It’s summer again, and downtown the fat exhaust pipes of the big motorcycles are casting out their blatting racket, big engines with pipes wide enough to slip a pop can into, pipes designed for no other reason than to make as much noise as they can.
Summertime, the only time you’ll have your windows open, and if it’s not the motorcycles disturbing the evening, it’s car stereos so overpowered that, inside, their owners don’t realize that the sheer volume sometimes makes the sheet metal on the outside of their cars vibrate so much that it buzzes like angry bees.
And if it’s not the car stereos, it’s the throbbed, pulsing legion of the party buses, vehicles whose bass notes rattle windows blocks away as they drift around the city, each one their own oasis of party noise. If it was your neighbours who were having a party that loud, the police would be on the way.
Motorcycle drivers say loud pipes keep them safer; the sound, they like to say, makes other vehicles notice them.
Well, everyone certainly notices — but if it’s a matter of other drivers being aware, why is it that you regularly see motorcycles crank their throttles open on quiet residential streets with no traffic? Simple. You might not like the sound, but they seem to love it — and, in a small way, they seem to love that you don’t like it, too.
The City of St. John’s asked the provincial government to help deal with the sound and the irritation, even though the Highway Traffic Act, Section 195(1) says the minister can already make rules about vehicle equipment to, among other things, “eliminate or reduce noise or other nuisances incidental to the operation of the vehicle.”
The provincial government’s response would make you think the provincial cabinet has a few Harley-Davidson riders of its own.
“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," said Government Services Minister Paul Davis. "No other jurisdiction appears to have dealt with this.”
Council, meanwhile, doesn’t seem to want to move forward without provincial direction.
It’s a strange little gap.
The city has, for example, legislated that “an animal so kept as to be injurious to health or a source of annoyance to neighbours” is a nuisance, and its owners can be fined. Likewise, “a chimney sending out smoke or vapours in a quantity as to be objectionable to neighbours” can be defined as a nuisance. Fines follow.
The city can even make laws it doesn’t bother to enforce, like section 380 of The City of St. John’s Act: “ A substantial ladder shall be fixed to the roof of every dwelling house and kept in good repair by the owner except where a regular access to the roof from the inside is provided.”
You’ve probably seen precious few of those ladders, or of the “ashpits” the act also regulates in several places.
The point is, someone has to be able to make rules when the behaviour of one group of citizens extends far beyond their own personal tailpipe party and into the quiet enjoyment others can expect on their own property.