by Ken Bingenheimer

September 2, 2010

Will the Governator veto the California bill requiring EPA seals on motorcycle exhausts? That’s one of the biggest questions on many people’s minds at the moment. That it should be an issue at all is a demonstration of ignorance. Let’s start with a recap.


Some motorcycles make too much noise. Admit it, it’s a fact. Also, some cars and trucks and airplanes and trains and other vehicles make too much noise. This is true as well.

So the California legislature decided to copy what has been done in several other jurisdictions in recent years, notably Denver, and has passed legislation requiring all motorcycle mufflers to carry the Environmental Protection Agency stamp that certifies it does not exceed noise standards. Thus the waiting to see what Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is a motorcyclist himself, will do.

The ignorance comes in where the proponents of the bill think it will solve the problem. It won’t, and Denver again serves as a good example. In a recent CBS News article it was reported that “just 37 tickets were issued in 2007, the law’s first year. In 2008, just 4 tickets, and last year 5 tickets. So far this year, no tickets have been issued.”

It’s a matter of practicality. Generally the stamps on the mufflers are in obscure, out-of-the-way places where a police officer would have to get down on hands and knees, or perhaps lay on the his back on the ground, to spot. It’s just not very likely to happen. Plus, OEM mufflers carrying the EPA stamps are not always available for older bikes, and even if they are, why should a biker be subject to ticketing for not having a stamp if the noise the bike makes is not excessive?

In the meantime, laws like this are not needed. Laws already exist limiting noise. All that is really necessary is to enforce the laws already passed, and this is regardless of whether the source of the noise is a motorcycle, a truck, a lawn mower, or anything else. The problem with the California law and others is that they unfairly target motorcycles.


While controlling noise levels is a valid endeavor for cities and other jurisdictions, the people promoting this agenda have been going off the deep end of late, and they often don’t worry about getting facts straight.

For instance, on the site for NoiseOFF – The Coalition Against Noise Pollution, they offer this bit of misinformation:

Some riders join motorcycle rights organizations (MROs) that lobby against motorcycle noise legislation. These organizations include the Motorcycle Riders Foundation, and American Motorcyclist Association (AMA). . . . The AMA compromises (sic) over 300,000 members and more than 1,200 chartered clubs, with corporate representation from the motorcycle industry. Through sponsored events and organized campaigns, they mobilize their membership to lobby to defeat motorcycle noise legislation.

First off, the MRF is only involved in national lobbying and they don’t get involved in local issues. As for the AMA, all you need to do is check their site and you’ll learn that they routinely urge riders to be conscientious with noise, and that what the AMA does oppose is . . . drumroll . . . legislation that unfairly targets motorcycles.

Then of course there is Noise Free America, which recently had this to say about the Sturgis motorcycle rally and South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds:

In reality, the Sturgis event is probably the largest concentration ever of lawbreakers. And Mike Rounds, the governor of South Dakota, gave aid and comfort to this massive lawbreaking.

Is it really that hard to understand? If noise of any kind is a problem, pass laws that limit the noise regardless of the source. And then enforce those laws. Quit singling out motorcycles. The sleeper whose slumber is disturbed doesn’t care what caused the noise, they just want the noise stopped. And that includes sleeping motorcyclists.