Advice

London’s new congestion charges and what it means for bikers

One of Sadiq Khan’s first acts as Mayor of London was to review the plans for London’s LEZ – the Low Emission Zone.

As part of the plans, it’s being proposed that certain motorcycles could be charged for access to the Capital’s central areas.

Some of the proposals are pretty drastic and they will affect low-paid and cost-conscious bikers the most, as many bikes will become uneconomical to ride in London. In fact, we can feel a campaign coming on.

In the meantime, here’s what we know so far of what the new congestion charges will be.

When do the charges apply?

The new charges were expected to come into force in September 2020 as part of a change from the current Congestion Zone to a new Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ).

However, there is currently a proposal to bring forward a new charge, called Emissions Surcharge, sometime in 2017. That might be extended to included motorbikes, according to this article on Bennets Social.*

Fingers crossed that for the bikes that do fall foul, the earliest date will still be 2020.

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Where will the changes be enforceable?

The Emissions Surcharge, if brought forward to 2017, will apply in the current Congestion Zone, roughly from Euston Road north of the Westend, along Commercial St to the East, south along New Kent Road and border on the west by Park Lane.

Things change drastically for the ULEZ, which come into effect in 2020. The current C-Zone changes name to ULEZ and it will expand significantly to include the whole of central London. The new borders will be the North and South Circular roads.

How much will a motorcycle pay?

During the Congestion Zone phase, all motorcycles are currently exempt from the Emissions Surcharge.

If that changes, bikes will have to pay £11.50 to enter the C-Zone, between 7am and 6pm Monday to Friday.

When the ULEZ comes into force in 2020, any motorcycle built before 2007, i.e. before the implementation of the Euro 3 emissions standard, will have to pay £12.50 per day. The charge will apply 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

It is unclear right now whether there will be exemptions for classic bikes, in the same way classic cars are exempt currently. However, as classic engines can be the most polluting of all and the new rules seem pretty tough, we don’t expect much leniency from Khan.

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Will residents get a discount?

Until the ULEZ comes into force in 2020, residents within the Congestion Zone get a 90% discount. What happens then is still being decided, but in Summer 2016 TfL would only say, “Transport for London is currently considering extension of the Emissions Surcharge for residents of the zone after 2020. Precise details will be covered in a future phase of consultation this Autumn.”

So the double-whammy could be that if you live within the new ULEZ (as I do) and ride a pre-2007 (as I do), then you’re looking at paying the whole fee, 24/7.

Is the new charge fair on bikers?

There’s no doubt that measures need to be taken to combat London’s chronic pollution problem. The city constantly breaks its legal pollution limits.

However, the case for getting more people out of cars and onto motorcycles is, in our opinion, difficult to argue against.

Right now, motorbikes account for less than 1% of nitrous oxide emissions in London. TfL should be encouraging anyone with a commute longer than a cycle ride to be switching from a car to a motorcycle.

So including any bike built before 2007 is well-intentioned but punitive towards the people who most need to use their own vehicles – we’re thinking of London night-time economy workers especially – catering staff on low incomes who need affordable personal transport due to unsocial hours and who are unlikely to be able to afford to upgrade to a newer bike.

We also feel it disincentives younger people who again are faced with increasing financial pressures – rising rents and higher commuting costs. These are the people who can more easily afford a 15-year-old bike than a 5-year-old one.

You can have your say on the new proposals for London’s Emission Surcharge here.

How to get yourself sorted:

There will be an inevitable hit on pre-2007 bike values in 2019, maybe even as soon as 2018. If you can afford to upgrade before then it might be worth it – there is unlikely to be a scrapple scheme in the same format as that proposed for diesel vehicles.

If you are looking at a second-hand bike right now, it’s wise to go for post-2007 models as those registered before will inevitably take a hit on resale values.

*If you’re reading this and it’s 2017 and that info is wrong please let us know at editorial@bikeandbike.co.uk. We write so many articles it’s easy to lose track of the older ones.

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The Author

Sue Denim

Sue Denim

International woman of mystery, bike nut and in her words, 'If it's worth riding, babes, I'll ride it.' Well put.

Sue likes to keep a low profile as she has another day job...