Published on July 19, 2012
A motorcycle is parked on Water Street in St. John’s. The city is looking for help from the province in eliminating excessive motorcycle noise. — Photo by Gary Hebbard/The Telegram
Published on July 19, 2012
A motorcyclist drives through downtown St. John’s. — Photo by Gary Hebbard/The Telegram
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.”