Time running out for noisy exhausts

noise noisy exh plate machismo

The end appears to be coming for noisy motorcycle exhausts as noise detection devices are being trialled in the UK and Paris while Australian authorities monitor the trials.

Both the UK Department of Transport and French noise pollution agency Bruitparif are trialling devices that detect the noise, identify the culprit, take a photo and can even automatically issue a fine.

While they are set up to detect any noisy vehicles, the Parisienne devices are specifically targeting motorcycles with one set up in Saint-Forget, a hilly rural area near Paris popular with riders.

These “noise cameras” or “noise radars” are still under trial and no fines have been issued fines yet, but it may not be long before they are being used in Australia and other countries.

In India, police take a less technical approach with a subjective assessment followed by smashing the offending exhaust pipe on the roadside.If you think the cops are tough on noisy aftermarket exhausts here, try India where they hammer them flat by the roadside, or confiscated them and flattened them with a backhoe.

In June, they made an example of their crackdown by steam rolling confiscated pipes.

Noisy trials

When the UK trial was announced in June, we contacted police and road authorities in each state to gauge their interest in the noise cameras.

We received mainly non-committal replies saying they monitor the development and introduction of all traffic enforcement technologies around the world.

WA Police were the only ones to admit they were actively monitoring the UK prototype noise cameras and said they would “seek information on its operational effectiveness”.

Queensland Transport and Main Roads say they have trialled other equipment but only to detect noise levels of heavy vehicles.

“Although the technology can potentially be used for detecting noisy, modified or defective exhausts in light vehicles and/or motorcycles there is currently no plan to extend the trials or legislation to include those vehicles in Queensland,” a spokesperson told us.

How the systems work

noise cameras
UK Department of Transport drawing

The UK DoT could not supply us with any images of the camera or details of how they work, but they did provide this tiny drawing showing a camera pointed at an oncoming car.

Surely the camera should be behind the vehicle!

They say the camera function will identify the type of vehicle and its legal sound level (decibels or dB) to assess whether to apply an infringement.

In Europe, motorcycles have maximum noise levels of 73-77dB, depending on engine size, while cars are about 82dB.

Australia has much more lax levels of 94dB level for motorcycles (100dB if built before 1984) while it’s 90dB for cars (96dB before 1983).

But since the requirements for testing noise levels are so complex and prone to inaccuracies, we wonder about the accuracy of a device positioned up a light pole.Noisy cameras noise exhaustNoisy cameras noise exhaust

However, French noise pollution agency Bruitparif says their device is very accurate.

It has four microphones that measure decibel levels every 10th of a second and triangulates the source of the sound.

The device displays a picture of an “acoustic wake” as a trace of coloured dots trailing a vehicle.

18 Comments

  1. I can think of a couple of occasions when not riding but rather driving my car and approaching an intersection, I looked left and right and thought it clear and was about to go when I heard the exhaust note and propped – and then watched a motorcycle go past. I had missed the relatively small visual footprint that almost all motorcycles posses within a visually complex road environment and yet I’m ‘attuned’ to motorcycles whereas many aren’t. My experiences were a case of managing to have avoided a typical SMIDSY situation purely and simply because having missed the visual clue, I heard and recognised the sound of an approaching motorcycle exhaust note. loud pipes most certainly do have the potential to save lives and those suggesting otherwise are bloody well WRONG. Now if it were the case that every second motor vehicle going by any location was a loud motorcycle, then yes, I could accept a noise argument – but when it’s a case of a class of a relatively vulnerable road user (based on potential for injury outcome) like motorcycles, being able to produce a ‘fruity’ exhaust note on a substantially limited basis (given the very low saturation level of motorcycles within normal traffic flows) in order to improve their safety profile within the road environment, my view is that a motorcyclist’s life is worth a lot more than a moment of ‘discomfort’ for some noise objector somewhere.

  2. I remember as children we would fix a discarded cigarette packet on the frame of our push bikes allowing it to rattle on contact with the spokes and thus creating a noise that would attract attention and make us feel important.
    When we were children we thought as children,thankfully now most of us has grown up !

  3. There are so many issues with this proposal that I think ‘The Donald’ would classify it as fake news. It could not possibly work as it would be constantly challenged. As for electric bikes, they may be the future but very problematic for lane filtering. That’s when a nice set of Vance + Hines pipes comes in handy for encouraging drivers to clear a path.

  4. In Germany greetings for having a ‘nice journey’ can be translated to ‘Gut Fart’.
    “Sorry ossifer I wasn’t exceeding the decibel limit, just having a Gut Fart on my bike.”
    Sauerkraut for lunch, phew.

  5. When I think of the coming of electric vehicles with only a bit of road/tyre noise and possibly a bit reduction gear whine to signal their arrival or departure – basically in complete silence, I wonder if electrics will be too quiet and be made to create some artificial ‘noise’. In the meanwhile I’ll continue to thoroughly enjoy the ‘music’ from the (stock standard) mufflers on my 1972 Norton Commando – all 110 dB of it.

    1. This right here is just one of the problems.
      How are you supposed to abide by the law and calibration of these things if your bike is stock and from a time where the exhausts were legally louder.
      Does this mean you will end up in court everytime or will these systems run your plate through the database and then go to a factory manual to determine if your bike is legal?
      We already know it’ll be a court case at your expense.

  6. This is already a flawed system.
    Every bike is tested differently in regards to Db levels.
    A certain RPM is used so when someone is say, right at a 10k rpm red line compared to the 4k rpm the bike is tested at then that is a false reading. The tests are also done on an unloaded engine at a standstill within specific parameters. This system will be testing bikes that are under load, at an unknown RPM, that may be accelerating, decelerating or cruising.
    Weather can also play a part in this especially temperature.
    This system leaves a lot of issues and questions in play that cannot be eliminated. Like what if there is a group of bikes going past one of these sensors and only one bike is loud or they make a combined noise greater than is allowed. Are all the riders issued a fine in this instance?
    This system will also cause issues for those on older bikes that do not need to meet the current noise regulations, not to mention restrict manufacturers and undoubtedly owners of brand new off the showroom floor bikes.
    You can’t say a system like this isn’t flawed given all my points.

  7. A measuring device that has questions over its accuracy? OK. I’ll see you in court…

    With all the CCTV, speed cameras, and now this development, what sane individual would live in England?

  8. About time something was done about the cretins that perform “bafflectomies”.
    I live in an area popular with bike riders and every weekend these clowns ride through with loud farting exhausts. Loud pipes DO NOT SAVE LIVES they spoil the environment for others and make your bike less efficient.
    I have been riding bikes for 60+ years and love motorcycles and all that involves except for excessively loud exhaust noise.

    1. Loud pipes save lives has neither been proven or disproved. Spoil the environment, maybe.
      Make the bike less efficient, only if you don’t have the bike tuned for the now lesser back pressure.
      I don’t mind loud exhausts as long as they aren’t obnoxious. Some exhausts have a deeper tone and are less invasive to those of a higher tone.
      It’s the higher tones that are more an issue.
      Now I like my bike how it is which is only slightly louder than stock and I like my mates bikes which are not legal. The difference is I prefer my quieter exhaust over theirs, why, because my bike is for my enjoyment and I’m not there to pss off every one around me. In saying that my mates keep their bikes low in the revs through town and whenever we see kids or elderly they go into 5th to get the noise right down. We respect everyone around us and we don’t want to cause issues. It’s those who don’t care who are the issue.

  9. About time …… you really know you have made it in this world when your db has a greater number than the hp of your bike …

      1. Isn’t that most bikes?
        My 650 V Star makes less power than it does decibels. Makes just under 40hp but is rated at 88 decibels out of the factory.

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