Of the 30 or so motorcycle riders gathered in front of St. John’s City Hall Tuesday evening, none said the city is without noise pollution. They just wanted to make it clear it is not just because of them.
“It seems like they’re targeting bikers, riders, motorcycle enthusiasts — whatever label they want to put on us this time,” said Burt Ash, who has been riding more than 30 years, when asked why he was there, with his bike parked among 20 others.
The bikes were lined up by
5:30 p.m. and their owners waited for city council to exit a regular meeting.
Motorcycles and noise pollution were not discussed in that meeting.
The presence of the bikers at city hall was loosely organized, led by rider Jody Warren. It was the culmination of two weeks of coffee shop debates, online message board discussions and “Open Line” rants, after the subject of loud bikes was raised in a council meeting in late August.
Perry Kendall, a part-time motorcycle safety instructor, said he was at the gathering because he objects to “blanket statements” made against motorcycle riders. But he also said he disliked the focus being on motorcycles when discussing noise pollution in the city.
“They’re singling out motorcycles as the primary noise polluters and that’s not entirely accurate. There are a lot of other types of vehicles and devices, such as snowblowers, which create equal if not more amounts of noise pollution,” he said. Others added lawn mowers, car subwoofers and air brakes to that list. Some simply paused during interviews to gesture towards noisy vehicles passing by on New Gower Street.
Everyone who spoke with The Telegram said there were “problem” bikers in the mix.
“It’s only a handful of irresponsible motorcyclists that are making it bad for the vast majority, who are responsible motorcyclists,” Kendall said. “Ticket ’em. Leave the rest of us alone.”
Shawn Lawrence had his first Harley at age 15 and built bikes from scrap parts with his dad. He has been riding motorcycles for 55 years. He said term “after-market exhausts” has been used as an “easy out” in the discussions on noisy bikes in St. John’s, saying the add-ons don’t necessarily mark the bad apples.
He has after-market pipes.
“I can drive down Water Street any hour of the night or day and I don’t turn a head from the sidewalk — only somebody looking to say ‘look at that old fart driving a bike,’” he said, laughing. “There’s a handful of yahoos that cause problems on this street and Water Street in the evenings and they should be dealt with by the (existing) law.”
There were other calls for increased ticketing of “yahoos.”
“Whatever society you’re in, you’re going to come across a few idiots. But don’t let the idiots spoil it for the whole bunch,” said Langford Manderson.
Manderson is a regular highway rider and said he is concerned about the city pushing for the province to take action — specifically making changes to the Highway Traffic Act — that would affect riders all over Newfoundland and Labrador.
As the council meeting clewed up, Coun. Danny Breen, Coun. Tom Hann and Coun. Sheilagh O’Leary were encircled outside the front entrance.
“This is not a new issue. I’ve been on council for six years and every year this (noise) issue has come up. Every year we’ve asked the provincial government to go and do something about it and every year ‘it’s under study.’ Well, the study time is over,” Hann said in an exchange with one female motorcycle user.
The focus of the motorcyclists soon turned to O’Leary, who has been pegged as the representative for the issue. O’Leary also said the province needs to respond to the city’s repeated requests for a statement on the issue, or at least provide information from its studies.
The gathering at city hall is likely to help.
“The reality is nothing gets done unless there’s a bit of pressure,” she said.