March 1, 2009
Noise Free America
For immediate release
Madison: The Harley Davidson dealership located in Fairfax, Virginia has won this month’s Noisy Dozen award from Noise Free America for their obvious disregard for the welfare of the public and long-standing laws. This highly successful noise merchant profits by spreading noise pollution throughout the densely-populated areas around our nation’s capital.
Most people are very surprised to learn that motorcycles are not be manufactured to be loud per federal regulations that have been in place since 1980. Almost all Harley owners and irresponsible dealerships immediately remove the legal mufflers and install loud ones. These illegal mufflers produce at least twice to four times more noise, at a much lower frequency (which easily penetrates homes).
Patriot Harley Davidson advertises a variety of performance options through its web site, including its Big Inch Club: “Maybe you just want that awesome earth-quaking, window-rattling exhaust that sets off car alarms as you ride on by. Want to make men dive out of the way and women grab their children and head inside and lock the doors? We can help with that, too!”
Todd Koenings lives in Mount Vernon, Virginia and his home is located over 200 feet from the road. His family can hear virtually no traffic noise from within their home during the winter.
However, as soon as the weather warms up, the endless procession of Harleys arrive, and these motorcycles are easily heard in any part of his family’s home, including the basement. This residential area, with many historic landmarks and recreation areas leading into a national park, sounds more like a drag strip every weekend and weekday evening almost entirely due to roaring Harley Davidson motorcycles. Every weekday, the Harleys roar by at 5 am. The loudest ones sound more like an aircraft than a motor vehicle and can easily drown out a conversation while on the porch. On any given summer weekend, loud Harleys blast by every couple of minutes for hours on end. The noise from loud Harleys disturbs the peace of our neighborhoods and lowers the quality of life. It also fosters a poor image of the historic Mount Vernon area.
This type of noise is far more than a nuisance. Numerous studies from the National Institute for Health and the World Health Organization demonstrate that noise harms people’s health. Noise disrupts sleep. It harms quality of life and general well-being. People who are chronically exposed to noise are much more likely to experience cardiovascular disease.
Motorcycling lobbyists and business interests have established relationships with various state agencies and legislators through Virginia’s Governors Motorcycle Advisory Council. The council, created in 2004, is designed to promote motorcycling and motorcycling business in Virginia. Members include such Virginia government agencies as the Department of Public Safety, the State Police and Sheriffs office, the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Department of Transportation, and the Trade Commission.
Mr. Koenings asks, “Do our government officials recognize that the vast majority of motorcycles clearly don’t use mufflers that are compliant with the intent of state or federal laws? Do they understand the purpose of mufflers in the first place?”
Federal regulations mandate that any motorcycle muffler sold commercially in the United States for street use will bear an EPA label, including aftermarket mufflers. The purpose of the EPA labeling requirement is to ensure that motorcycle mufflers meet the federally mandated noise level of 80 decibels, and to provide law enforcement with a simple, clear, and effective enforcement mechanism. Police officers simply need to visually examine a motorcycle muffler for the EPA label to determine whether the muffler is street legal or not. Many other countries mandate that motorcycles meet a noise lower than what is allowed in the U.S. by federal law.
Ted Rueter, Noise Free America’s director, states that “some motorcyclists mistakenly believe that loud mufflers makes them safer, but the study behind the EPA regulations and many motorcycling authorities dismiss this. The noise from mufflers travels backwards–not forward toward potential hazards. The noise they generate (besides intruding on the lives of many other people) serves to create a safety hazard for themselves and those around them. Motorcyclists actually interested in safety should pursue training, visible clothing, helmets, and a horn.”
It is time for the state of Virginia to find effective ways to protect the general public, not the polluting special interests who flaunt the laws designed to protect the health and well-being of Virginia citizens. It is also time for motorcyclists to change their anti-social behavior, obey the law, and to be aware of the effect that their loud pipes have on other people. Operating a motor vehicle is not a “right” or a “freedom.” It is a privilege that partially depends on having the proper equipment installed, including legal mufflers that are designed to mitigate the volume and frequency of noise.
Noise Free America is a national citizens organization devoted to opposing noise pollution. Previous winners of the award include Richmond, Virginia and the United States Congress.