by Don Scott

St. Helena Star

November 10, 2014

I applaud the city of St. Helena for conducting a citizen survey of police priorities. Given the extreme amounts of noise from loud motorcycles, this deserves to be a priority.

I should explain that I don’t live in St. Helena; I reside off St. Helena Highway near Calistoga. An issue that affects me, and many other people who live in the upper Napa Valley, is noise from motorcycles. Hundreds of them are riding in the area on any weekend when weather permits, and there are many riding here at other times. The noise is mainly from Harleys, which have had their stock exhaust system replaced with either straight pipes (no muffler at all), or with aftermarket nonlegal exhaust systems. The bikes I hear are either coming from St. Helena or heading that way.

Those who live here are proud of the beauty of the area. But beauty is not just visual; it can be ruined by noise. Since Napa Valley is narrow, loud noise is even more damaging since it travels up the nearby hillsides. In both St. Helena and Calistoga, the noise of the loud bikes in the business districts is especially noxious, as it reverberates due to the canyon effect of the taller commercial buildings.

Another aspect of allowing the noise to continue, is that it sends a message that law and order are not present. The psychology is similar to allowing graffiti and damaged buildings to not be cleaned up; there is a negative psychological effect that brings on crime and more deterioration of a city.

Since St. Helena is seeking input on police priorities, I would like to suggest that the police cite the motorcycles that are making all the noise. Of course, given the large numbers of these bikes, it is not going to be possible to cite them all. But citing some of them would send a message that the noise is not welcome here. And citing the bikes in St. Helena would benefit not just those who live in town, but those who live nearby.

I have asked the city officials, elected representatives and police in Calistoga to consider addressing this problem. They have told me: it is not a priority; they are too busy; they lack resources; and that it is a “lifestyle issue.” Reality is that bikers may spend a few dollars, so there is fear that citations might affect some merchants. St. Helena residents and city officials appear less beholden to commercial interests, which makes me hopeful that there is courage in your city to address this problem.

Don Scott