture as a Boy Scout campfire — and less polluting.

The motorcycle is a simple machine. And perhaps not everyone appreciates its transparent beauty. Its internal organs and circulatory systems are exposed to view, supported by an exoskeleton of steel. There is nothing under the hood because there is no hood. In other words, the allure of the motor itself is a great part of its appeal to riders, just as much as their prerogative to simulate the sensations of flight on two wheels. Already, the state defiles its allure by compelling it to bristle with oxygen sensors, cables, converters, computers, and other unattractive gewgaws which hardly improve air quality. Why, now, would you want to make them perform even more poorly for the few who really care about such things? Please don’t try to undermine the joy of riding a motorcycle as much as the joy of simply beholding its beauty has already been diminished by careless legislation.

There are so many more reasons for you not to fight this battle, Senator Pavley, not the least of which is that for every driver who opts out of a car for a less-polluting motorcycle (smaller engine size, shorter transit times while engine running, better gas mileage, etc.) there is also probably one fewer driver clogging our streets and parking spaces, not to mention killing and maiming other drivers and the riders of bicycles and motorcycles. I would hate to see common sense precluded by political polemics at the expense of a minority. So, finally, let me apprise you that, with respect to the complexities of a car, virtually anyone who rides a motorcycle has the wherewithal to remove a loophole-plugged exhaust system with no more than a screwdriver and a wrench. In less than an hour the offending pipes can be replaced with legal, factory-stock equivalents — just in time for a smog check. So, please don’t make honest citizens take up civil disobedience just to indulge your political fantasy. Riding is our passion and our obsession. If you persist in pushing SB 435, I will do my best to mobilize our community to oppose you with utmost vigor.

Sincerely yours,

Tom Zimberoff  (Author. Art of the Chopper (Volumes I and II; Bulfinch Press), Curator, Art of the Chopper at the William J. Clinton Presidential Library.


20 Responses to “Open Letter From Tom Zimberoff To California Senator Fran Pavley”

  1. 1 choppertom Mar 31st, 2009 at 7:48 am


  2. 2 burnout Mar 31st, 2009 at 8:45 am

    excellent! peace

  3. 3 Jeff Nicklus Mar 31st, 2009 at 9:51 am

    Outstanding letter Tom ….. keep up the good work!

    Over & out,


  4. 4 Bobfather Mar 31st, 2009 at 9:55 am

    That’s an excellenet letter. We should all take a page from this and compose our own, I did.

  5. 5 Marty Mar 31st, 2009 at 10:24 am

    Cyril. You next task is to make all Obama government members, Senators & Congressmen subscribe to your Blog. Remind them that it’s free in case they already ran out of money! They could learn a few things about the way we think.

  6. 6 Pitbull Mar 31st, 2009 at 1:58 pm

    Smart man, great job.

  7. 7 busfreak Mar 31st, 2009 at 2:18 pm

    Great job on the letter. I just hope everyone remembers Mr Pavley when it’s time to vote. If we still have a right to vote.

  8. 8 Kirk Perry Mar 31st, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    Hi Tom,
    Thanks for using your notoriety for something we all will benefit from. Thanks for focusing on the true emissions of motorcycles in California and comparisons to mega-emitters.
    As seen so far with the lead-content issue Malcom Smith is quarterbacking, and now (as reported in M/C Product News) the resulting two bills Senator John Tester introduce on March 17, 2009, to amend the 2008 Consumer Safety – Lead Ban, we can conclude that the squeaky wheel gets the oil. Thanks for the continuing effort it will take to keep moving ahead.
    [quote]For example, there are more than seven million registered cars and trucks in LA County; fewer than 125,000 motorcycles. Of the latter, the preponderance are ridden only once in a while or on weekends.[/quote]
    At the risk of seeming self-serving, could you please include the one-per-lifetime emissions exempt (Knuckle & Panhead w/ Linkert carburetors) kit builders in the loop?
    We the one-kit-per-lifetime kit builders fall into the “latter” category.
    So far we’re covered under the existing EPA guidelines in all 49 states, but item “G.” is not recognized in California – which reads (in part) but includes a strict (5 yr.) “no sell” clause that we can all live with :
    G. EPA Exemption for Motorcycle Kits and Custom Motorcycles
    During the rule-making we sought comment on the need for emission
    control requirements for motorcycle engines distinct and separate from
    the current and future requirements for complete motorcycles. We sought
    comment in this area because we had identified a small sector in the
    motorcycle market where the engine manufacturer and chassis
    manufacturer are not the same entity. This includes two very small
    parts of the market: one in which motorcycles are assembled by
    individuals from parts and sub-assemblies procured from motorcycle kit
    marketers or other separate sources; and another in which elaborate
    custom motorcycles are created for display by collectors. At this time,
    we are not including any certification requirements for engine
    Kirk –
    With regards to your specific question (about kit builds), currently there is a one-bike per lifetime exemption for non-EPA conforming emissions motorcycles.
    No other type of vehicle has this federal emissions exemption.
    As you cited, different states also have different standards, some more strict than the federal standard, as is the case in California.
    However, the federal exemption still stands and therefore, no legislation is needed at this time to protect the EPA exclusion.
    Please see original EPA exemption language above and feel free to contact me should you have any further questions/concerns.
    Peter G. Nonis
    rights. riding. racing.
    101 Constitution Avenue, N.W.
    Suite 800 West
    Washington, DC 20001
    202.742.4304 (f)
    We’d like “kit life” brought back to California. What can we do to change the one-kit-per-person emissions exempt motorcycle ban? I think kit builders would agree to a higher road tax, if they can prove that a 1957 Panhead emits more c.o. than a cow.

  9. 9 rodent Apr 1st, 2009 at 8:16 am

    California, the land of fruits and nuts, and stupids

  10. 10 Fab Kevin Apr 1st, 2009 at 8:39 am

    Tom is a RULER!

  11. 11 Mike Kiwi Tomas, Kiwi Indian M/C Co Apr 1st, 2009 at 9:19 am

    Calif is going over the top and has been for quite a few years now.
    Most members on the various air resouces boards are non realistic people and don’t comprehend what goes on in the real world, hense being in la la land.
    I ride my old Indians and get 40-45 mpg, I’m recycling and being carbon friendly as I’m not buying new, just like Jay Leno says, we’re “recycling”.
    Meanwhile diesel trains (128/day travel through Riverside) spew black smoke out exclusive of air regulations yet all diesel particulates that get reported are blamed on trucks.
    If you want to see and eat crap, take a ride and ones face will come back black from all the tire wear.
    Now let’s put another angle on it, I’m to pay dearly for this while the speaker of the house cruises back and forth and around Calif in her kerosene guzzling and air poluting 757.
    Our Government hard at work for we the people.
    Let’s have a tea party and storm Sacramento on our motorcycles. I’m all in. Let’s roll

  12. 12 Kirk Perry Apr 1st, 2009 at 2:26 pm

    “Let’s have a tea party and storm Sacramento on our motorcycles.”
    I’ll trailer my 1946 Knuckle-Glide project up to Sac. if we get a bill to continue the EPA “motorcycle only” one-kit-per-lifetime exemption. I can get Mike Mateland and all his friends people from the Long Beach, Hawthorne & Russian River area to join us if we get a to write a Bill based exactly on the EPA guideline you see written above. My local rep. is (R) Brian Bilbray, and I haven’t asked him for anything since he was elected. Do you have a draft prepared? Send me something I can read and send to him.
    No corked motors. We can get past a “primary chain drip” if it becomes an issue and cork the oil system for a belt primary.
    Now is the time to get heard. We are discriminated against because we’re few in numbers. All the more reason why our iron motors won’t impact the environment.
    The only fact not specifically documented is how much soot we put in the air vs. boat owners, or diesel people, or other spewers that might want to be included. But, remembering what Pete Nonis of the AMA said, ” No other type of vehicle has this federal emissions exemption.”
    That’s precedent. We need to build from that. That statement separates us from all other spewers. Article G. of the March 2006 EPA edict was written for the “kit builder”. California can accept our “special motorcycle” provision.

    Who wants to build a replica ’57 Pan or Indian “Scout” in their garage?

    Let the rest of the world go nuts on their own.
    I’m staying close to my shop, family and ’55-57 Panhead where common sense is king.

  13. 13 pinball Apr 1st, 2009 at 10:43 pm

    Tom Zimberoff For Prez

  14. 14 Walt Lumpkin Apr 6th, 2009 at 10:53 am

    Tom: Well thought out letter. However you are interjecting logic into an argument with a politician.

    Grandstanding and hyperbole won’t stand the light of day under normal circumstances but you are dealing with not just a politcial hack but a California feel good pol who panders to the masses with flawed information not for the good of the public but for self agrandizment and advancement.

    There’s not enough money on the planet to make me live in California, In the words of Gallagher, “California the land of granola, what ain’t fruits and nuts is flakes.”

    ps: My apologies to the handful of people in CA with some common sense.

  15. 15 Teambldr Apr 6th, 2009 at 10:57 am

    There is one other, very large thought that has been missed. The more tightly that the state limits the addons to the motorcycle or even to cars, the more that the businesses that develop custom and production aftermarket products for them are hurt.

    Compound that fact with the worst economy in the nation (California), businesses leaving for greener pastures at record rates, a large chuck of our manufacturing done overseas thanks to NAFTA and China’s low costs of production and you get a formula for disaster with asking for tighter controls that limit aftermarket pipes, carbs, etc.

    I believe that the state of California politicians need to think about creating jobs, convincing businesses that are here to stay, get more to come in and not try to stifle the states income base with bad legislation.

  16. 16 Mike Greenwald Apr 23rd, 2009 at 6:15 am

    Update: SB435 – bad news

    CALIFORNIA SMOG TESTING PASSES FIRST HURDLE– SB 435 Passes Senate Transportation and Housing Committee.

    SB 435 (Pavley), the bill that adds motorcycles to the Smog Check program, passed the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee today with only one member voting in opposition. During the presentation of the bill by the author and the primary sponsor, it was stressed that motorcycles emit “14 times more pollution than cars per mile of operation” and that tampering with emission controls causes emissions to be further increased “up to 10 times”. The author stressed that surveys indicate catalysts are being removed from 38 to 87% of new motorcycles and that Smog Checks are needed to address this problem.

    Under the procedures used by this Committee, only two people are allowed to testify in support or opposition. If more than two people wish to testify, they are directed to only state their name, the organization they represent, and whether their organization’s position is support or oppose. Opposition testimony was allowed only from the California Motorcycle Dealers Association and ABATE, and it was not effective. Neither witness made the point that a biennial inspection will be ineffective in reducing tampering. Instead, they argued that motorcycle emissions are not significant and that the cost of Smog Check would discourage the sales of new motorcycles. When I had the opportunity to speak, I bent the rules a bit and stated that MIC hoped to work with the bill’s sponsor on alternative language that would be much more effective.

    After the hearing, I was able to spend 10-15 minutes talking with the bill’s sponsor, Bonnie Holmes-Gen from the American Lung Association, and one of Senator Pavley’s staff members. I briefly explained MIC’s concerns with the bill and received a commitment from them that they would meet me at my office at 11 a.m. tomorrow for a more thorough presentation of MIC’s position. It is notable that neither ARB nor the Bureau of Automotive Repair was represented at the hearing. This indicates that the Administration does not yet have a position on the bill.

    The way the legislative process works in California, little can be accomplished in public hearings. Parties with specific concerns are denied the opportunity to speak to those concerns at a public hearing when more than two parties are in opposition. The only effective way to communicate MIC’s concerns with the bill will be through meetings with individual members or their staff.

    This will be an uphill battle given the current make up of the Legislature, which is why it is probably important to have an attractive alternative that the author might be able to go along with. It might be useful to try to bring ARB and BAR into this. At the staff level, both ARB and BAR agree that the enforcement of a noise standard would be more effective in reducing catalyst removal. ARB could easily claim the same SIP credit for sound testing and remove Smog Check from the SIP.

    — Tom Austin
    Motorcycle Industry Council

  17. 17 Gerard May 6th, 2009 at 11:46 am

    It is interesting to see you quoting CARB as stating that motorcycles ” generate six thousandths of one percent (0.006%) of the emissions generated by all road vehicles”, while in an LA Tmes article (May 5) , they are quoted as saying motorcycles “account for 10% of passenger vehicles’ smog-forming emissions” .What is the real CARB number -.006% or 10% (or both – have they just come up with a whole new number and hoped no one would notice)???

    The .006% sounds more likely, but CARB now states that motorcycles also contribute 14 tumes the emmissions of all other vehicles on the road per mile. Total rubbish from the same prople (I am sure including Pavley) who brought us the MTBE fiasco – also based on a total junk science. Since two wheeled motor driven vehicles probably have engines that are averaging no more then 10% of the displacement of non-commercial vehicles – they would have to have relative emission reates 140 times that of these vehicles per cc – which is absurd.

    The MTBE one cost Califirnia billions of dollars (to retrofit refineries to produce it the to remove virtually all gas station tanks and soil to stem the ground polution that resulted), plus permaneny polluted the ground in areas all over the state and ins some cases – the ground water also.

    I think the credibility of the movers behind this Bill needs to have a light shined on them in order to have any chance on defeating this.

  18. 18 chaz langdon Sep 17th, 2009 at 5:05 pm

    tom makes a wonderful case for motorcycles, vis-a-vis automobiles, w/o a single mention of the
    horrible noise pollution many of these vehicles perpetrate on the public.

    having moved to the ‘peaceful’ resort community of big bear lake, hopefully to ease my high blood
    pressure, i’ve discovered that certain motorcycle groups also find our ‘peaceful’ resort an attractive
    destination. i’ve also discovered that the majority of these motorcyclists opt to remove factory installed mufflers, and smog devices, creating horrendous noise pollution, especially on the highway 18 westbound downgrade of my residence. the backfires are deafening.

    my nephew owns a harley-davidson, which i’ve had the pleasure of riding, and it’s quieter than most
    automobiles. so, i know these wonderful machines are NOT noise polluters, from the factory!!!!!

  19. 19 Tom Zimberoff Sep 18th, 2009 at 11:05 am

    Mr. Langdon’s comments seem sincere and reasonable. He doesn’t vilify motorcycles or those who ride them. However, the voices of those who do are as strident as straight pipes in an underground parking lot. I wish they would pipe down their prejudice. Unfortunately, perhaps inadvertently, Langdon contributes to their din.

    I wonder if any failure to lower his blood pressure is based on quantitative and comparative decibel measurements of motorcycles versus tour-buses, idling early-morning trash trucks, leaf blowers, lawn mowers, errant and utterly useless car alarms, gut-wrenching car stereos, hovering news helicopters, jackhammers, sirens, horn honkers, and other sources of noise pollution, even in peaceful Big Bear. Or are his complaints hearsay? If one seeks peace and quiet by a lake, perhaps one should go where the streets aren’t paved and speedboats are prohibited.

    Some people enjoy the well-tuned exhaust note of a Harley-Davidson, loud though it may be. I find it music to my ears. We learn to live with differences of opinion. (Incidentally, Chaz, are you sure you’re only hearing Harleys? And are you sure you’re hearing motorcycles backfire?) Regardless, no one rides a Harley because it’s quiet. Their riders have invoked all kinds of reasons to change pipes, which always makes them louder than stock. Ultimately, they do it because stock pipes are ugly and their timbre sounds nothing like it used to back in “the day.”

    The original American idle was the robust and rhythmic rumble of a Harley-Davidson waiting for a stoplight to turn green. Harley-Davidson’s business model is more about turning heads than turning corners. Their customers demand attention. They want the whole hog, so to speak—and for vanity’s sake to be sure. Motorcyclists in general are envied by closet libertarians. To lose sight, or sound, of any single aspect of the entire experience means bikes will lose their appeal. And that is exactly what those who would marginalize motorcycles want to happen. But no one can eliminate the acoustic self-indulgence that the Motor Company once tried to patent. Riders will never abandon their hedonistic prerogative to sound off. It is a part of their sport. Noisy bikes have been ridden in the city and through the mountain resort of Big Bear Lake longer than anyone who might complain about it has been alive on this planet.

    I am not an advocate for riders who commit ear-splitting hole shots. Nor would I condone blatting through residential neighborhoods hard on the throttle, bereft of mufflers, which only a few inconsiderate yahoos are wont to do anyway. The good news about even truly offensive motorcycles is they’re gone in seconds. The aforementioned and more egregious kinds of noise pollution often linger for hours at a time. A motorcycle, or even a group of them, is, literally, a passing distraction.

    There will always be folks who are bothered by motorcycle noise. They protest loudest. Some say they never saw the rider they just forced off the road or T-boned at an intersection. Had they heard him, in addition to seeing his daytime headlight, bright apparel, gaudy paint job, and reflectors, that might not have happened. That said, there is no evidence to counter the assertion made by very many riders that “loud pipes save lives.” There is no evidence to the contrary.

    Irrespective of safety, making a racket is innocent fun. I concede, that’s up to a point. Nonetheless, statistically, motorcycles are negligible contributors to noise pollution. Please don’t pick on riders who enjoy their sport—along with others who enjoy it vicariously and who have not voiced complaint. Help focus the public’s ire, instead, against more repugnant and pervasive noise polluters.

  20. 20 Jim Compton Apr 3rd, 2010 at 7:34 pm

    While doing a random search for Fran Pavley, your site and the letter to her from Tom Zimberoff came up.
    Needless to say, i was a bit amazed. The reason being is the following letter that I sent to Pavley, the members of the transportation committee, arnold, etc. last year.
    It is as follows:

    January 12,2010 (originally posted in 2009)
    From: Jim Compton
    Re: SB 435
    I am writing as a concerned citizen of California,
    (meaning I vote) as an employee of one company for 28 years (meaning I pay my taxes) and as an individual who happens to enjoy riding motorcycles. I am more than a little surprised and even offended personally in some points by this proposed legislation.
    SB 435 is an attempt to place motorcycles in the state “smog check” program which would require all model year 2000-and-newer on-road motorcycles with engine displacements of more than 280cc to be tested.
    California’s motorcycle engine emission standards are already the strictest in the nation. Emission standards for motorcycles in our state were tightened in 2004 and 2008. Federal standards followed California’s with implementation of Tier 1 beginning in 2006 and Tier 2 taking effect in 2010. Motorcycles not originally intended for sale in California were known as 49 state bikes meaning they could be bought or sold in any other state but California. Federal EPA standards will eliminate this discrepancy and all motorcycles by the year 2010 will be California compliant and held to these stricter emissions requirements.

    In response to inquiries about this legislation it was noted that including motorcycles in smog checks would remove 5.2 tons of smog-forming pollutants from California’s air every day. According to the California Air Resources Board, motorcycles comprise 3.6 percent of registered vehicles in the state, but they account for 10 percent of smog-forming emissions from passenger vehicles. Also mentioned was that many motorcycle owners remove their catalytic converters to make their bikes louder and that this practice can increase pollution ten fold.

    With this informational background I would like to address my reservations with attempts to inaugurate legislation of this nature in California.
    Why is SB 435 limited to class III motorcycles? This restriction to 280 cc engines and larger excludes all smaller two wheeled vehicles, class I and class II specifically. In most “underdeveloped” countries the motorcycles are predominately smaller than 280 cc. Their pollution problem is so great from these vehicles that they pose serious health issues. So to single out the larger bikes seems somewhat discriminatory to those who ride class III motorcycles.
    Before this bill is adopted in California it would be instructional to look to Arizona where two counties, Pima and Maricopa, introduced mandatory smog testing for motorcycles and found that neither county experienced significant reductions in emissions. Pima County has cancelled their smog-testing program for motorcycles and Maricopa is awaiting approval from the Environmental Protection Agency to do the same.
    Why is SB 435 retroactive to year 2000 motorcycles? The federal government recognizes in their Tier 1 and Tier 2 regulations that motorcycles manufactured in the years prior to the establishment of those standards might not meet them and so exclude the older models. It would only make sense for California to do the same if this bill were to be passed and restrict its application to motorcycles manufactured from 2012 and beyond, the year this bill is scheduled to take effect.
    I am also curious and somewhat taken back by the wording of this bill as found in the legislative counsels digest from February 26, 2009. It lists the word “crime” twice in the introduction and FOUR times in the wording of the bill. In contrast, the word “crime” does not appear at all in the current regulations. This is a direct affront to me and extremely desultory as it invites the assumption that motorcyclists in general would be more prone to “criminal” activities than the general automotive public.

    The aforementioned motorcycle engine emission standards are to be the maximums allowed by law. They do not take into account that most major motorcycle manufacturers have anticipated these upcoming requirements and have retooled their engines to meet these standards in anticipation of their initiation. To state that motorcycles account for ten percent of smog-forming emissions for passenger vehicles assumes a worst-case scenario when in actuality most motorcycles produce emissions far below these “limits”. This claim and others regarding the emissions outputs of motorcycles are so erroneous it is difficult to take them seriously.

    The statement that motorcycles comprise 3.6 percent of California’s “passenger” vehicles is erroneous. The Department of Motor Vehicles for the state of California lists registered vehicles for the year 2008 and motorcycles comprised only 2.6 percent of registered vehicles in California, not 3.6 percent. The smog check program fact sheet from the State of California for 2003 lists the percentage of motorcycles AND diesel trucks together and that figure only consists of 3% for both. The federal government fact sheets historically show the figure is only 2.0 percent for motorcycles registered in California. Someone is having a little trouble with basic math.

    The figure that motorcycles contribute 5.2 tons of smog forming pollutants to California’s air everyday is questionable. Annual mileage accumulations (MAR) used by the California Air Resources Board rely on odometer readings from vehicles in the Bureau of Automotive Repair’s database. With smog programs in effect for automobiles this methodology works. CARB itself in its research report No. 95-9 specifically states that motorcycles were excluded from its estimation of average MAR. So any figures for motorcycle contributions to emissions use estimated averages with the assumption most motorcyclists drive continually throughout the year. This is an erroneous assumption. How many motorcyclists do you actually see on the road during the rainy season? The point is that not all motorcyclists are year round drivers. Therefore it is very likely that averages for miles ridden by motorcyclists are over-estimated and that the stated contribution of motorcycles to pollution estimates are wrong.

    Regarding catalytic converters: even if this bill passes as merely a law allowing inspection of motorcycles for OEM (original equipment manufacturer) exhausts, this too would be futile. Most long time bikers could swap out an offending exhaust system prior to an exhaust check in just a few hours and thereby defeat that provision of the bill. Even onboard OEM exhaust systems can be modified internally, which would be undetectable in a visual inspection. To pass this bill with only that emphasis would be ineffectual regarding that element of society that “bends” the rules and would unnecessarily penalize those of us who adhere to the letter of the law.

    If the inclusion of exhaust systems is an attempt at noise abatement, this is already covered by the California Vehicle Code section 23130 (a) and section 27151. It would be redundant to include it in this bill.

    Considering California’s current budget issues the mere consideration of establishing a program like this astounds me. The existing automobile smog check system includes the Consumer Assistance Program (CAP). This program establishes a fund to assist Californian motorists who fail smog tests. It allocates up to $500.00 to individuals to assist in paying for repairs to meet smog requirements. Can California afford to include a new category of vehicles, especially given the retroactive aspect that would include a large number of noncompliant vehicles and most assuredly draw on our already depleted resources?

    With the introduction of new motorcycles, which meet all proposed emissions requirements, this bill becomes an exercise in futility and a further draw upon limited financial resources for both the state and its citizens.

    Unless the intent of this legislation is to eliminate motorcycles in the state of California completely I see no legitimate reason for its existence.

    Everything I have stated or quoted in this letter was substantiated by my own research. I suggest anyone interested in this topic conduct their own in-depth investigation; I am sure they will reach the same conclusions I have.


    Jim Compton

    This was resent from an earlier date in 2009. I am just jazzed that someone as respected as Tom reached pretty much the same conclusions!

    This year, I comprised a new letter and sent it off. It is as follows:

    January 13, 2010


    Even with the current amendments to S.B. 435 the previous problem remains. It still is discriminatory to Class III motorcycle riders. Class I and Class II motorcycles are exempt. Other recreational vehicles are not named. Snowmobiles, Jet-Skis, Quads, Motocross, Mopeds, Ultra light Planes, Balloons, Motorized Skateboards are exempted. Finally lawn and garden equipment without a doubt have a more deleterious effect on the environment but is exempted.
    Recreational boats are in greater number in California than all motorcycles. They not only produce more pollution than motorcycles, that pollution can and has at times killed their passengers. Are they exempted from consideration due to the owner percentile that resides in the higher economic bracket?
    If anything, Class III motorcycle manufacturers have been at the forefront of pollution control in their foresightedness for producing vehicles that met pollution standards before these standards even came into effect.
    With the current recession motorcycle based businesses are experiencing a downturn. Within a fifty-mile radius of where I live major dealerships have closed down. Nationally a major American manufacturer (Buell) has closed its operations. In 2003 Indian motorcycles closed its manufacturing plant in Gilroy, California. The aforementioned are all American based businesses. Is the intent of this bill to single out those businesses or manufacturers that contribute directly to the American economy?
    There are at least twenty-nine motorcycle manufacturers and customizers in California alone. Customers nationwide seek their out creations. That these contribute to the economy of California with jobs and taxes goes without saying. In addition to actual motorcycle manufacturers there exists in California manufacturers of accessories for motorcycles. Corbin seats in Hollister are but one example of a list that would be too large to cite. The activation of this bill without a doubt would have an impact on these businesses that would be detrimental to California’s economy.
    In addition to the loss of business California charities would also suffer. The recent Nor-Cal ride for the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation raised $120,273. The Love Ride in Southern California has raised over twenty-one MILLION dollars for charities in its 25-year history. Local toy runs and charity runs over the holiday season contributed to those who would not have had a happy holiday without these contributions. Is the state willing to make up the monies from these activities if this bill were to go into effect and ridership declines?
    Finally, who will be monitoring and enacting this law. The amended bill states merely that this will be done. By who and by what means. The last run sponsored by the SBF, their Sac to Bay run had upwards of ten thousand bikers in attendance. Does the state have the resources to pull aside these bikes and check each one for infractions? The cost to the state alone negates any consideration for enacting this legislation.
    Jim Compton

    Please feel free to utilize either of my letters in the campaign against SB 435.
    Jim Compton

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