As a Telegram columnist, I try to be fair, accurate, persuasive and, occasionally, whimsical, but anything that appears on this page with my photo is simply my opinion. Nothing more.
So, when someone like Tom Hawco of St. John’s says I have a “pious perch” or “sanctimonious pulpit from which to hurl opprobrium” at the readership, I tend to sit up and take notice.
Mr. Hawco used those words in a letter to the editor, published in this past Saturday’s more widely distributed Weekend edition of the paper.
It’s not the first time someone has accused me of being preachy. If presenting an argument as clearly and forcefully as I can is preachy, I’m guilty as charged. But I take no moral or spiritual high ground. If Mr. Hawco believes that pleading for decency and mutual respect is somehow high-handed, I can only hope he is in a small minority.
Here are some of Hawco’s rebuttals to my complaint that loud, aftermarket motorcycle pipes are an outrageous scourge in this city and beyond.
First, his response to my observation that no proof exists to demonstrate loud pipes save lives: “Using this logic, could it not be equally argued that such pipes do provide a safety benefit because it has not been proven that they do not?” This is a classic example of “ad ignorantiam,” a fallacy which posits that a specific belief is true because we don’t know that it isn’t true. There is no proof zombies exist, so it is equally likely they do exist? Please.
Here’s Hawco again: “Jackson and others would have us believe on the one hand that the pipes create noise that everyone can hear and yet maintain this has little or no effect on other drivers’ behaviour in relation to the bikes (other than to annoy them).”
At no point did I even suggest drivers don’t notice loud bikes. The question is, does their behaviour result in a safer ride for the biker? For that, see the previous argument.
Hawco says my logic is “fuzzy,” yet goes on to say the “main reason … bikers change out their pipes is to release the motor from the various constraints imposed at the factory.” Huh? What happened to the safety reason?
OK, let’s examine this excuse. The fact is that aside from competitive racing advantage, “unleashing” the engine from constraints is insignificant and entirely unnecessary. Car owners don’t do it, mainly because cars are required to have proper muffler systems. Imagine that.
I’ve heard from other bikers who abhor the aftermarket pipe phenomenon. In fact, bikers who shun the pipes are worried that loud bikes are turning the public against motorcyclists completely.
I think they’re right.
I looked at the situation across Canada in the July 4 column, but there are some interesting things going on south of the border, as well.
The American Motorcycle Association, which bills itself as “the world’s largest member-based motorcycling advocacy organization,” has taken a strong stance against noisy pipes. Here’s part of its policy statement:
“The AMA believes that few other factors contribute more to
misunderstanding and prejudice against the motorcycling community than excessively loud motorcycles. All motorcycles are manufactured to meet federally mandated sound control standards. Unfortunately, a small number of riders who install unmuffled aftermarket exhaust systems perpetuate a public myth that all motorcycles are loud.”
The AMA does add that efforts to regulate excessive sound sometimes miss the mark. But they make no pretense that loud pipes are in any way defensible.
Note that in the U.S., aftermarket pipes are actually a federal matter. They are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency.
And here’s a juicy tidbit: in 2010, the Terminator himself — the one astride a Harley Fat Boy, shotgun in hand, in “Terminator 2” — enacted legislation in California to curb aftermarket pipe noise.
According to Motorcycle USA, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill authorizing state police to ticket motorcyclists who install non-EPA-approved aftermarket exhaust systems.
The writing is on the wall for loud pipes. Non-bikers and bikers alike have cried out against this madness. Jurisdictions everywhere are determined to fight it, reacting to a tide of opposition from peace-loving citizens.
As one preachy columnist in St. John’s, I am only a drop in the ocean.
Peter Jackson is The Telegram’s commentary editor.