February 1, 2009
Noise Free America
For immediate release
Madison: The “Concerned Citizens for Motorcycle Safety,” an umbrella organization of motorcycle clubs in New York City, has won this month’s Noisy Dozen award for lobbying against passage of a municipal ordinance aimed at reducing motorcycle noise. These motorcycle riders seem more interested in preserving their “right” to make thunderous noise than in the peace and welfare of their fellow citizens.
Motorcycle noise levels have become oppressive, producing sound of 119 decibels when throttled up. This is equivalent in intensity to a loud rock concert or a chainsaw. Exposure at 100 decibels is safe for only 15 minutes and permanent hearing loss can occur with a prolonged level of 85 decibels or higher, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
The federal Noise Control Act of 1972 requires all motorcycles to bear a stamp from the manufacturer certifying that they satisfy state and federal laws limiting noise to 80 decibels (similar to the sound of an alarm clock or vacuum cleaner). New York City Councilman Alan Gerson, who represents Lower Manhattan has introduced legislation that would empower New York City police to give a ticket to the drivers of motorcycles that are missing the factory stamp–in other words, motorcycles with excessively noisy or illegally modified pipes.
Gerson states that instead of chasing noisy motorcycles, the police could simply look for the stamp on a parked motorcycle. Noting that motorcycle noise is a leading complaint from his constituents, Gerson said, “We’re not talking about street noise. We’re talking about noise that reaches into apartments, bedrooms, living rooms, places where people live. It’s so loud that it’s like a physical assault. It’s jarring,” he said–especially in warm weather.
Of course, the “Concerned Citizens for Motorcycle Safety” has fought to scuttle the legislation, citing the old canard that “loud pipes save lives.” Ellen Patterson, the group’s “research coordinator,” argues that “stock pipes at 80 decibels or less are potentially life-threatening to all motorcyclists, as well as the general vehicular driving public–who have the modern distractions of GPS systems, louder music systems, and Blackberry texting–who often don’t hear or see cyclists. Pipes with 80 decibels are not made to compete with the everyday urban sounds of New York City. In fact, modern automobiles are being constructed to be near soundproof. How can anyone hear cyclists on the road?”
Councilman Gerson notes that the noise from a legal, unmodified exhaust system is more than adequate to warn motorists that a motorcycle is nearby. Indeed, even the American Motorcycle Association agrees, adopting the slogan “Loud Pipes Risk Rights.”
Ted Rueter, Noise Free America’s director, stated that “there is not a shred of scientific evidence to support the idea that motorcycle noise equals safety. Loud pipes ruin lives–the lives of people who have this thunder imposed on them. The keys to motorcycle safety are protective gear, defensive driving, and motorcycle-specific road improvements. Many motorcyclists are simply making noise for the purpose of making noise. We can’t solve America’s extreme noise problem by encouraging people to make even more noise, all in the name of ‘safety.'”
Noise Free America is a national 501c3 citizens organization opposed to noise pollution. Past “winners” of the Noisy Dozen award include Pioneer Electronics, Circuit City, and Governor Jesse Ventura.