Vehicle noise bylaws sweeping Canada – just treat motorcycles and cars equally

Matthew Coutts
RNC wants new tools to silence obnoxious motorcycle noise

Those of us who have grown tired of having our relative peace and quiet spoiled by motorists who revel in blasting high-decibel roars and whinnies from their motorbikes, sports cars and monster trucks appear to have a reason to celebrate, as a series of police crackdowns and noise bylaws sweep across the country.

Less celebratory, however, is the distraction that comes from an apparent civil war within the community of noisemakers, as Canadian motorcyclists play the victim card for being targeted over their intentionally loud motor vehicles.

The National Post recently chronicled the battle over vehicle noise, after St. John's, Newfoundland, announced its plans to ban unmuffled cars and motorcycles. Numerous other bylaws have recently been introduced, notably in Saskatoon, Calgary and Edmonton.

“It’s progressively getting worse and worse; I guess the baby boomers they decide to retire and have money they don’t know what to do with,” St. John's councillor Art Puddister told the newspaper.

“On a hot summer’s night when people have their windows open, you can hear these motorcycles all over the city, and people are trying to get some sleep.”

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While the Newfoundland ban would target all types of vehicle noise, the councillor's comments belie the underlying issue present on Canada's roads and highways. Motorcycles are most often seen as the culprit of noise pollution.

When Saskatoon implemented noise restrictions earlier this year, the move was widely perceived as an attack on the city's motorcycle community.

According to CBC News, a dozen members of the city's 3rd Canadian Army Veteran Motorcycle Unit protested the council debate.

"You're hearing sirens, you're hearing fireworks, you're hearing all kinds of other noises going on. ... What makes motorcycles more offensive? It becomes very subjective," rider Neil Nemeth told the network.

And to be fair, they have a point. Some cities have implemented motorcycle-specific rules. Police in Windsor, Ont., announced a crackdown earlier this month that specifically targets motorcycles with altered mufflers. Fredericton moved on motorcycle-specific bylaw last year.

Edmonton has had a noise bylaw in place for the past three years. A statement from the Edmonton Police outlines fines as they relate to motorcycle decibel violations.

On Monday, Motorcyclists Opposing Discriminatory Exhaust Legislation, and Edmonton bike advocacy group, launched a public battle against what it perceived to be a bias against motorcycles in the city.

The group recently backed a resident who launched a challenge against the noise bylaw. They said their goal is to secure equality between motorcyclists and drivers when it comes to noise violations.

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As far as the general public should be concerned, equality should also be paramount. The issue should not pit motorcyclists against motorists. It should pit anyone committed to driving obnoxiously loud devices against everyone else, those of us who have not agreed to be aurally terrorized by the self-centered lot.

It doesn't matter whether the muffler-less monsters driving up and down your street have four wheels or two, they equally shatter the sanctuary of your home, wake your children up from their afternoon naps and declare to the world that the drivers believes themselves to be more important that everyone else within earshot.

Motorcycle noise bylaws are a good step, crackdowns on hogs that hum at 94 decibels or higher are welcome ventures. But cities that haven't expanded those measures to include cars and trucks are only addressing part of the problem.

Thankfully, Calgary stands as a progressive force in that way. According to the Calgary Sun, the local force is set to crack down on vehicles that break the provincial law against excessive noise next month.

That means $115 noise violation tickets will be leveled against motorcyclists and motorists is equal measure.

That sounds like equality to me, and it sounds much better than a roaring engine and a stereo playing Kid Rock songs far too loudly.

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