Sanity seekers unite: no more loud pipes

Peter Jackson
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”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.


Twitter: pjackson_NL

Organizations: Google

Geographic location: California, Edmonton, Calgary Saskatoon

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Recent comments

  • Larry
    July 05, 2012 - 12:14

    I ride & I have been hit several times. I have also graduated from an a motorcycle safety trainning course, I have riden for more than 20 years now.. I have had more near misses than I can count, as (Cagers) are in such a rush just last night while the officer was busy watching the (Evil Biker) ride by he totally missed the fact that the teenage girl driving daddy's car decided to change lanes suddenly as the car in front of her was turning ..... but a quick crack of my throttle blasting her ear drums out woke her up & possibly saved my life....... so I guess I should die so someone doesn't have to hear me...LOL but the funniest part.. is the a out of the box lawn mower has a higher decibel reading than my bike my bike is at 85db where a factory built lawnmower is permitted to be 90db... so when are you going to stop my niebour from mowing his lawn at 7am on sunday morning..... Angry Larry

    • Too Funny
      July 05, 2012 - 13:59

      "I have also graduated from an a motorcycle safety trainning course, I have riden for more than 20 years now." One would think with all that training and experience that your first reaction to someone cutting in front of you would be to either hit the brake or blow the horn. Nope, it's hit the throttle. Probably explains why you've been hit so many times.

  • Frank
    July 05, 2012 - 07:27

    Virginia, I never said it was only about me, I said I don't care one way or the other. And as for health risks, well almost everything in today's society is a health risk. What about lawnmowers, chainsaws and circular saws, should we ban them too? What about junk food and alcohol? Personally they don't bother me. So I really don't care what the government does on the issue.

  • Virginia Water
    July 04, 2012 - 20:27

    How nice for your Frank that you don't have any problem with loud noises. Neither does my 87 year old grandmother now that she's lost her hearing. And neither does my 16 year old nephew who loves loud music and doesn't understand (or care about) the long term implications of listening to it. But the problem of noise pollution from motorcycles isn't about your or me with our personal takes on the issue. It is what the overwhelming majority of the population sees as a serious problem. Surveys conducted in other jurisdictions have confirmed this. Municipalities right across Canada have passed stricter new by-laws to battle it. The EPA in the U.S. has said that motorcycle noise is one of the most frequently cited complaints regarding pollution. Studies have shown that it not only destroys hearing but can lead to heart attacks and a host of other health problems. So you see Frank, unless you can demonstrate that you are in the majority on this matter, or you can produce evidence that noise pollution does not pose health risks, or that your right to pump up the volume trumps my right to peace and quiet - then you should accept that this isn't really about you but about the good of the population at large. The tiresome Mr. Mclovin argues that government has spoken and that the rest of us who are highly offended by this unnecessary noise should suck it up and move on. Yes, we could - but we won't. We won't let this go until the Dunderdale government gets off its rump and passes the necessary legislation to give us back some peace and quiet in our neighbourhoods.

    • McLovin
      July 05, 2012 - 10:00

      Virginia is high again!! Overwhelming majority? Do you even know what this means? Have you seen how many motorcycles are on the road? These people all have friends and family and I seriously doubt any of them are in agreement with the DT Tree Hugging Association, so there goes your overwhelming majority nonsense right there. A dozen or so people who live in the Downtown area does not represent an overwhelming majority, Virginia. If you had the voting power an "overwhelming majority" would bring, believe me the Government, Oppositions and the City would be tripping over themselves to deal with the issue and to get their faces on TV.

  • Frank
    July 04, 2012 - 15:30

    I don't own or never have owned a motorcycle but I must say that the noise doesn't bother me at all. It just sounds like summer to me. I was downtown on Canada Day and the police were escorting a convey of bikers up Water Street and yes they were noisy but I don't know what all the hoopla is. Some people this day and age just complain for something to do. My neighbor who is 87 said that some people will complain if the wind is blowing in the wrong direction.

  • McLovin
    July 04, 2012 - 13:23

    Hey Virginia. are you on drugs? Seriously? Go back and read my very first post. In it I included "(sarcasm intended)" after my ridiculous comment about the airplanes. But you go ahead, keep shooting your mouth off without having the proper grasp on the situation and without reading all the comments. Just like you are with your after market pipe arguments. And If I did indeed own a bike as you suggest, why would I hide that fact? Seeing as I am this insensitive clod who desperately needs the attention, wouldn't I be bragging about the fact that I have the money and means to not only buy a Harley but also to fit it out with after market parts? Is it that hard to comprehend that there is actually a non-bike owner out there that is not bothered by them or the "noise" they make? Just a couple of questions for you concerning your expert legal, medical and scientific knowledge. How do you plan to prove that the noise from a motorcycle is "abusive" or "damaging". It'll take more than just you saying so. Similarly, I know your group of lawmakers argue that there is no evidence to suggest that the pipes save lives, is there any evidence out there that says they don't save lives? Also, how long does a person have to be exposed to the 85 db before it becomes damaging to your health? How is dB level effected by distance from the source? Anyway, I dont expect answers to these questions, just stated them to show that there are two sides to every argument but I get what you people are saying. You don't want motorcycles in DT St. John's. I get it. But government has decided that it doesn't support your argument. Deal with it and move on OR you can just keep crying and kicking and screaming and insulting like a spoiled child that didn't get his/her way.

    • Too Funny
      July 04, 2012 - 13:47

      "you can just keep crying and kicking and screaming and insulting like a spoiled child". That's funny but only because you started your post with "Hey Virginia. are you on drugs?"

  • Virginia Waters
    July 04, 2012 - 11:34

    So why not tell us Mclovin - what kind of motorcycle do you have and what kind of aftermarket exhaust did you install. I know you wanted to hide the fact that you're the owner of a hog but - now that bag is out of the cat - why not tell us all about it. You know you want to. No middle age, life crisis mesmerized guy with a Harley can stop themselves from talking about it. Your need to make as much noise as possible driving down the street. It just screams 'look at me - I desperately need the attention'. You're like the Ruffed Grouse puffing himself up for the ladies and intimidating the male competition. All this yelling that your rights - to have fun as you put it - are no less important than my right not to have my eardrums shattered. One concept that you and other insensitive clods seem not to understand is that there is a hierarchy of rights. In that hierarchy, courts have ruled time after time that your right to fun and frolic is trumped by my right not to be abused or damaged by it. But of course you continue to insist that the noise from motorcycles is not abusive - this despite the expert medical evidence that noise levels above 85 db are damaging to health. And, of course, now you tell us - after a great deal of negative reaction to your original posts - that any comparison with aircraft was only sarcasm. Indeed it was.

  • McLovin
    July 04, 2012 - 10:34

    I'd like to ask all the anti motorcycle people out there who do they expect to enforce this? Neither the province nor the City has the money to hire additional resources for this. Do you expect the RNC to take some of the resources they have addressing real problems to enforce this issue?

    • More like mcClueless
      July 04, 2012 - 12:49

      This guy gets sillier with each posting. Somehow he thinks people who don't want to be exposed to unnecessary loud noise are "anti motorcycle". Spin it doctor, spin it. How are the police to enforce it, the same way they enforce all those other motor vehicle laws. It would be interesting to hear your odd sense of logic of how a noise restriction would harm the right of bike owners to have "fun". Unless your point is that it's the noise that's fun and not riding the bike.

  • Bubba
    July 04, 2012 - 07:17

    No issue with noise control but include cars and trucks as well as motorcycles. Otherwise its discriminatory.