As a motorcyclist, I cringe whenever I see someone on a bike with loud aftermarket pipes crack down on the throttle in places where peace and quiet should be the norm.
Last Saturday, while taking a break at Mabry Mill, a rider on a Harley roared out of the parking lot and went up through the gears as the sound of an unmuffled exhaust rattled the windows of the restaurant and gift shop. Several visitors to the Mill area watched and shook their heads.
For a while, I had a set of aftermarket Rush mufflers on my Harley Super Glide. They were loud: Too loud. I took them off and went back to the stock mufflers. I’m sure my neighbors appreciated the move.
Yet friends who ride bikes argue that "loud pipes save lives" or that new laws that crack down on loud motorcycles are, somehow, infringing on their rights.
Both arguments lack statistical credibility. No scientific studies exist that prove loud motorcycle exhausts make motorists more aware of approaching bikes or that the loudness makes drivers of cars more attentive. If quiet motorcycles were so dangerous, Honda GoldWing riders would have the highest traffic accident rate among motorcyclists. In fact, the accident rate per capita involving GoldWings, the quietest motorcycle on the road, is among the lowest. The highest: Harley-Davidsons with aftermarket pipes.
Noise doesn’t make motorists more attentive. Car pull out in front of ambulances, fire trucks and police cars with lights and sirens on all the time.
Loud motorcycle pipes are, for the most part, obnoxious. They irritate people and spur governments to pass new laws to restrict loud pipes or ban motorcycles altogether. Denver and New York City now issue tickets with fines of $1,000 or more to motorcyclists who run aftermarket pipes that do not carry an EPA certification stamp that they meed federal noise and emission standards.
Since 1982, all motorcycles sold for road use in the U.S. must have an EPA certification sticker on the bike and a matching stamp, with the proper model number, on the muffler. Take that muffler off and you just broke federal law. If your dealer replaced the stock muffler with an aftermarket model, they also broke the law and could be fined several thousands of dollars.
The EPA certification law is one of the most ignored regulations in America but states and communities are now using it to enforce noise laws against motorcycles. If a cop stops you in either of those cities and your muffler does not have the EPA stamp that matches the label on the bike, you get a ticket. Laws in both Denver and New York City have survived court challenges.
Congress is considering using the law to ticket and fine loud motorcycles in National Parks, including the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Some motorcyclists cry "foul" and say such laws violate their rights but I have to disagree. My right to operate a loud motorcycle (or car) ends at another person’s ears. I have no right to generate noise that is offensive to my neighbors or Saturday diners at Mabry Mill. And I certainly don’t have the right
And I certainly don’t have the right to modify my motorcycle so that it violates federal laws on noise and emission laws. As someone who criticizes others for violating traffic regulations and other laws, I certainly cannot exempt myself from obeying the law simply because I might, or might not, want to ride a loud motorcycle.