Noisy Motorcycles

MotorcycleThis subject is one of the most popular complaints that I receive from readers suggesting topics for the column. Obviously many people are bothered by the unnecessary noise emitted by some motorcycles on our highways, particularly those being driven in municipal areas. The complaint is usually that the police aren't doing anything about it.

The law seems clear enough, all motor vehicles driven on our highways require mufflers that cool exhaust gases and expel them without excessive noise. There is a maximum sound pressure level of 91 DBA for motorcycles where the measurement is made in an inspection station. Finally, the law says that where an inspector holds the opinion that the exhaust is too noisy, then the exhaust is too noisy!

Having said that, I soon learned during my service that even when I could testify that the motorcycle was not equipped with any muffler at all a conviction was not a certain result in court. It seemed to be a classic case of "it's noisy" from the police and "no, it's not" from the driver, so the justice could not be certain and dismissed the ticket. I never had access to a decibel meter to measure sound pressure levels and had to rely on my ears to gather evidence.

It seems that the situation may also be a popular complaint to our lawmakers. MLA Lorne Mayencourt has just introduced members bill M203 entitled the "Motorcycle Noise Control Act." It sets a new limit of 85 DBA for the sound pressure level of motorcyles being operated on a highway where the speed limit is 60 km/h or less. The bill is aimed at reducing the noise from motorcycles being operated in residential areas anywhere in the province.

If you feel that the bill has merit, contact your MLA today and tell them so. It will require the support of all parties to pass this into law and it is your job to tell them to support it.



Use ICBC, not police.

As electric vehicles become more numerous, society has an opportunity to make our urban landscape more livable, but only if we start now to eliminate intentionally loud vehicle noise. To do that we need a different approach, one that fundamentally changes how the problem is tackled. 

  1. Have ICBC host a public website where anyone can register vehicle noise complaints. All that would be entered is the offending vehicle's license plate and the date when the complainant experienced the noise. Require a small per-complaint processing fee (say $5-$10) to ensure the website is not a burden to taxpayers, and to discourage nuisance or "revenge" complaints. I suspect there are more than enough fed up citizens willing to pony up $10 to get urban noise reduced, increase their property value, and allow them to start enjoying their backyards and public spaces again.
  2. Requring a payment online would have the side-effect of identifying the complainant (only to ICBC, never made public) and therefore allow that complainant to be blacklisted if they are consistently registering licenses that are later proven not loud.
  3. In this first phase of the program, police would also use this website to register loud vehicles, thereby avoiding any wasted time going through a ticketing and court system that achieves little.  Obviously no fee for police to register as many licenses as they observe in likely violation of noise limits.
  4. When it comes time to renew your vehicle insurance, if your license plate has a noise complaint registered against it on the website you will be notified by ICBC that your vehicle must pass a vehicle noise inspection before ICBC will renew its insurance. If your vehicle passes, the inspection is free. So if you are pretty sure your vehicle will fail the noise test you can be proactive and get the exhaust brought back into legal compliance before attempting the inspection.
  5. If your vehicle fails inspection then you must: i) pay for the inspection, ii) pay a fine, iii) get the vehicle's exhaust fixed at your expense (you cannot drive it legally, so the expense will include towing), iv) pay for a second noise inspection that proves the vehicle now passes. To recover inspection expenses, the total cost of fines and inspection fees should be at least $1000, plus the cost of repairs. One would expect the number of loud vehicles on the road after 12 months will be drastically reduced. 
  6. After a year or two, the police could then begin phase 2 of the program, and start actively pulling over those remaining noise lovers who decide to temporarily swap out their illegal exhaust just for the ICBC inspection. With a much smaller number of vehicles violating noise laws, the police and legal system can start to address it day-to-day, with immediate tickets and fines, all without risk of overloading the system.
This doesn't strike me as too complex a framework to be practical, and it directly addresses the #1 problem: police and judges are simply too scarce and important a resource to be tied up chasing down noisy vehicles. 


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