by Rick Barrett

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

December 18, 2009

If you didn’t get a chance to read it, our Dec. 16 article about an anti-noise group, Noise Free America, criticizing the Wisconsin Legislature for “honoring noise terrorism” — for wanting to name Harley-Davidson as the official state motorcycle — generated some responses.

Here’s a link to the article, and below are a few of the responses. Your comments, as always, are welcomed.

The latest update: I have edited the introduction to this posting because I initially wrote, incorrectly, that the anti-noise group had labeled the Legislature as terrorists. The group’s news release said: “Instead of honoring noise terrorism, our representatives should protect us from the awful noise of Harley riders.” Here’s a link to Noise Free America’s Dec. 1 news release.

Previous update: Dec. 17, legislators said they wanted more time to address the anti-noise group’s concerns before going ahead with a vote on a resolution that would make Harley-Davidson the state’s honorary bike. In addition to noise complaints, legislators also heard a complaint about giving undue honors to one motorcycle manufacturer, Harley-Davidson, over others.

Some responses to the anti-noise group’s complaints:

These idiots should stick a sharpened pencil in each ear and press hard. They would then achieve their goal, a noise free world, and leave the rest of us alone.

My wife and I are motorcyclists, but we don’t like the noise. New motorcycles have to meet and EPA noise standard — there is a sticker on the bike stating that it meets the standard of 107 db at 3,500 rpm. Any motorcycle that exceeds this noise limit is in violation of the law. Why is this law not enforced? It isn’t right and something needs to be done about it.

I read your recent story of the proliferation of Harley-Davidson noise with great mirth and reflection. In the past, while living in Bay View, I, too, questioned why the police allow unmuffled and marginally muffled Harley-Davidson motorcycles to go unticketed, while destroying the peace of many a Milwaukee neighborhood, especially after 10pm. Calling the police about motorcycle noise in this city is basically a call that gets immediately stashed in the “circular file”. Could it be that an amazing amount of Milwaukee police and firefighters own these motorcycles and are responsible for the noise? A case could be made…

Respected Wisconsin Legislator: I write to share my opinion and insight into your proposal to reward the Harley Davidson Motor Company for their economic contribution to your state. While this idea may have merit to some individuals in your state, it may also be sending a ‘loud’ message about the way the state of Wisconsin does not respect the population elsewhere in the United States and abroad.

The motor company’s long history of success and its expansion in the market, places it in a position of leadership to what is today either a culture or cult, depending on ones perspective. But regardless of if someone endorses a ‘biker’ way of life, this group of product end user has made the company profitable and prosperous. So much so that it has captured your attention and admiration.

What the remainder of the population observes is something extremely different. Harley Davidson’s products are responsible for a large portion of the noise pollution nationwide, causing great harm to the majority of society. As a manufacturer, the company is responsible for building a product in compliance with federal law, one that meets the noise standards adopted for all vehicle manufacturers. While the Motor Company is technically meeting the letter of the law regarding the new machine leaving the factory floor, it has failed to adopt the intent of the law. Their machines are leaving the dealerships with illegal mufflers installed, among many other non-compliant parts. The effect of this is that the new machines being delivered to the customer are extremely loud and polluting, and the Motor Company fully participates in the illegal activity. The bulk of the American population knows this, and curses the companies cavalier, disrespectful and mercenary attitude toward the non-motorcycling masses.

Please consider these thoughts as you proceed with your proposed legislation. You find yourself in a position to not only reward an economic partner to your state, but to also remedy a long term and grievous behavior that is destroying reasonable peace and quiet in millions of peoples lives nationwide. Please make any endorsement of Harley Davidson Motor Company contingent upon them adopting and publicizing a corporate policy regarding noise and their products. They need to adopt and comply with the intent of the EPA’s noise standard, and ensure that that standard is maintained “cradle to grave” by anyone affiliated with the motor company. This needs to extend to any dealership caught modifying the product in violation of federal law. The violating dealer needs to be closed. Harley Davidson owes this to the general population of the United States.

In closing please accept my respect for your willingness to represent the people of Wisconsin and to do the daily lifting of this government. Please do not let this bill become a black eye to the state of Wisconsin, rather an opportunity to make things better nationwide.