Racket on the road

Robin Levinson
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Why a motorcycle noise law might miss the point

The City of St. John’s has been going back and forth with the province trying to get permission to reprimand drivers of excessively loud motorcycles, but is issuing a noise ticket the best solution?

Residents of St. John’s, particularly those who live near downtown, have complained for years about motorcycle noise.

The city has asked the province to enable the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary to issue tickets to motorcyclists for excessive noise. Since the RNC answers to the provincial government, the city decided it needed Service NL to step in.

But Minister Paul Davis told the city the problem was a local issue and should be dealt with locally.

Although Deputy Mayor Shannie Duff said the police could use technology to record decibel levels and ticket drivers whose bikes exceed a certain point.

Duff said that without the province’s help, the city doesn’t have a law to limit motorcycle noise.

In June, Calgary passed its own bylaw outlawing noisy vehicles. Using the latest technology, the city’s police monitor vehicles’ noise levels and ticket those that exceed 96 decibels.

Much like a speed trap, a noise snare clocks the volume of vehicles and a camera captures traffic. Police use the video footage to match the cacophonous vehicle to the motorist, and tickets are sent in the mail.

A problem with this approach, according to both Davis and Duff, is that many different kinds of vehicles can be noisy. Motorcycles get the public riled, but delivery trucks, cars with faulty exhausts and buses can cause quite a racket, too.

Richard Harrison, a motorcycle enthusiast who just arrived here from the United Kingdom, got in touch with The Telegram about the issue through a letter to the editor. An adviser to Ernst & Young, he spoke to The Telegram at a downtown cafe, wearing a smart, three-piece, pin-striped suit.

Harrison said that noise traps miss the root of the problem: modified exhaust pipes.

Factory-issued motorcycles are made to meet certain standards for noise emissions. But some motorcyclists modify the exhaust pipes, causing a louder sound.

There are two main reasons why a bike-owner would make the modification, he said.

One is to improve engine efficiency for driving on tracks, and the other is for the sound.

Harrison said some bikers think cars are less likely to hit them if they can hear them coming, and other bikers just like sound itself.

Harrison said he noticed many motorcycles around the city have them.

He drove a RC51 Honda back in the U.K., but he’s not allowed to import it because it was not approved by Canadian inspectors.

“But I could walk down the road tomorrow, buy one, swap the exhaust on it, ride up and down Water Street, and nobody seems to care,” Harrison said.

Instead of spending money on noise ticketing, Harrison said it would make more sense to simply ban modified exhaust pipes from road use.

He said that in the U.K., police regularly stop and ticket motorcyclists for using a modified exhaust pipe on the street, and that if they did that here that would get to the root of the noise problem.

“Why do you need to have another law and extra infrastructure?” Harrison asked.

“That misses the point.”


Organizations: Service NL

Geographic location: Calgary, Water Street

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Recent comments

  • bills
    May 02, 2013 - 22:54

    I do find it interesting that so many people are worried about the noise when there are other things to be worried about. I have a friend that is a dui lawyer in Calgary and that still seems to be a problem. That is something that needs to get fixed.

  • Willy
    August 11, 2012 - 21:41

    So I see the rude and inconsiderates have gone from making irrational excuses for disturbing the majority to telling everyone to go to hell.

  • Read The Charter
    July 20, 2012 - 13:33

    In Edmonton, City Council passed a motorcycle only noise bylaw. Most riders just pay the ticket ($250.00) and move on. There is however, a group of us that are more than a little upset about this bylaw. We are M.O.D.E.L. Edmonton, and have been fighting city hall since the bylaw came into effect in 2010. We have assisted fellow bikers in court and have beaton every ticket with the exception of one. We do not help out the "idiots" that helped precipitate this bylaw. We are not opposed to a noise bylaw that targets all motor vehicles and is applied equally and fairly. We are opposed to this bylaw because at the root of this issue is our rights as motorcycle enthusiasts are being infringed upon. The argument that "we are entitled to peace and quiet" does not wash. You are only entitled to peace and quiet if the "law" that entitles you to that peace and quiet is applied equally and fairly to all things noisy. You can't pick and choose rights to suit your own needs. If you can be bothered to actually read the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, you will see that there is no "right" to peace and quiet. There is however, section 15(1) that states: "Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability." Any law that targets an identified group of legally licensed vehicle operators while not being applied to other legally licensed operators is discrimination. If you cannot comprehend the meaning of this section of the Charter then you need to educate yourself. Check out: www.modeledmonton.com/ and be informed about how your rights may be taken away.

  • Mike
    July 19, 2012 - 22:30

    Hi everyone, I'm gonna say what everyone's dancing around...You can all take a long hard suck on my pipes. Watch out, they're hot! Between the hours of 0800 and 2200 daily, quiet time is over kiddies. If you can run a jackhammer outside my window at 0800 on a Sunday or have a block party till 0300 any night when I have to be at work at 0600, then step off about my bike. Noise is the price of living in a city, my bike is no louder than your stereo. I've had my intelligence, my lifestyle, and my genitalia insulted in these comments, but for all your keyboard bluster, in twenty + years of riding I've never, ever seen anyone with the guts to say anything to my face. In fact, I've never gotten anything but compliments and requests to "rev 'er up". Go figure.

  • Rob
    July 19, 2012 - 21:57

    I have been riding motorcycles for almost 40 years and have heard these complaints all too often. I have also ridden motorcycles with both "stock" and "aftermarket" exhaust over that time. As with anything else it is only a few idiots, who the rest of the motorcycling community despise as much as the average citizen, that make it bad for the rest of us. Trying to enforce sound restriction by-laws will not solve the problem of excessive noise as what can the city do to restrict other more irritating racket makers like jets and helicopters overhead and the ever so offensive gasoline powered lawn trimmers? What about dogs barking at all hours? Babies wailing in church or at a restaurant? The sirens of emergency vehicles are loader than the lot. So where does it end? Even some of the city's own vehicles can be excessively loud at times. To target motorcyclists and not other noise pollutants would be blatant discrimination. Get a life council. Move on to some real issues.

  • wally
    July 19, 2012 - 12:43

    Hhahah I have to LOL at this. People complaining about the noise of motorcycles. Like a previous post said, cities are noisy if you don't like it move. This is something that is never going to go away so i figure your people should get use to it. the RNC will NEVER go along with this because most of them ride themselves. Let's use this time to catch people who Drink n Drive, Drugs etc. I tell you what, if you let the noise ban happen, let's legalize drugs and hear you complain then. It could always be worse you know !!!

    • Too Funny
      July 19, 2012 - 14:13

      "I tell you what, if you let the noise ban happen, let's legalize drugs and hear you complain then." Lets see if anyone can top that idiotic comment.

    • terra hog
      July 19, 2012 - 22:48

      Too much noise from any source can be annoying . But when you target a specific group like motorcyclist be prepared for the backlash . The noise bylaw was brought in last year in Edmonton with mixed results ( the courts are full of motorcyclists contesting the tickets ) and that will cost the taxpayers each time someone goes to court . Win or lose 96db is different downtown bouncing of old brick buildings close together than on Kenmount Rd . If the city brings in a by-law good luck in court , I'm pretty sure you'll have a line up .

    • terra hog
      July 19, 2012 - 23:14

      I love this one . Make your by - law . but be prepared for the line up in the courts . When you target a specific group , and you know all the noise is not coming form that group and the feel they are a target . Edmonton tried it last year and the courts are filled . 96db downtown bouncing of old brick and 96db on Kenmount Rd just try bringing it to court with some young engineering student with sound knowledge going against the crown . case dismissed-case dismissed etc etc .. just like edm at $1000.00 a crack .

  • California Pete from NFLD
    July 19, 2012 - 12:18

    I love my 2005 Kawasaki Concours can't hear it at all and nither can I hear the CHP on thair BMW what a wonderful ride. I hate noisy motercycles they give all other's a bad name like we all belong to the drug dealing Hell's Angels. By the way I commented on the last story and the rules was mentioned then and have not changed since . Give them a fix it ticket and fine and as he would say. have a nice day and a safe ride after getting a $400 reminder

  • John Smith
    July 19, 2012 - 12:00

    Those motorcycle dudes are all trying to over-compensate in some areas.Driving around on those bikes making noise and looking ridiculous. Look at me,I'm cool etc. They are worse than the big extended cab truck dudes who idle in the Tim Horton's drive thrus all over the city.

  • Paul
    July 19, 2012 - 11:53

    I think the police should concentrate on getting the people with no insurance and thousands in fines off the roads . Not to mention the junk that is on our roads . Leave the motorcycles alone, they only have a couple of good months of riding as it is and thats if they are lucky .

    • Peter
      July 19, 2012 - 14:09

      We all only have a couple of good months to enjoy summer. So why should we have to endure these tools that want to ruin our short summer.

  • prn
    July 19, 2012 - 11:45

    Minister Paul Davis and a lot of his ex R.N.C. buddies are bikers he is not going to do anything.

  • Selwyn Rose
    July 19, 2012 - 10:42

    First of all...Cities are noisy, get over it or move to the country. There are all kinds of vehicles making a racket out there... and there are plenty of ways already for police to deal with it under current laws but they don't b/c hopefully they are busy doing more important things. Second, I would like to see taxpayer money spent on enforcing public safety issues like patrols for break-n-enters, dangerous/reckless driving, violent crimes etc. A little noise, be it sometimes annoying for a few seconds, does not really hurt anyone. The money is better spent on more important issues than noise.

    • too funny
      July 19, 2012 - 14:05

      "A little noise, be it sometimes annoying for a few seconds, does not really hurt anyone." Until the next intentionally loud moron that comes by a few seconds later, and another a few seconds later, and so on.

    • LCDM
      July 19, 2012 - 16:09

      LOUD AND PROUD! Really, noise complaints? Majority of the whiners on this message board have not, nor ever will ride a motorcycle. I assure you, from personal experience, my "Loud, rude, annoying, and yes, exhaust that compensates for my lack of masculinity" has saved my life on numerous occasions. Too many dulards with a class 5 occupy our streets today. I'll further substantiate this, more often than not an emergency vehicle is heard before it is seen. "Oh those ambulance drivers are so loud, they must be over-compensating"...Give me a break!

    • JK
      July 22, 2012 - 11:14

      Hey LCDM ~ Emergency vehicles need a loud siren because they must save a life. You, on the other hand do not save a life. If you were to save your life with your pipe, then why don't you direct your pipe in front of you? The noise you produce mostly annoys people once you passed them, so your argument is flawed. I ride a bike, with a full face helmet (that saves life) and a headlight modulator that again is proven to save life. I can not stand the small penis arrogant riders with their pipes and idiotic "save life" argument. Have a loud horn that you can blast in an emergency! THAT is reasonable!

  • John
    July 19, 2012 - 10:24

    Holy crap, do people really have nothing better to complain about.....?? really, come on. What about if you live by the airport, are you going to ticket airplanes? Try living in Damscus somewhere, where bombs and rockets are making the noise. GET A LIFE!

    • Politically Incorrect
      July 19, 2012 - 10:33

      Really? That's your best argument?

    • Tom Tucker
      July 19, 2012 - 13:21

      Me, me me. Now I can see where the Repub... err, Conservative party gets its most ardent followers. There are other people out there -- beyond your own nose, and your right to be a self-absrobed, jerk ends where it inflicts on someone else's enjoyment of their own life.

    • Doe
      July 19, 2012 - 14:02

      Posting the same old arguments under a new name does make them any better.

  • Biker Dude
    July 19, 2012 - 09:49

    Leave us alone already! We're just a bunch of middle-aged wimps trying to look tough and impress young hotties.

    • willy
      August 11, 2012 - 21:43

      It's not working

  • Peace and Quiet
    July 19, 2012 - 09:18

    There is already a Section under Licensing and Equipment that already addresses this. Why aren't the police enforcing it?

  • Whaddaya At ?
    July 19, 2012 - 09:10

    The Cro Magnon types , with their ' look at me ' juvenile behaviour while they're riding their ear -splitting, loud motorcycles, are more to be pitied than anything else. They have to resort to making noise to try getting some attention, the same as a small child would do. Without their loud noisemakers, they're just a bunch of Gomer Pyles and Forrest Gumps. Stupid is as stupid does.

  • Larry
    July 19, 2012 - 08:58

    Richard Harrison is correct. It's those illicit modifications to motorcycle exhaust systems that is the root cause of the problem. Those modifications must be banned and enforced against. Those modifications can be spotted in motor vehicle inspections. That would thin down the herd right there. All the police need do is ticket obviously loud motorcycles, and if the courts aren't satisfied with the judgement of the police and the preponderance of evidence, then send those loud motorcycles to a motorcycle inspection mechanic who will have no problem detecting the tell tale tampering that transforms quiet motorcycle into loud ones. The court should then order that loud and tampered with motorcycle to be transformed back into a quiet and legally equipped motorcycle. Repeat offenders should be dealt with by imposing large fines and the revocation of their privilege to register and operate a motorcycle, not just the province, but the entire country.

    • g alden
      July 19, 2012 - 12:03

      Creating laws that violate levels does miss the point. Don't prohibit levels, enforce acts that create raised volumes. All products offered into commerce are sound level validated by data representing court evidence that it is likely a volume was raised. Simply enforce acts that raise volumes. Institutionally assign the burden of proof on a defendant to provide evidence they have not raised standard volumes, by using Appendix A.3 of SAE J1287 Comparison Measurement procedure, to reverse a charge. Problem solved.

  • Blair
    July 19, 2012 - 08:09

    Most motorcycle enthusiasts will admit that a Harley Davidson motor cycle probably has the best sound a motorcycle can produce. A Harley with a modified exhaust can even sound better. The issue of loud motorcycles is plain and simple, the owners like the sound so much, that along with Harley owners, non Harley motorcycles want their bikes to sound the same and all modifications are made to the exhaust system to accomplish this. Call a spade a spade, it's purely a macho thing, it has nothing to do with performance (modified exhaust can actually cause damage to certain engines) it has nothing to do with safety. Did you ever notice a loud motor cycle being started? The first thing the rider will do is continually rev the engine. Like a car there is no requirement to do this, and I am sure it's not a warning signal to inform drivers you are about to go on the road. If the officials enforce an exhaust modification law I would not be surprised to see hundreds of motorcycles advertised for sale.

  • Harley Phagg
    July 19, 2012 - 08:03

    I'm sick and tired of the excuses that government makes while turning a blind eye to this nuisence. All exhaust systems must be DOT approved - that's an easy out for the RNC to pull them off the road. It would appear that our police force is practivcing selective enforcement.

  • sparky
    July 19, 2012 - 07:48

    The crazy thing is : if a 50-60 yr-old man was driving his car to work with a broken muffler on his car he could be stopped & ticketed or worse given a fine & made to get it repaired which could & will cost acouple-of-hundred dollars in todays garages, I had a 'flex pipe' replaced for $236.00 & now the car sounds fine,but here we have guys stripping-out there pipes to make the bike louder? When my muffler gets bad I`m not paying no $400.00 for a new one,I`ll leave it until I get pulled-over & thats when "The games will begin"!

  • Hmm
    July 19, 2012 - 07:00

    I work on Water Street and there have been evenings I've been leaving work and felt the pain of these noisy bikes. But I also live outside of the downtown core and there's a guy on a bike constantly driving up and down our street late at night, causing a lot of noise and disruption. This is more of a general problem than just downtown. There SHOULD be some action taken against people who cause excessive noise. I shouldn't have to wear safety equipment (earphones) just to get to my car after work.

  • The Real Townie
    July 19, 2012 - 06:52

    Be patient citizens.....I predict this problem will resolve itself within four months.

  • yo mama
    July 19, 2012 - 06:41

    Modified or aftermarket exhaust pipes aren't loud when at idle or a low RPM, or NORMAL driving conditions, it's the nusiances reving the engine for no other reason but to attract attention that people complian about. I have 3 bikes, 2 with aftermarket exhaust and 1 with factory issued. Never have I driven through downtown or any residential neighborhood making unnessesary noise, I know myself how annoying it is and I don't like it either, so I empathize with those complaining.....please don't tar us all with the same brush, it's the nusiances that need to be ticketed.

      July 19, 2012 - 08:11

      It's terrible that the majority of these articles are in regard to motorcycles making all the noise. My parents both ride, one has factory exhaust, the other modified. Personally, I find the people driving up the road with squealing fan belts, rusted out exhaust pipes, and the folks who think they are in the fast and the furious with their "pimped out cars" to be more of a noise issue than most motorcycles. If there is going to be a law against noise, don't single out the motorcyclists, it should apply to all vehicles. Besides, a loud motorcycle is less of a safety risk (both physically and environmentally) than someone who's exhaust is about to fall off their car! I have a toddler at home and their bedroom is at the front of our house, nothing irritates me more than just putting him to bed and having a loud vehicle drive up our street, or people setting off fireworks next door, etc. and while the noise downright stinks...we are trying to control so many stupid little things with law enforcement. Perhaps if we stopped trying to put in place all these little laws to ticket people for things that are irritating, the police would have more time and be able to focus on the people who are murdering, selling drugs, and breaking into peoples houses and cars all over the city.

  • Harley
    July 19, 2012 - 06:38

    There is nothing nicer than the rumble of a Harley. All others are just noise.

    • Sportster Forty-Eight
      July 19, 2012 - 08:22

      Right on bud. Ordered the bike with factory installed screamin eagle pipes. Now, try to tell me they're not 'factory'. The pipes aren't broke, they aren't modified, they're simply doing what they were designed to do.

    • Sportster Eight Eight Three Iron
      July 19, 2012 - 10:24

      2011 Sportster 883 Iron with Vance and Hines Short Shot ceramic pipes. Again not "modified" they were bought and installed the way they were designed and they serve the purpose that they were bought for. This won't fly if you single out the bikes boys and girls simply because this is Canada and legally endorsed discrimination against a particular group is extremely hard to accomplish. If you are going to implement a noise by-law then it is a noise by-law for every vehicle on the road.