News From The Noise Pollution Wars

December 21, 2011

All Posts, News

There was a small victory for bikers the other day in the increasingly unreasonable war on aftermarket motorcycle exhausts.

Rockingham County New Hampshire Superior Court Judge Kenneth McHugh ruled that towns in that state cannot impose their own noise standards on motorcycle exhausts. “If each town in New Hampshire had the authority to enact different noise emission ordinances, the state would be subject to a checkerboard pattern of laws,” McHugh wrote. “For example, a motorcyclist who complies with the state noise emission limit could be precluded from driving through a town because that town enacted a lower noise emission limit than the state.”

Judge McHugh made his ruling in a suit filed by Seacoast Harley Davidson in North Hampton against the town of North Hampton, New Hampshire. New Hampshire law limits motorcycle exhaust noise to 106 decibels. The town wanted to outlaw motorcycles that generate more than 80 decibels which is about the sound of a dial tone. The noise level inside a car in traffic is about 85 decibels. Lawn mowers generate about 107 decibels. Jackhammers make about 125 decibels of noise.


In the last decade, most efforts to purge motorcyclists from America have attempted to brand bikers as polluters. Enforcement has focused on levying draconian fines on V-Twin motorcycles with after market exhaust systems.

One rationale behind the campaign against after market exhausts is that American motorcyclists, as opposed to coal power plants in China, are the cause of North American air pollution. Another rationale is that Pythons and ThunderHeaders disturb the peace and quiet of America’s highways and streets.

Police departments usually embrace motorcycle noise ordinances because they give cops an excuse to stop, harass and punish bikers when there is no other reason to do so. In the North Hampton case the local police chief, a man named Brian Page, actually refused to enforce the noise ordinance because he thought it was “unconstitutional and unenforceable.”

NHCALM Is Disillusioned

Dozens of these laws have been proposed or enacted in the last few years in California, New York City, Denver, Boston, Maine and New Hampshire. In most cases the laws are lobbied for by small groups of citizens who seem to sincerely believe that they have been wronged because motorcyclists rode near their houses or passed them on the highway. Several of these groups incorporate the acronym CALM, for Citizens Against Loud Motorcycles, in their names.

In the North Hampton case, New Hampshire CALM opposed and was represented by an attorney in the lawsuit. In a statement earlier this year the group said:

“New Hampshire Citizens Against Loud Motorcycles (NHCALM) is a grassroots coalition of New Hampshire residents dedicated to bringing peace and quiet to our streets and neighborhoods by passing and enforcing state laws and local ordinances to assure that motorcycles run legally and quietly in New Hampshire. It is our position that the New Hampshire law regulating motorcycle noise emissions is unreasonable, allowing a maximum decibel emission of 106 dB, and the protocols for testing make reliable field enforcement nearly impossible…. NHCALM is initiating legal action to uphold the recently enacted North Hampton ordinance requiring motorcycles within the Town to adhere to EPA Muffler Labeling Requirements. This ordinance effectively reduces the maximum decibel level to 80 dB.”

New Hampshire CALM dropped out of the suit last May. Robert Shaines, the lawyer representing the group in the suit said NHCALM dropped out because it “gave up on the court system” and would continue to fight for unreasonable laws against motorcyclists in the New Hampshire state legislature.


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20 Responses to “News From The Noise Pollution Wars”

  1. thump Says:

    How the fuck can you even hear my pipes over your own whining?

  2. Glenn S. Says:

    Re, LPSL: If something is loud enough to mobilize a certain segment of the population into petitioning the control freaks for redress, it is loud enough to motivate THAT SAME SEGMENT of the population into wondering what the sound is, tearing themselves away from the cell phone for a second for a look-see, and, seeing it’s a motorcycle, making some degree of effort to avoid hitting the motorcycle with the entitlement-mobile they are driving. At least, IMHO, that’s a reasonable assumtion. I’m sure someone can come up with statistics or a biased study that suggests otherwise, but I’ll stick with what my own experience has taught me. But I will also continue to avoid venues with sidewalk cafes, gated communities, and other places that the overly sensitive and overly fearful tend to congragate. There’s nothing I want there and nothing I’ve lost there.

    Abraham, I miss Greenville when it was The Textile Center of the World and a round the clock town. I used to love the bars on Cedar Lane and White Horse Roads, back in my wilder days. The best thing in downtown Greenville was the Amvets Club, but its been closed for years.

  3. YYZ Skinhead Says:

    I was thinking the same thing–loud bike exhaust is bad, and a thousand-ton ShitUrineVomit blasting 4000 dB “music” that I can feel 50 feet away and that rattles all my (closed) windows, is perfectly cool.

    YYZ Skinhead

  4. Junior Says:

    In law, where there is no violation of an established right there can be no wrong.

    So, are motorcycles being singled out or have all things that emit noise above 106dB been “outlawed”?

  5. Junior Says:

    Couldn’t have said it better myself.

    Advocate wrote:
    the more you guys show off your loud pipes and make excuses for violating the law, the more you tic off the public who does want want to be assaulted by your loud, illegal, non-EPA compliant pipes.

    I am a member of the “public” and loud motorcycle pipes do not bother me.

    Advocate wrote: The law is on the side of those citizens and…

    Advocate, you claim to be a “citizen” and I think you probably are correct in making such a claim. Citizenship is a concept. The word “citizen” was created by combining “city” and “denizen”. We all know what a city is, but do you know what a denizen is??? I suggest that all who make a claim of being something, truly understand what you are claiming and understand all implications of making that claim…Are you the subject of another? If you are, is it because you choose to be? Who are you a subject of??? I try not to be a “subject” of anyone/anything else but I am not foolish enough to sit here and tell you that I am not “subjected” to the will/desires of others, but I will tell you that in the areas of my life where I am “subject to another” it is by my own free-will and by my own choice that I am “subjected” to another. Advocate, Do more homework. Then maybe you will begin to understand how a victimless crime like having 107dB pipes is an oxy-moron in a Constitutional Republic but very possible in a democracy.

  6. DirtyBruin Says:

    advocateofquiet: When they start properly prosecuting cagers who run down and maim or kill bikers, we can talk about loud pipes. Until then – go piss up a rope.

    I personally think a lifetime ban on driving a vehicle with a GVW over 1000 pounds for someone who runs down and kills a biker is a proper place to start the sentencing, to which fines and jail time would be added.

  7. Junior Says:

    advocateofquiet wrote: Not only is this a free country, it is a country under the rule of law and not an anarchy. Loud pipes are illegal.

    The passing of a statute by a legislature does not a law make. Legislatures pass void and unlawful statutes all the time, for example you cant put a horse in a bath tub in South Carolina. No LE agency enforces this because it is widely known and accepted that it is an unlawful statute. Learn the difference between what’s legal and what’s lawful. Who/what is the corpus delicti in a “pipes are too loud” case?


  8. Rebel Says:

    Dear advocateofquiet,

    You are an ideologue and your motives for trying to boss people around seem to be completely unexamined. You cannot even begin to comprehend what you do not know. You just assume that people who have responded to you in a very reasonable way know less about riding a motorcycle than you do. You are fatuous, overbearing and condescending.

    I don’t know how anybody can stand you. No wonder you have to pursue this bogus and unreasonable cause to give meaning to your life. “More government! More police power! The policemen are our friends! I’ll make my friend the policeman tell you what to do!”

    If you want a cause, why don’t you go feed the homeless poor?


  9. sled tramp Says:

    Go polish yer badge and find somethin’ else to bitch about cager…

  10. Abraham Iker Says:

    Advocate, I agree that reving engines unneccesarliy can be a nuisance, but it is only illegal in a few locations. I understand you are trying to change that. I don’t have a problem with just riding with loup pipes and using them for safety. I disagree with the other statement. It is certainly not an assault. Also, can you prove that the LPSL arguement is nonsense, or is that just your opinion? Further, if you have proof, could that be encouragement to increase the volumn of the pipes to a level that does save lives? Do loud pipes ever cost life? Have you ever operated a motorcycle?

    Glenn S., I avoid downtown Greenville for many reasons other than their general shun of bikers. The same goes for downtown Spartanburg. You will often find a like of bikes in downtown Easley, usually in front of Michael’s Pizza. Other than feeling very welcome there, They can’t exactly complain when we are parked next to active railroad tracks that cause alot more noise.

  11. Glenn S. Says:

    Fortunately, I live south of the Smith and Wesson line, where every now and then, the politicians get it right. Down here, we don’t characterize an annoyance as an “assault”. So I am probably not breaking the law unless I enter the city of Myrtle Beach (which I never do–I won’t spend my money where its not welcome) or downtown Greenville (same thing).

    The problem, in this so-called free country, is that the politicians pass laws not aimed at what is being done but at who is doing it and who doesn’t like it. The reason bikers are being fined for loud pipes in downtown Greenville is that the yuppies have complained about both the loud pipes and the very presence of bikers, who frighten them with our mere presence. You see, the yuppies moved into trendy condos in the newly revitalized central business district (which made the transition from wasteland to economic magnet partly because of the nightlife)and decided they wanted the rules changed to suit them. The fact that the suck-ass city council and the po-lice accomodated them doesn’t give “the law” some high minded moral purpose. Instead it breeds contempt for the law and the process of lawmaking.

    As far as the motorcycle safety course not stating the obvious–if people can’t see you but can hear you they might not hit you with their miniature tank or short bus–they didn’t bother to say that one should not ride their motorcycle off a cliff either.

  12. advocateofquiet Says:

    No gentlemen, you do not have the right to do anything you please when there are laws against it. Not only is this a free country, it is a country under the rule of law and not an anarchy. Loud pipes are illegal. That’s the law you are openly admitting to be in violation of. There is no excuse for violating the law either. Your LPSL excuse is just nonsense. Tell me, Glen, did that motorcycle safety course list loud pipes as a recommended motorcycle safety measure? No, because they know better and by making such a ridiculous recommendation they would be recommending that you violate the law and make a public nuisance of yourself. That would be irresponsible, wouldn’t it?

    As I said before, the more you guys show off your loud pipes and make excuses for violating the law, the more you tic off the public who does want want to be assaulted by your loud, illegal, non-EPA compliant pipes. The law is on the side of those citizens and they want the law to be complied with by you bikers. The only thing unfair here is that the law has not being enforced strongly enough. Thanks to you and your defiant stance against the enforcement of the law, that is going to change. That change is already taking place.

  13. Glenn S. Says:

    advocate, when I got my first motorcycle, I quickly noticed that automobile and SUV drivers really weren’t paying attention to the extent needed to see me on my bike. Often, they’d cut in front of me in traffic, rarely signalling, and would usually have a cell phone growing out the side of their heads. Sometimes, they’d be eating, applying makeup, or doing something other than focusing on the road and those of us they share it with. Disportunately, the offenders were soccar mom types, the demographic that the politicians are afraid to critisize or restrict with yet another Tough New Law.

    Then I replaced the stock mufflers on my bike with louder, aftermarket pipes and the frequency of near misses decreased noticably. The logical conclusion: The idiots aren’t seeing me but they can damn sure hear me with my loud pipes. Thass a good thing. Might save my life, and my life is far more important to me than some yuppie being briefly annoyed.

    A friend of mine was recently fined a whole fucking grand because his pipes were too loud. It occured to me that when some dumbass runs a stop sign and hits a biker, their fine is less than half that. It also occurs to me that when a car hits a biker, the biker could end up dead and the driver of the car is merely inconvienced by having to have a tiny portion of his car repainted. My personal opinion is that people who don’t ride motorcycles have no right to make the rules for people who do, especially when the only thing at stake is minor annoyance. Someone’s screming child is no quieter than a motorcycle, and just as itrritating, but you don’t see people suggesting that they be banned from public spaces.

    When I started riding, I took the motorcycle safety course at Greenville (SC) Technical College. There, I learned that the #1 cause of motorcycle accidents is “driver of enclosed vehicle failing to yield right-of-way.” The problem then is not careless bikers but careless cage drivers. You think that SUV’s gonna drive itself while you talk on the telephone. And, in writing the laws, the politicians don’t care about the what but the who. Lowest man on polite society’s totem pole (bikers) gets the restrictive laws while others (yuppies, traditional moms, busybodies like yourself) get their pet anoyances officially forbidden regardless of logic and fairness.

  14. Chief Says:

    That’s your opinion, advocate, and you are definitely entitled. What you don’t see, however, is that this sets precedent within the legal system and since we are a “free society” for the moment, legal precedent does still carry a little weight in the court system. I, for one, do not run loud pipes but I think that people are still allowed under the constitution to have the right to be loud and obnoxious just as you have the right to be angry about it. No law has been broken. I get pissed about the guy who runs his mower at 0730 but I’m not about to go and try to make it illegal for him to do so. I’d rather go speak to him, face-to-face, and deal with it like men rather than a child tattling to his teacher.

  15. advocateofquiet Says:

    This “victory” is only one small battle in the campaign to end excessive and unlawful motorcycle noise. In the end, the noise war will be lost by those who ride loud. The loud after market pipes the defenders of “bikers rights to be loud and to hell with the law” are at the very center of this chronic noise pollution problem. They will be dealt with along with their noisy and defiant customers.

    Go ahead, loud bikers, twist that throttle, show off your Pythons and Thunder-Headers, raise that finger of defiance, ignore the law, brag about it and loudly claim that it is your “right”. It is you who has brought the wrath of the public down on you. It is you who created the CALMS. When the day comes when your loud pipes are finally muted you will only have yourselves to blame, and thanks to you, that day is rapidly approaching.

  16. Glenn S. Says:

    But these are the same people that projectile whine if anyone suggests they should drive their cars, rather than apply makeup, supervise children, and talk on their cell phones while changing lanes ten times in a quarter mile without signaling.

  17. rollinnorth Says:

    NH CALM also tried to get this into Federal court, where the Magistrate Judge not only dismissed their claim, but also ordered them to pay Seacoast Harley’s legal fees.


  18. common_call Says:

    There’s actually a pod cast I heard not to long ago, it was done by Adam Carrolla. Basically he bashes the whole motorcycle riding community, calling us and I quote “Posers” for riding motorcycles with after market exhaust. He also goes on to say that real men now a days ride sport bikes(or something to the point of that). And if we want to be cool to go “carve up a canyon” whatever that means(As I’m sure Mr. Carrolla is well in tuned in sport bike lingo) . I’ll see if I could find the link and post it up.

  19. tribal Says:

    yeah those street cleaners and trash trucks must be over a 100 decibels too

  20. Chief Says:


    Any victory is worth the effort, especially when dealing with small-minded “I’m entitled” people. These are the same jackasses that start running their mowers(107 Db) at 0730 on a Saturday when people like me who have to get up at the ass-crack o’ dawn during the week would like to sleep in a little. I remember when people had respect for their neighbors and it sucks to realize that those days are long gone.

    Keep livin’ the dream even though some days it’s a friggin’ nightmare,


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