With news of the Toll Regulatory Board looking into lowering or even totally eliminating the current 400 cc minimum for motorcycles on expressways, the very polarizing topic has been reignited among motorcycle riders. The 20-year old restriction is being hotly discussed on various social media platforms.
To recap, TRB's executive director, Abraham Sales, said in Filipino that “the technology is different these days. Like in cars, for example, engines with smaller displacements can also attain the performance of those with bigger engines.”
The opinion is divided among motorcycle riders. While there are many who advocate the opening of the tollways to make commuting safer and more convenient for sub-400 cc riders, there are also a lot who are against it, citing safety, rider discipline and even some of the other country's policies relating to motorcycles and road safety.
The whole issue may be too long and complicated to discuss, but with regard to expressway restrictions, you may be surprised to know that in other countries, freeways (expressways without toll) aren't entirely “free” to access.
Below are some countries and their policies with regards to motorcycle access on their freeways:
Many countries in Europe allow motorcycles with engine displacements of 50 cc and above on expressways. Perhaps the only one unique is Switzerland, which stipulates that the displacement must be 51 cc or higher. In Germany, there appears to be no displacement minimum, so long as the motorcycle in question can reach the expressway's minimum speed of 60 km/h.
Almost all countries in the Americas, with the exception of Venezuela, allows motorcycles with 50 cc and above displacement on their expressways. The United States, however, has some states that prohibit 125cc to 150cc motorcycles or those with less than 5HP of power on their expressways.
South Africa allows motorcycles with 51 cc and above displacement on their expresswways. The other African countries, however, have no defined laws or policies over the use of motorcycles on their expressways.
An expressway in Australia.
Asia and Australia
Asian countries, unlike the European Union and the Americas, have more complicated policies when it comes to motorcycles on expressways. Here in the country, for example, only 400 cc and above in displacement are allowed. In Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Russia and Singapore, which all have far more modern expressways, allows entry to motorcycles with displacements as low as 50 cc. In Hong Kong and Japan, which also have superior expressways than the Philippines, they allow a minimum displacement of 125 cc and 126 cc, respectively. While in India, they allow motorcycles with 349 cc and above displacement.
China, Indonesia, Pakistan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Vietnam, on the other hand, all prohibit motorcycles of any displacement within their expressways.
Other countries that are not on the list either have no freeways or have not adopted any policy for motorcycles entering their freeways or tollways.
Safety or exclusivity?
As we've mentioned before, one of the biggest arguments in favor of keeping the 400 cc minimum is the argument that small bikes may not be able to handle the wind turbulence from larger vehicles. This claim argues that motorcycles with smaller engine displacements are typically lighter. Hence if a bigger vehicle (like a bus or truck) passes by them, the wind turbulence they cause may blow or push them to the side, causing them to lose control and possibly lead to an accident. Of course, this is mostly just theory as tests have been done by some individuals, but the result of which has yet to be made public.
Some individuals who have dared to enter the expressway in smaller displacement bikes attest that the turbulence has little to no effect. Personally, I've traveled both north and south of Luzon on national roads with lenient speed restrictions. Cruising side-by-side with fast provincial busses did little to influence my small displacement bike's direction of travel.
Another argument against lowering the minimum concerns rider discipline. Those on big bikes say the kamote riders on smaller displacement bikes lack discipline on the road. Yet I often see a lot of hooligan big bikers too when traveling on expressways. Bike size does not necessarily determine the rider's discipline. Perhaps this aspect can be tackled by more stringent law enforcement.
It's hard to say how changing the minimum displacement will really affect other motorists on the toll road. The only way to know for sure is to actually test it with a small group or a dry run period. What do you think?