”This is a fairly complex issue and that will take some time. At this point we have not found a feasible way to deal with it. … No other jurisdiction appears to have dealt with this.”
— Government Services
Minister Paul Davis
A little over a week ago, Russell Wangersky wrote an insightful column about the “World of Me.” We are, he said, living in a society where people increasingly tune out the higher needs of social order and focus instead on narrow, personal interests — acting surly to service workers, ignoring traffic rules, scoffing at social programs (except those that benefit them personally).
To me, nothing epitomizes this utter blindness to courtesy and consideration for others than the installation of after-market pipes on motorcycles.
I’ve speculated before on the aberrant motivations that must drive this practice.
There’s the unproven and utterly self-serving notion that loud exhaust systems are safer for the biker. But the idea that bikers should be allowed to blast our eardrums for safety reasons is a non-starter. By the same argument, parents with prams should install deafening noisemakers. Sure, the babies will be horribly traumatized, but safety comes first.
Wear a helmet, keep your eyes peeled and assume drivers don’t see you. But don’t dare say this unholy clatter is necessary to shave off a modicum of risk for your precious hide.
No, the real reason, I think, is that many motorcyclists — not all, but far too many — are seized by some sort of romantic notion they are latter-day rebels. Hell’s Angels, without the criminal accoutrements. Or Peter Fonda in “Easy Rider,” loud, proud and sexy as the pumping pistons echo off some California canyon.
I don’t deny anyone their little fantasy. It even sounds like fun. But not at the expense of everyone else’s peace and sanity.
So, let’s just get past the pleasantries and look at how we’re going to stop it. Because clearly, there are far too many bikers entrenched in this madness to simply hope it goes away. And as city councils across this country are aware, the vast majority of citizens have had enough.
The quote at the beginning of this column is from Paul Davis’s letter to St. John’s city council in May, after the city requested the province’s help in dealing with loud motorcycles.
In saying “no other jurisdiction appears to have dealt with this,” Davis is completely out to lunch.
Did he even bother to Google it?
A simple search will show that Edmonton has been dealing with this issue since two years ago, when it implemented a bylaw that prohibits motorcycles from engine noise that exceeds 92 decibels at idle or 96 decibels at anything beyond idle.
The law has been challenged, and a couple of the $250 tickets have been quashed, but the city is determined to keep it on the books. They’ve taken measures to tighten up certain parameters, and are trying out new, reliable measuring techniques.
Other cities are also examining their options.
Last month, Calgary rolled out new “noise snare” technology to catch vehicles exceeding the 96 db mark. (As far as I can tell, it’s all vehicles, not just bikes.)
And Saskatoon wants its provincial government to tweak the laws so that it can also use the technology.
Citizens across this country are angry. And cities are acting.
It’s time for Davis to tune in.
Peter Jackson is The Telegram’s commentary editor.