It’s spring and the sound you hear just might be the roar of motorcycles. A lot of you are complaining about that on WBZ’s “Curiosity” Web site.
Mike from Taunton asks, “Why aren’t motorcycles stopped and ticketed by police when they drive with illegal mufflers?”
While James from Whitinsville says, “If a car made that much noise they would be ticketed.”
David Wade went looking for the noisy answer.
Sam Kopper of Hingham is a sound engineer. While he loves loud music, he hates loud motorcycles. “It’s a roar! It is an outrageously loud roar,” he says, describing the sound he says he hears far too often.
He says the roaring bikes shake his windows and wake him up.
WHAT CAUSES THAT ROARING NOISE?
When a motorcycle comes from the factory, the exhaust system is EPA approved.
But often, not for long.
“We usually see 60 to 70 percent of riders change the pipes out,” according to Mike Sienkiewicz, the general manager at Boston Harley Davidson in Everett.
And a lot of those so-called “after market” pipes are louder than they’re supposed to be, which is just what some riders want.
MOTORCYCLISTS ARGUE IT’S A MATTER OF SAFETY
“The louder the pipe, the better off you are,” says Jamie Giorgio, who says he’s been riding most of his life. “People just can’t see you. Whether they’re on the phone, they’re switching lanes, they’re texting. I’ve probably been in 50 situations myself where my pipes have saved my lifes.”
However, Wayne Sampson, the head of the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association, doesn’t see it that way.
Wade asked him: “A lot of bikers say these loud pipes make their bikes safer. Do you buy that?”
“No,” Sampson responded.
Wade followed up: “You think it’s more about being cool and having the nice loud pipes?”
“Absolutely,” said Sampson.
WHAT CAN BE DONE?
There are anti-noise laws in Massachusetts.
One says a motorcycle going less than 45 miles per hour can’t be louder than 82 decibels.
We asked a sound expert from ExTech in Waltham to measure the sound of a motorcycle fitted with after market pipes tooling down Soldiers Field Rd. It blasted by at nearly 99 decibels.
The police can also ticket a loud biker for creating a nuisance, or for altering the exhaust system.
NOISE TICKETS DON’T DETER BIKERS
But that doesn’t exactly scare bikers we talked to.
“I’ve been with flocks of guys riding and we’ve gotten pulled over and we’ve gotten lectured, but we actually haven’t gotten ticketed,” says long-time rider Jamie Giorgio.
But why not? Chief Sampson admits the laws are difficult to enforce. Most police department don’t have the expensive equipment needed to measure the noise, or the training necessary. In addition, the decision to pull a bike over is subjective, and is easily challenged in court.
“A law enforcement officer on patrol is really looking for some kind of violation that is going to cause a public safety factor,” says Chief Sampson.
So if the rider isn’t reckless, the police will often let it go.
Inspections are required of motorcycles, but the rules do not call for actually measuring the decibel levels. The inspector only has to listen for unnecessary noise and check to see if the exhaust system has been changed. But some people say there’s a conflict of interest there since most inspection stations are in motorcycle shops that also sell after market pipes.
Which is why Sam Kopper is on a personal crusade, writing about the noise in a column in the Hingham paper, and trying to get his town to crack down.
“We’d just like the laws enforced,” says Kopper. But right now, the best he can do is cover his ears.
Be sure to join the conversation. Go to our Curiosity Web site and tell us what you want to know.
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