The Noise Nut of New Hampshire, a busybody named Bill Mitchell, was in the center of a puff journalism piece by Sarah Schweitzer in the Boston Globe last week. (Linked here.)
Schweitzer describes, “The inimitable engine roar of Harleys” as “increasingly despised. Critics say quality of life is under assault by motorcycles that blot out sidewalk cafe conversations and interrupt backyard reading.”
Schweitzer does accurately identify the cascading hysteria about motorcycle noise as a “cultural fight” and notices that this fight is going on in New Hampshire which may be the most interesting thing about it.
New Hampshire, as redneck Yankees know, is the most northern reach of Appalachia. It has one of the highest per capita rates of motorcycle registration in the country. And, the official state motto, as it has been since 1945, is “Live Free Or Die.”
Mitchell often calls himself NHCALM (linked here) which is an acronym for New Hampshire Citizens Against Loud Motorcycles. Mitchell has said he formed NHCALM because he was “annoyed by loud motorcycles roaring past his New Castle home.” He was sufficiently annoyed and prosperous to buy his local police department a decibel meter and to incorporate his “group.”
NHCALM appears to have eight members including the corporation’s attorney. According to the U.S. Census, last July New Hampshire had a population of 1,318,194.
Most of the public discussion over motorcycle noise is poisoned by statements like like this one in The Daily Decibel: “It is obvious why bikers make excessively loud noise: Because they can. And they do it all the time, scaring helpless children to death.” Mitchell describes motorcycle noise as a “serious breach of the peace.” And, he also has the leisure and disposable income to spend a significant amount of time lobbying state politicians.
His most recent victory was the passage of New Hampshire House Bill 1442 (linked here). The bill sets a maximum noise level for an idling two-cylinder motorcycle (which is probably what you ride) of 92 decibels at idle and 96 decibels at 2000 RPM. It is a bad and uninformed law. A properly tuned, fully warmed up Harley with an efficient exhaust usually produces between 93 and 96 decibels at idle. The limits of 92 and 96 decibels are not terrible, but they are numbers that another anti-motorcycle noise crusader Andy Ford of Maine Citizens Against Loud Motorcycles pulled out of a hat.
Mitchell’s goal was obviously to try to get the lowest possible number passed into law. He told a New Hampshire newspaper. “We have made some progress. We’ve dropped the decibels to 92 from 106. That’s significant. But it comes down to enforcement.”
That enforcement will be a windfall for an entrepreneur named Chris Real. Real is the author of a new standard for testing motorcycle noise called SAE J2825. The Aging Rebel discussed the new standard last January in “Motorcycle Noise And Money.”
Surprisingly, the New Hampshire Motorcyclists’ Rights Organization doesn’t object to the new law. Candi Alexander, President of the NHMRO, told the Globe “If we’re really trying to solve the problem we decided we have to look at it holistically. This is the best solution that we have.” She really said “holistically.” The Globe assumed that what Alexander meant by “the problem” was motorcycle noise. Not Bill Mitchell.
The Bill must pass the New Hampshire Senate and be signed by the Governor John Lynch before it becomes law.