It is noise pollution season. Neurotics nationwide are blaming your bad motorcycle for their unhappy lives. It happens every summer. And, it wouldn’t be so bad except summer after summer more and more of the neurotics turn out to be politicians and cops.
A couple of recent stories from New England illustrate this dismal trend.
Cradle Of Liberty
Last month Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino signed a new city ordinance that basically outlaws aftermarket pipes. The law specifically outlaws motorcycles that are louder than 82 decibels at 45 miles an hour or that are ever louder than 86 decibels. Riding a bike louder than that wins you a $300 fine.
The new law was proposed by City Councilor Salvatore LaMattina who represents Boston’s priciest neighborhood, Beacon Hill. The average price of a home on Beacon Hill is $731 per square foot. A parking space on Beacon Hill recently sold for $250,000. Few bikers live there. Mostly, bikers only pass through.
`The $300 fine, LaMattina told the Boston Globe, is designed to punish bikers who replace their factory exhausts. “If you abide by EPA rules, you’re fine,” he told the Globe. “It’s the after-market [exhausts] we’re after. They’re the ones causing the problems.” He added that Boston’s top cops have assured him that they will enforce the new law.
Well, Isn’t It Your Car Alarm
A Beacon Hill resident named John Bowman told the Globe that motorcycles are “acoustic terrorism…. When they rev their engines, it’s loud enough to set off car alarms,” he said. “Any way to curb that behavior is a step in the right direction.”
Portsmouth, New Hampshire, about 40 miles north of Boston may have just taken the next step in that direction.
A local cop named Sergeant Darrin Sargent – yes, he really is Sergeant Sargent, just like Major Major in Catch 22 – thinks motorcycles “are a real nuisance.” Much as I, and possibly you, think cops are a real nuisance. Except we do not have a grant funded by our state with which we may pursue our prejudices. Sergeant Sargent does have such a grant.
Noise Compliance Checkpoints
In May, that state grant allowed cops from eight different police forces to hold a conference to explore innovative ways to harass motorcyclists about the noise of their bikes. The winning idea from that brain storming session became last Friday’s noise compliance checkpoint.
Every bike passing through downtown Portsmouth was stopped. Bikes that might have sounded too loud or that were ridden by someone who looked untrustworthy or suspicious or possibly too hairy to be a real American were directed to a separate area where the noise levels of their exhausts were checked by highly trained noise police.
No bikers were ticketed. Just harassed. “Today, it is really about education,” Sergeant Sargent said.
Yeah. Education. Who can argue with education? When does it get to be about freedom?