Motorcycle debate getting loud

The revised law is a week old and clearly stated. In essence, motorcycles and other vehicles must be equipped with mufflers. And those mufflers cannot be modified in a way that makes them louder.

Simple. And yet the debate over the law has become louder than the noise it was designed to prevent.

On one side of the issue are bikers. They say the law unfairly targets a lifestyle. They say being louder makes people notice them.

On Facebook, roughly 5,000 people had joined the group “Loud Pipes Save Lives” since it was created two weeks ago.

“Motorists are becoming more distracted while driving with cell phones, iPods, coffee, loud music and the rush of daily life,” it states in the group description. “Motorcycles are everywhere but hard to see. MAKE YOURSELF HEARD!”

One of the group administrators, Heaven Love, of Auburn said the idea that being loud could save a life of a motorcycle rider is not the sole focus of the group.

“My biggest thing is all the stereotypes. Anything you hear about bikers is negative, negative, negative,” Love says. “But I do believe that loud pipes save lives? Yes. I’ve seen many riders get cut off by other drivers. You hear of people who avoid hitting a deer in the roadway only because the sound of the bike scared the deer off.”

And though the revised law pertains to four-wheeled vehicles as well, it is commonly felt that it takes aims at motorcycles specifically.

“I live on a busy road,” Love said. “There are motorcycles that go by and make noise. But there are tons of other things that go by and make noise, too.”

And so Love is one of those who studies the law carefully. She stays in touch with police, lawmakers and motorcycle riders. She plans to take her arguments to Augusta when the time comes.

On the other side is a group called “Mainers Against Loud Motorcycles,” a grassroots coalition trying desperately to bring about peace and quiet. The group has been around awhile. By Friday, it’s Facebook group had a more modest 150 members. Yet, since the new law went into effect, it’s been the smaller group seeing more of the action.

Bikers with admittedly loud pipes were going in to exchange words with proponents of the law. Those exchanges are frequently heated but most participants on either side of the issue had done their homework. There is logic to be found behind just about every argument.

For Andy Ford, founder of “Mainers Against Loud Motorcycles,” all of it may be much ado about nothing at all. Laws to prevent loud exhaust systems have been around a while. Historically, they have been ineffective.

“This new law, most of it has been on the books for 16 years. There are some small revisions,” Ford said. “I don’t think the law is enforceable as soon as a biker decides to challenge it.”

And challenges are almost certain. Those found in violation face a fine of $137. It’s an amount small enough for some to keep their pipes and take their chances with the law.

“We’re telling everybody that gets ticketed to go to court and fight it,” Love said. “Because people still aren’t clear about what the revised laws mean. Everybody needs to be on the same page with it.”

By the numbers

History has been kind to bikers with loud pipes. In Lewiston, where complaints of loud motorcycles have vexed the police department for years, the numbers don’t indicate aggressive enforcement.

Between the start of 2006 and the first of summer 2010, a total of 121 motorists were ticketed or warned about loud exhaust systems. Of those, only 12 were motorcycles. Four were cited in 2006, another eight in 2007.

No motorcyclists were cited in 2008, 2009 or so far in 2010. During those same years, 26, 25 and 12 people were ticketed for driving cars or trucks with exhaust systems that made too much noise.

The conclusion some make: The new law, even if all motorcycle riders are forced to display inspection stickers on their bikes (as proposed for 2012) will not result in greater enforcement.

“All attempts that I’ve seen, using inspection stickers or muffler laws, none of them work,” Ford said. “It’s pretty dismal.”

In 2012, all motorcyclists may be required to display inspection stickers. The latest figures from the state indicate that the percentage of Maine's approximately 50,000 registered motorcycles, 42 percent are not inspected. Even if a rider plans to get and display an inspection sticker, there are ways to get it done without sacrificing their straight pipes or short pipes. Ford said he knows of some bikers who will carefully replace a loud exhaust with a different one until the sticker is obtained. Once the bike is legal, the quiet muffler comes off and the loud one goes back on. It’s common, he says.

Police presumably know of those tricks. If they don’t, they will likely learn. State Police have convened a group to study the situation. Other departments are following suit. They have no choice, really. Training is mandatory.

“Not every officer has a great working knowledge of motorcycles,” said Auburn police Chief Phil Crowell. “We want to make sure they get the training they need.”

Crowell is already working with Ford and his group. The chief also plans to coordinate with Lewiston police and get a joint enforcement effort underway.

“We need to start an education campaign and then we’re certainly going to be stepping up enforcement,” Crowell said.

One problem with enforcement has been murkiness within the law itself. How many decibels are allowed? Which pipes are illegal and which are not?

The revisions were meant to simplify things. Crowell said in most cases, those who are violating the law are doing so in dramatic style. It will be easy for the officers to tell which bikers need to be stopped.

“When it’s rattling the windows of your car, you know that’s a loud bike,” Crowell said.

 Can't we all just get along?

Most bikers are aware of the flap over the revised laws. Businesses that sell or fix motorcycles are also in the loop. Police hope that much of the compliance will be voluntary.

“Education and voluntary compliance can go a long with this,” said Lewiston police Deputy Chief James Minkowsky. “I know the bike shops are talking about the issue. A little common sense will go a long way.”

Voluntary compliance? Most supporters of the new law scoff at the notion. They have tried to reason with people of the motorcycle world in the past, they say, with no luck at all.

“These people, for the most part, are not bad people,” Ford said. “But they have this fantasy. This is the image they want. They are totally immune to our positive suggestions.”

According to MECALM, studies have shown that any source of excessive noise in a community — loud car stereos, barking dogs, machinery included — is more than just a quality of life issue.

“Noise is a pollutant,” Ford said. “It has an effect on cardio system, the nervous system. ... And they are very ill effects.”

To which those who oppose the new law will repeat that they need their bikes loud so that other drivers will notice them.

“If noise isn’t a factor,” says Love, “why do emergency vehicles have sirens?”

And the debate comes full circle again.

Unfortunately, no study has proven that loud pipes aid in the safety of a motorcycle rider. In fact, the Hurt Study of 1981 indicates that the idea that loud pipes save lives may be patently untrue.

“It’s not going to make you safer,” Crowell said.

Many motorcycle groups denounce the loud pipes philosophy, too, including the American Motorcycle Association.

“The AMA believes that few other factors contribute more to misunderstanding and prejudice against the motorcycling community than excessively loud motorcycles,” the group asserts in their official statement on the matter. “All motorcycles are manufactured to meet federally mandated sound control standards. Unfortunately, a small number of riders who install unmuffled aftermarket exhaust systems perpetuate a public myth that all motorcycles are loud.”

Some bikers agree with that. The number of troublemakers is small, they say. So why shouldn’t police just concentrate on those few rather than lumping all motorcyclists together?

“We all believe it should be a case-by-case thing,” said Josh Stone, a rider from Auburn. “Yes, some pipes, like straight pipes are louder and can be obnoxious when the rider is being obnoxious, but why make everyone pay for them?”

Like Love, Stone takes issue with the tone taken by the people of MECALM. There, anybody who rides a motorcycle is characterized as a thug or an outlaw.

“The thing that people have a problem with as far as the MECALM,” Stone says, “is some of the members seem to be just plain anti-motorcycle.”

Which is a philosophy police say they will not adopt. It is commonly known, after all, that a significant number of police officers ride motorcycles themselves.

“We are not saying motorcycles are bad,” Crowell said. “It’s really is all about noise pollution.”

“It is a balancing act,” said Minkowsky, the Lewiston deputy police chief. “Not being over aggressive with decent people riding, and not ignoring the wishes of decent people trying not have their ear drums blown out because someone is trying to 'save their life.’”

It’s an idea Heaven Love can get behind. She thinks that riders need to be reminded to keep noise down when a situation demands it. It should be more about courtesy than anything else.

“There need to be more voices out there, reminding everyone to ride respectfully,” she said. “Just be respectful of the people around you.”

Ford believes the problem will be solved someday through that kind of philosophy more than tweaks to the law. People will evolve into a different way of thinking, he says, just like they did in the matter of second hand smoke. There was a time when a person could smoke anywhere without raising eyebrows. Today? You can’t smoke in most bars, let alone hospitals or restaurants.

“That’s where riding loud is headed,” Ford said. “It will be like lighting up a cigarette in a hospital. It will become unacceptable, and we’ll be a better society for it.”

New motorcycle noise law
Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Jason Baker of Harrison, left, pulls out of a gas station on Route 26 in Oxford Saturday afternoon while on a ride with his friend, Joe Chamberlain of Naples. While his bike has legal pipes on it, he believes it does not matter what kind of pipes a bike has, "it all pertains to how you ride and how responsible the rider is. The way you ride determines how loud the motorcycle is. You can take a stock bike straight out of the showroom and ride it quietly or rev it up and make a lot of noise, it's how you ride. I believe it is a safety issue. If a driver hears you coming, they are less likley to pull out in front of you."

What do you think of this story?

Login to post comments

In order to make comments, you must create a subscription.

In order to comment on SunJournal.com, you must hold a valid subscription allowing access to this website. You must use your real name and include the town in which you live in your SunJournal.com profile. To subscribe or link your existing subscription click here.

Login or create an account here.

Our policy prohibits comments that are:

  • Defamatory, abusive, obscene, racist, or otherwise hateful
  • Excessively foul and/or vulgar
  • Inappropriately sexual
  • Baseless personal attacks or otherwise threatening
  • Contain illegal material, or material that infringes on the rights of others
  • Commercial postings attempting to sell a product/item
If you violate this policy, your comment will be removed and your account may be banned from posting comments.

Advertisement

Comments

 's picture

Stacy L; Obviously, your 4.0

Stacy L; Obviously, your 4.0 GPA wasn't in spelling.

William  Campbell's picture

Loud riders project responsibility to others.

The fact is that loud pipes do not reduce the number of motorcycle accidents. As the Hurt report suggests, muffler noise is not a factor in accident avoidance. Loud riders are under the impression their wrist twisting racket gets the attention of drivers all the while operating their machines in many unsafe ways on the road. Riding in cars blind spots, riding in groups and side by side, and now the frenchman tells us it is defensive riding to ride ON THE YELLOW LINE!
This would be funny if it were not so sad. I suppose giving oncoming cars the angry biker stare also helps ward off the possible left hand turning car? Give me a break. Try wearing a helmet, lose the illegal APE hangers and learn how to ride safe. Stop blaming everyone else for your lack skill to operate your machine by hoping someone might hear you before seeing you. Start riding your bike and enjoying the road, not projecting your fear through your illegal exhausts. By riding invisably, you will assume the car may not see you (They may not) and have a plan to avoid a dangerous situation. By ASSuming others hear you while riding helmetless in black leather on a black low rider, you have ASSsigned the responsibility of your safety to the operator of the car. Even if they are talking on the cell, balancing the coffee cup, or changing the radio station, it is your responsibility to be at a distance so you can avoid and brake if necessary. Or you can blame the accident on everyone else.

Riding motorcycle IS dangerous. Suck it up bad biker boyz and learn how to ride! stop blaming everyone else for your lack of safety skills.

Andy Ford's picture

Loud bikers abusive

It's obvious to most intelligent people that the motorcycle noise pollution is a result of abusive behavior. It may be true that most loud bikers are doctors, lawyers, certified public accountants, nurses and other professionals. But if such a professional is found guilty of child abuse, do we just say, let him or her off because of his or her profession, or do we insist that they be punished like anyone else?
There is no cogent argument for the abusive behavior of riding loud. Riding loud doesn't contribute to safe riding nor does it improve the image of motorcycling.
There are some excellent, very loud air horns made for motorcycles that can be purchased for $50.
And although many Harley riders claim that riding loud is necessary for safety, it's astounding in view of this silly claim that thousands of bikers are able to ride whisper quiet Honda Gold Wings safely every day.

Andy Ford's picture

Motorcycle crashes

Sadly, the type of collision that involves a car turning left in front of a motorcycle occurs frequently with loud Harleys. There no documentation that quiet motorcycles are involved in more crashes than loud motorcycles. If there were any significant difference, it would logically follow that quiet motorcyclists would pay much higher insurance premiums than loud motorcyclists do. The insurance industry would certainly be aware of this and charge accordingly. As the extensive motorcycle safety study, The Hurt Report, shows, loud pipes are a non factor in safe riding.

Phyllis Rand's picture

Loud pipes save lives?

Why do they rev their engines at stop signs and red lights? I don't think it's so people can see them, and the "loud pipes save lives" campaign is a bit of a stretch. It's a good political maneuver, though (turn this into a safety issue so people won't oppose it). People cut me off and turn in front of me, and I'm driving a car. So maybe I should retrofit my muffler so that I have loud pipes, too--or maybe add a siren? Maybe we should all retrofit our mufflers so people will know we're there. Hey, maybe the problem is that no matter what you're driving (I've seen people who didn't notice cop cars with sirens and lights on), other drivers aren't paying attention. Upping the ante with loud mufflers isn't going to change that.

RONALD RIML's picture

So clean out your carburetor, rather than my ear drums....

So clean out your carburetor, rather than blow out my ear drums....

The government can - and should - regulate what you do on public roads. Ride like a clown all you want on your own private land.

Phyllis Rand's picture

Business

I didn't say a word about helmets. Loud noise does cause harm so it is my business, and I don't want to hear it at 2 o'clock in the morning as I often do this time of year. I don't believe everybody who revs their engines at stop signs and stop lights have 25-year-old carborated motorcycles although I'm the first to admit I don't know what one looks like.

Mark Elliott's picture

helmets.......

The reason you are wearing seat belts and we are not wearing helmets is because we stood up for ourselves and you did not! That was a choice you made.

Phyllis Rand's picture

Go to Court?

Are you going to pay those folks' court costs?

William  Campbell's picture

Reply to KO

Hey KO
Sounds like you have lots of experience inside a court room. Let's hope with the new revisions of the motor vehicle laws on tampered and loud exhausts you will get to try out some more of your legal manuvering to avoid a fine and continue to operate with illegal equipment.

That will show them law makers, social police and regular people that endue your obnoxious noise at all hours. Way to go with that freedom thing. Being free and doing whatever you what and screw everyone else. How is that workin' for ya?

Thanks for being a considerate Maine citizen!

 's picture

StacyL. What is a CALOTHIC

StacyL. What is a CALOTHIC school? Also, it's ( no desire) not ( know desire). etc,etc,etc. At that Calothic school, did they not teach spelling as well as proper use of the English language?

RONALD RIML's picture

It's not a 'Safety Device' - it's an 'Attitude'

The same one that eschews "Brain-Cages"

Sarah LaPierre's picture

My best friend and her

My best friend and her partner are avid bikers...I have no problem with this group of people, but as someone already mentioned: Why at stop lights, stop signs, waiting in a line of traffic, etc.? It is especiall nerve-wracking when my infant is in my vehicle...I worry for her hearing. It also can't be good on her developing nervous system to be startled that often (we live near a busy road...bikes go by quite often) and that loudly. And when I hear it, when I'm driving, I'm more startled than "aware". Nervousness behind the wheel is not usually considered "safety".

William  Campbell's picture

reply to Stacy..and other inconsiderate bikers

Much of this problem has to do with behavior modification when it comes to what we do to modify our vehicles and also how they are operated. Many "pro loud" riders say we already have enough laws in place to prevent this problem, yet it is worse then ever. They also wrongly claim it is only a few that openly break the laws in place by operating with altered pipes and operating their machines to produce ear shattering noise.
So when is this self policing by the loud crowd going to happen? Never of course. Its the same old story that has worked before just as the loud saves lives lie regurgetated up everytime we complain. Again we see Law Enforcement attempting to bargain with the offenders and reason with the unreasonable. Riding loud is not safe, it is the worst noise polution we suffer from, and it is as illegal as it would be if I removed my muffler from my truck. Yet it is an epidemic on the land and our homes and nothing is being done.

I don't care what mail order University you received your diploma from, but I do worry that you were not taught how to behave in public and therefore must be schooled by the rest of society. Sad really. As Chris Rock often says......must be the way you was raised!

So have so consideration from all of us that are listening to this obnoxious noise. The loud riders have all brought into the fifty year old outlaw fashion mistake that was all about anti social behaviour and unsafe lifestyles. Please go find a place in the desert to act out your outlaw fantasy and stay out of our neigborhoods. It is rude, loud, obnoxious and now more illegal then ever. More enforcement, fines and rules are needed for those that do not have the ability to have consideration for everyone else.

GERARD SARRASIN's picture

Safety Issue????

I find it very humorous, when watching a TV story about the noise law, the other day. This guy was saying how loud bikes help people hear them coming and are a good thing for SAFETY. After stating his two cents he drives off helmet-less, onto a busy road. If he has such a concern for safety, where is his helmet. It would make his bike riding more safe than noise will. In accidents involving bikers, hundreds of helmet-less bikers are killed every year, that may have been only injured, had they been wearing helmets.

The loud noise is less relevant today, as an argument, than it was years ago. Today most people drive with cars closed up with AC units going and and radios, CD or MP3 players blasting, and they would never hear a loud bike. The only people that will hear the bikes are residents outside of their homes that are just just trying to enjoy some quiet time.

MICHAEL LEMAY's picture

There is no reasonable excuse

There is no reasonable excuse for having a motorcycle that is loud enough to be heard accelerating a mile away in the middle of the night or one that can be the only vehicle heard among a group of vehicles waiting at a traffic light. The only reason for having loud exhaust is to bring attention to yourself and I don't mean in a safety conscious way. It's time to enforce these noise regulations so we can have some peace and quiet.

Mark Elliott's picture

work....

Now, I am going to leave for WORK, I want you kids to get along while I am gone........

Mark Elliott's picture

bilgerat......

Bilgerat, like we are saying, there is a time and a place for it and we don't all do it! You, like MECALM are stereotyping us.

Mark Elliott's picture

MECALM

MECALM is a very discriminatory group. They are painting bikers to be thugs and criminals when many of them are doctors, lawyers, and teachers. I bet some of them are even teaching YOUR children.

 's picture

42 year old etc etc etc. Not

42 year old etc etc etc. Not bad for someone with a single digit IQ.

William  Campbell's picture

Another law needed?

Much of this problem has to do with behavior modification when it comes to what we do to modify our vehicles and also how they are operated. Many "pro loud" riders say we already have enough laws in place to prevent this problem, yet it is worse then ever. They also wrongly claim it is only a few that openly break the laws in place by operating with altered pipes and operating their machines to produce ear shattering noise.
So when is this self policing by the loud crowd going to happen? Never of course. Its the same old story that has worked before just as the loud saves lives lie regurgetated up everytime we complain. Again we see Law Enforcement attempting to bargain with the offenders and reason with the unreasonable. Riding loud is not safe, it is the worst noise polution we suffer from, and it is as illegal as it would be if I removed my muffler from my truck. Yet it is an epidemic on the land and our homes and nothing is being done.

I don't care what mail order University you received your diploma from, but I do worry that you were not taught how to behave in public and therefore must be schooled by the rest of society. Sad really. As Chris Rock often says......must be the way you was raised!

So have so consideration from all of us that are listening to this obnoxious noise. The loud riders have all brought into the fifty year old outlaw fashion mistake that was all about anti social behaviour and unsafe lifestyles. Please go find a place in the desert to act out your outlaw fantasy and stay out of our neigborhoods. It is rude, loud, obnoxious and now more illegal then ever. More enforcement, fines and rules are needed for those that do not have the ability to have consideration for everyone else.

John Chick's picture

Another law...

...or even a modification of the existing law (which is basically what this is) will not change a thing.

The problem is not that we don't have laws against noise pollution, the problem is we have no enforcement of noise pollution laws.

Basically, our legislators have wasted our time and money on a problem that can only be fixed if and when law enforcement agencies are given the time and resources to enforce it. And, I might add, making it manditory to display an inspection sticker will not change a thing. As others point out, those who like their bikes loud (and cars for that matter) will get a sticker with a "legal" muffler and then swap it out for their preferred muffler of choice.

If we aren't going to enforce the laws already on the books, why do we think new laws will make any difference?

John Chick
Monmouth, ME

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." --Thomas Jefferson to Charles Yancey, 1816. ME 14:384

Mark Elliott's picture

MECALM......

Andy Ford, I think is the only one at MECALM that is actually from Maine, the rest are out of staters wanting us all to shut up so their state will follow suit.......there is more to this movement then just the loud pipes debate! They have stated that they will keep going all the way. That street rod you own, the weedwacker, the lawn mower, your ATV, and they will not stop until they have gone through all 50 states. Did you know that some parts of California already have noise ordinances against leaf blowers? There is a group in New York trying to ban car alarms!? In a city where auto thefts are a daily occurrence!! Most of us that run loud pipes agree that there is a limit. It is only the select few that take it too far. We will all pay for this one way or another, at one point or another. It will affect all of us soon.

John Chick's picture

Well, I for one...

....always wear a helmet and protective gear. My bike is bright orange, and I try to wear bright colors in an attempt to be seen. My exhaust is stock. My headlight, like all modern motorcycles, does not have an on/off switch. When the bike is running, the headlight is on.

Even at that, I still have people pull out in front of me or fail to yeild the right of way. I have learned to EXPECT it. In 2003, a kid pulled out in front of me while I was passing a slower vehicle (in a legal passing zone) and the result was a head-on collision with a pickup truck sporting a plow frame. He never looked in my direction (which was a failure on his part) but I've often wondered if I had been riding a bike with louder pipes, if it would have at least made him look in my direction.

John Chick
Monmouth, ME

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." --Thomas Jefferson to Charles Yancey, 1816. ME 14:384

Mark Elliott's picture

keep in mind...

Keep in mind, I am not advocating drag pipes or extremely loud pipes, just the ability to keep my bike a little louder than stock. The revisions don't allow for ANY change at all on bikes, but they allow for some on cars and trucks. That's not fair, that IS discriminatory. Cars are aloud up to 95db, bikes can not be any louder than stock and it's the officers discretion to determine if it is. It would be my responsibility to prove it's not in court. Guilty until proven innocent for bikers......murderers and child molesters are innocent until proven guilty! The way it should be!

GARY SAVARD's picture

Based on the reasoning that

Based on the reasoning that loud pipes save lives, that would mean that if I had an illegal exhaust system on my truck and couldn't "hear" the motorcycle, the excessive noise as a safety mechanism excuse would be pointless. I guess as long as only bikes can be loud, though, the argument stands...even if it is on a wooden leg.

Mark Elliott's picture

PS: correct facebook page

The CORRECT facebook page for Mainers against the new revisions is: Citizens Against Maine's Revised Exhaust Law

Mark Elliott's picture

comments.....

@Brain..... comments like yours are exactly why this debate has become so heated. This is exactly the type of stuff MECALM is saying, and they think they are professional in doing so. There is some common sense in the term "loud pipes save lives" but there isn't any at all in your comment. There can not be any data to back up our theory because the state and local governments don't keep track of "near misses"....why would they? They only keep track of injuries and deaths and then, the only concern is weather or not the rider had a helmet on. Not weather or not he had loud or quiet exhaust. You have to be a rider with a near miss or two under your belt to fully understand.

John Chick's picture

It is also...

...so that people waiting at stop signs and/or pulling out of their driveway will be alerted NOT to pull out in front of them.

The #1 motorcycle accident scenario (involving automobiles) is pulling out in front of, or turning into the path of the motorcycle because "they didn't see" it. Emergency vehicles use both flashing lights and sirens in an attempt to avoid this type of accident, as well as get people to pull over.

John Chick
Monmouth, ME

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." --Thomas Jefferson to Charles Yancey, 1816. ME 14:384

Advertisement

Stay informed — Get the news delivered for free in your inbox.

I'm interested in ...