April 1, 2010
Noise Free America
For immediate release
Albany: The Virginia General Assembly has won this month’s Noisy Dozen Award from Noise Free America for defeating legislation which would have imposed federal EPA standards to limit obnoxious motorcycle noise.
Larry Deal, a North Carolina resident, stated, “As a visitor who enjoys touring the beautiful Virginia countryside and its many historic attractions, I find my visit is often disturbed by the presence of incredibly loud motorcycles. Many of these motorcycles are equipped with straight pipes with no mufflers at all, and they have Virginia plates. How they can pass inspection and go unnoticed by law enforcement? There are laws prohibiting these exhaust systems and they are clearly not being enforced. The Virginia countryside is certainly beautiful, but often sounds like a drag strip.”
The bill would have required all motorcycles and motorcycle mufflers used on the roads of Virginia to be equipped with EPA labeled exhaust systems as required by federal regulations since 1982. Every motorcycle exhaust sold commercially in the USA must bear a readily visible and permanent EPA label according to these federal regulations. Enforcement only requires a visual inspection for the federally required label of compliance. This would have made it much easier for the state to identify and fine illegally equipped, and excessively noisy, motorcycles from the roads of Virginia.
Todd Koenings, a resident of Mount Vernon, Virginia, explained that “we hear virtually no noise within our home until the weather warms up and the loud motorcycles come out. We cannot hear street-legal motorcycles within our home, but it is common to have motorcycles that are two to four times as louder than normal roaring by every few minutes for hours on end on any given Saturday or Sunday afternoon. This noise can be clearly heard in any part of our home over any activity. The loud Harleys start at 5:00 am on weekdays and make the area sound like a drag strip during evenings.”
Koenings notes that these same motorcycles blast past the Mount Vernon Estate, under consideration as one of the USA’s first World Heritage Areas, and up on through the national park area.” Each of these illegal motorcycles can easily generate around 80 times as much air pollution as any SUV, and the Mount Vernon area already suffers from the worst air quality in the region.
A salesman at the nearby Cycle Sports was quoted by the Mount Vernon Gazette: “Most motorcycles come from the factory as quiet as a typical car, but the vast majority of motorcycle riders prefer their bikes to be much louder. So they are almost always modified in some way, such as swapping mufflers to install a slip-on exhaust.” The Fairfax Patriot Harley Davidson Dealership its performance modifications for many years: “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!”
The attitude of many loud motorcyclists is illustrated by “Ketchup,” a Harley owner who wrote to the Mount Vernon Gazette, stating, “I have modified the exhaust on both to make them much louder than a stock bike. I have always done this to the countless bikes I have owned over the years. You want me to alter my bike to suit your need and I say not only ‘no,’ but ‘hell no.’ If the noise of a motorcycle bothers you, move to another country. This is the United States last time I checked. Get over it. You try to take away our freedoms then maybe we will try to take away yours. Quit your crying and buy some ear plugs already.”
Enforcing the EPA regulations is not a costly proposition. No expensive sound meters are needed. No training and certification is needed. Meter-based enforcement has proven to be ineffective and inefficient, and is all too frequently beaten in court by loud bikers. Enforcing an equipment standard based on EPA regulations is a far superior enforcement option.
Due to increasing complaints about motorcycle noise, Denver, Anaheim, Boston, and Green Bay have already adopted the EPA regulations, and now Maine is considering doing so. This is the second time the Transportation Committee rejected adopting the EPA regulations. The “high costs” issue raised by opponents and the Virginia State Police is at best uninformed. Perhaps this was just an excuse to kill the legislation.
According to Ken Feith, a senior employee at the EPA noise control office, “The label on the exhaust system is stamped into the metal and will also be readily viewed as prescribed at 40 CFR Part 205.169. The absence of a label on an exhaust system is a violation of federal law and constitutes tampering as set-forth in section 205.162-2. State and local governments can adopt the federal provisions and enforce them. Exhaust system labeling is rather straightforward.”
Unfortunately, the Virginia General Assembly appears more interested in protecting the many motorcycling scofflaws and special interests than the citizens of Virginia. The Virginia General Assembly does not appear to be interested in the fact that loud motorcycles violate federal law and the clear intent of state law. The citizens of Virginia have a right to peace and quiet. The number of illegally equipped motorcycles has clearly gotten out of hand along with the accompanying noise. It is time for Virginia to take action.
Noise Free America is national 501(C)(3) organization which helps local communities mitigate noise pollution and provides guidance to state and federal agencies. Past “winners” of the Noisy Dozen award include the Fairfax Patriot Harley Davidson; Christiansburg, Virginia; Pulaski, Virginia; and Richmond, Virginia.