Maine Citizens Against Loud Motorcycles
A grassroots coalition of Maine residents dedicated to bringing peace & quiet to our streets & neighborhoods by passing & enforcing state laws & local ordinances to assure that motorcycles run legally
and quietly in Maine.
M E C A L M
©Maine Citizens Against Loud Motorcylces
Kennebunkport, Maine hopes bikers will voluntarily heed signs like this one posted on Rt 9. (May 2010 photo)
MAINE LEGISLATURE PASSES & GOVERNOR SIGNS LD 477 TO SEND LOUD BIKES FOR SOUND METER TESTING
For the third time in two years, the Maine House and Senate have passed a major piece of bipartisan legislation aimed at curbing the obnoxious noise created by loud motorcycles. Gov. Paul LePage signed LD 477 into law on May 26, 2011. While drafting the measure members of both parties on the Transportation Committee expressed disgust and impatience with the ongoing scourge of loud bikes, one rep likening it to "terrorism." Several members said they've received more citizen complaints about loud bikes than any other issue. To underscore the urgency of quick action, the committee made LD 477 an emergency measure that can take effect immediately and possibly bring some peace and app for trading binary options quiet during the 2011 riding season.
For the first time, LD 477 introduces sound meter testing in Maine for loud bikes. The current law (LD 1642, passed in 2010) leaves the issue of whether a bike is too loud up to the discretion of a patrol officer. The new law gives the ticketed operator the option of going to a certified inspection station to have the bike's exhaust noise checked by a sound meter -- a fair and objective test.
Many bikers had expressed outrage at the 2010 law, which defined what's too loud as exhaust noise that is "noticeably louder than similar vehicles in the environment" or louder than the sound made by the original manufacturer's exhaust. Some bikers felt it was unfair to rely on such a subjective standard, essentially an officer's opinion. Some towns, notably Waterville, began enforcing that law in 2010 and people in communities across the state reported some reduction in motorcycle noise last summer as riders afraid of getting ticketed modified their behavior. Even a biker with an illegally loud exhaust can greatly reduce the noise created by riding more carefully and courteously.
LD 477 creates an affirmative defense for bikers. Police can still issue tickets based on their opinion, relying on their experience and common sense. But if the accused believes the ticket is unfair or incorrect, they now have the option of going to an inspection station and having the bike's noise level tested. If it passes the test,
presumably the courts will dismiss the ticket. Operators of cars and trucks stopped for loud noise in Maine have had this option for years, and now the same defense will be extended to motorcycles if LD 477 becomes law.
MECALM believes the new law should give police departments in Maine confidence that they can write motorcycle noise tickets with greater confidence they will stand up in court, and that judges can easily understand the clarity and fairness of decibel tests. It will no longer be just a question of the officer's opinion. Any biker who feels a noise citation is unfair can bring the decibel test results into court. If a biker challenges a ticket in court without having gone for the noise test -- most likely out of fear the muffler would flunk -- a judge is justified in sustaining the ticket.
VISIBLE INSPECTION STICKERS REQUIRED ON BIKES IN 2012
In 2010 the legislature passed a bill (LD 1675) that will require motorcycles to begin displaying visible inspection stickers on the rear starting in January 2012. Members of the Transportation Committee were disturbed to learn that up to 42% of Maine's nearly 50,000 registered motorcycles go uninspected each year -- presumably because the chances of being caught are so low. A bike with loud "straight" or "drag" pipes cannot legally pass inspection in Maine. Nor can exhausts designed for racing use and clearly stamped "for off-road use only." Yet thousands of Maine motorcycles carry this illegal equipment, accounting for the vast majority of the high decibel noise that shatters the peace in homes and communities across Maine.
The 2010 inspection sticker law also created a broad-based task force under the Maine state police to study solutions to the motorcycle noise problem. The panel -- including state and local police, MECALM, and motorcycle rider groups -- worked throughout 2010 and endorsed the J2825 decibel test developed by the Society for Automotive Engineers (SAE) with funding from the motorcycle industry. That test is the one inspection stations will use on loud bikes under LD 477. To pass, a typical bike exhaust must not exceed 92 decibels at idle. SAE says that's equivalent to the noise a new bike makes when it rolls off the assembly line with a legal exhaust that meets federal noise standards.
MECALM is heartened and encouraged by the ongoing support the Maine legislature has shown for curbing motorcycle noise. Among all states, Maine is the leader in efforts to quiet motorcycles. However, there is a glaring loophole in both the inspection and decibel testing laws -- the ease in swapping out a motorcycle's muffler. Unlike cars and trucks, motorcycle exhausts can be installed and removed in minutes, making it simple for an operator to put on the original legal exhaust for inspection or a decibel test, then immediately switch back to illegal straight pipes. MECALM will work in the future to find a practical and effective way to close this loophole.
LEGISLATURE REJECTS EPA LABELS, CONFISCATION OF STRAIGHT PIPES
In crafting LD 477 on its own, the Transportation Committee rejected several other approaches. One would have required EPA matching labels on motorcycle mufflers. The noise task force had rejected that idea, and Maine State Police Lt. Brian Scott, who chaired the task force, told the committee those labels are either missing or hard to locate on many mufflers, making it an impractical enforcement tool. Another rejected bill would have allowed police to confiscate straight pipes and another -- strongly opposed by MECALM -- would have exempted motorcycles from inspection altogether.
MECALM's own research on several dozen new motorcycles has confirmed that the EPA labels are either missing entirely or nearly impossible to find. MECALM still believes the labels could become part of the solution in the future, perhaps following the example of California, which will require them only on new bikes starting in the 2013 model year. California is such a huge state that manufacturers may now begin to make the EPA labels plainly visible -- as required by widely-ignored federal regulation -- and makers of after-market mufflers will have an incentive to produce more EPA-compliant exhausts. MECALM also believes that, while it's not fair to penalize a biker for the absence of a label that was never there in the first place, the presence of an EPA label could be an affirmative defense against a noise ticket, presuming the muffler is not illegally altered by removing baffles.
Practical Tips for Local Enforcement
DON'T DESPAIR: LOCAL ACTION CAN BE EFFECTIVE
Sadly, many people assaulted by loud bikes believe nothing can be done about it. Wrong! On our Perspectives page, you can read how one MECALM activist has succeeded in getting town officials and police in her local community to pay serious attention to the plague of motoryclce noise. Claire Unsinn gives practical nuts-and-bolts ideas that people in any town can use to bring relief to their streets and neighborhoods.
While success is possible, she says, "Being an activist for freedom from the abuse of motorcycle noise calls for hard work, patience, perseverance, self-education, and courage. Change can be slow and you may get discouraged, but donít give up!"