A dangerous precedent has been set in Canada where a resident is suing his local council, police and a motorcycle group over excessive motorcycle exhaust noise.
A 70-year-old Canadian has filed an $850,000 lawsuit in Edmonton’s Court of Queen’s Bench naming the city of Fort Saskatchewan, the local Mounties’ detachment and the Fort Saskatchewan Motorcycle Association, among others, as defendants. Richard Jones says the peace and quiet of his Zen Buddhist backyard sanctum has been destroyed by weekend warriors on motorcycles with load exhaust pipes. “The cretins are totally destroying what this town used to be,” he says.
The issue of loud motorcycle exhaust pipes has been bubbling away in several Canadian municipalities in recent months and has governments cracking down on loud motorcycles and cars.
If he wins, it could set a dangerous precedent, not just in Canada, but many other countries. It could cause lawmakers to create tougher noise restrictions, encourage police to crackdown on current restrictions and send motorcycle groups to the wall.
In fact, rather than the community softening to loud motorcycle exhausts, the advent of quiet electric motorcycles may actually make more people ask why bikes need to be so loud and could lead to even tougher noise restrictions in future.
While many motorcycle riders will loudly shout that “Loud pipes save lives”, the claim could fall on deaf ears as there are no studies that definitively support that theory. In fact, some studies suggest loud pipes make riders more aggressive, cause other motorists to react irrationally and do not make riders any more conspicuous.
The authoritative Hurt Report actually found that bikes with modified exhausts were overrepresented in crashes and that large, quiet touring bikes such as Gold Wings were underrepresented. About the only supportive arguments for loud pipes are anecdotal.
Noise limits vary in each country, but all factory supplied motorcycle exhausts for road use are legal. If you change the muffler, you will need to consult with your local noise regulations to ensure that the pipe is legal.
However, that is not the end of it, as the packing inside a muffler can deteriorate over time causing the pipe to get louder. Just having a sticker or stamp on the exhaust to say it complies will not save you from a fine if a police officer or transport department inspector has a noise meter.
Actually what usually happens is they will issue a show-cause notice as the roadside test may not be sufficient to issue a ticket. Instead, you will be summoned to take your bike to a transport department facility for a proper noise test. If you fail, you will not only pay a fine, but have to present the bike again with a compliant muffler fitted before the bike is deemed legal.
Is it worth it for all our sakes?
I’ve only changed the muffler on a couple of bikes I’ve owned. While I love the sound of a deep note from an exhaust, I hate raspy exhausts and I find loud, droning pipes give me a headache on a long trip.
However, on many occasions I’ve been given a demo bike to ride by the motorcycle companies who have fitted aftermarket motorcycle exhausts in an attempt to please journalists. Some of them are illegal and even have warnings imprinted on them such as “Off-road use only”. I once rejected a test bike because of this, but it was excessively loud and my licence was short on points.
But if I ever have a bike to test which has an illegal pipe and I choose to take my chances with the law, I modify my riding behaviour. For a start, I don’t blip the throttle or encourage the bike to make loud noises when passing through urban areas (except maybe tunnels!). Out in the country, I’m also careful not to fire it up when passing livestock as it can frighten them.
If we all modify our behaviour just a little, we might still get away with it a little longer … before the noise/fun police and the electric motorcycle industry destroy all our fun.