Quieting Loud Bikes

Posted Aug. 08, 2010, at 7:03 p.m.

As of July 12, it is illegal to modify a motorcycle’s exhaust system to make it louder. Waterville and York County already have cracked down on offenders. Other communities should follow suit.

Trucks are not allowed to use engine breaks in many residential and urban areas and laws regulate noise from cars (and humans for that matter), but for some reason lawmakers have been hesitant to crack down on excessively loud motorcycles.

They took a step, albeit a convoluted one, to address the problem this year. The result is a new law that requires motorcyclists to display inspection stickers. One of the inspection requirements is that the bike’s exhaust system has not been modified to make it louder. Such a requirement has long been in place for auto inspections.

The law also creates a working group to look into the feasibility of further restrictions on motorcycle noise.

Some motorcyclists have long argued that loud exhaust systems are necessary to alert motorists to their presence. However, there is little evidence that quieter motorcycles are more frequently involved in accidents than those that have been made louder.

Further, people who want some peace and quiet shouldn’t have to endure exceedingly loud motorcycle noise while they are hiking, strolling through a town or sitting in their own living rooms. Loud bikes are a daily annoyance to those who work in downtown offices in many towns.

The hypocrisy of the Legislature on this issue is evident by the fact that such decibel levels would not be tolerated from commercial trucks or passenger cars. Yet, for some reason, no one has been gutsy enough to stand up to the motorcycle lobby.

They’ve passed the buck to law enforcement officials.

Last week, police in Waterville and the York County Sheriff’s Department were on the lookout for violators. Thirteen tickets were handed out in Waterville and 21 in the York County town of Arundel, where sheriff’s deputies had set up a roadblock. The fine is $137. Bangor is keeping an eye on the situation but has not specifically targeted violators of the new law.

Motorcyclists already have complained that the law is unfair and that loudness is up to the officer’s discretion. It is not. The law doesn’t say riders should be ticketed if their bikes are loud. It says every bike must display an inspection sticker. If shops are giving stickers to bikes with modified exhaust systems, that problem must be dealt with.

The new law is not a cure-all, but for those who don’t want their car or home windows rattled by a passing motorcycle, it is a good start.

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