The sound of a motorcycle passing through a neighbourhood is fleeting, says the president of a local riding group.
“What about a leaf blower or when your neighbour mows his lawn for an hour,” questions Ian McLeod from the West Kootenay Road Runners. “I just don’t see where people are coming from targeting motorcycles – is there no other loud noises at any other time?”
McLeod was referring to recent actions by a group of residents from Kaslo to Nakusp that he says single out those who like to hit the road on their iron horse.
“What about the semis going by your house on the highway, or diesel trucks pulling trailers,” McLeod queried. “Diesel trucks starting up are as loud or louder than some bikes. I mean you are right on the road, I just don’t get it.”
Fed up with loud motorcycles passing through their communities, a petition circulated through the West Kootenay region asking local governments to lobby the province to enforce or tighten existing noise laws.
The document garnered 4,300 signatures before NDP MLA Katrine Conroy brought it to Transport Minister Todd Stone’s attention during a presentation in legislature last year.
Then last week, the Regional District of Central Kootenay board listened to a delegation of petitioners and agreed to contact the B.C. Minister of Justice (Suzanne Anton) about the need to enforce existing noise laws written in the Motor Vehicle Act.
The regional board supported the request and went a step further by agreeing to ask the Association of Kootenay and Boundary Local Governments (AKBLG) to also write a letter to the minister.
McLeod contends that decision could come back to bite those small communities because riders bring in plenty of tourism dollars and raise considerable money for local charities during runs through those areas.
“As president of the West Kootenay Road Runners, I would recommend to my riding group, if they are going to start going after us as motorcycles riders,” he began. “Then I would suggest we just stay away from those communities and not support them.”
Besides bike runs for charity, McLeod’s group often gathers on the weekend for a ride through the valley, trying out different restaurants, as well as stopping for gas and other incidentals.
“Ninety per cent of our runs are for charity,” he continued. “Weekends we might go out 20 at a time, and when we stop, we spend $50 to $100 in those communities,” he added. “It all trickles down, so this could hurt those small businesses and charities.”
Another factor to consider, McLeod points out, is the Kootenay Loop is rated as one of the best motorcycle rides in North America by popular magazines like Cycle World, Iron Horse and RoadRUNNER.
“Why I am upset is they are putting us all in the same boat,” he explained. “You’ll meet people from all over the world riding in the Kootenay area because it is listed as one of the top ten places to ride motorcycles.
“This is tourism, and they are spending money in hotels, on food and buying tourist stuff, ” McLeod added. “People, what are you doing to yourselves with this petition?”
The reason why some motorcycles are louder than others, is because the exhaust system has been modified such as a baffle plate removed, or the muffler cut out or even disconnected from the engine.
It’s those roaring exhaust systems that are heard and felt over a wide distance, sometimes enough to rattle windows.
The Motor Vehicle Act does specify the collective noise level of engine and exhaust system for a motorcycle cannot exceed 91 decibels. The act also prohibits tampering with mufflers, like removing baffle plates, to rev up the sound.
Petition aside, noise laws are already being enforced, according to RCMP Cpl. Chad Badry.
“The petition is asking the government to deal with this problem,” Badry, from the Integrated Road Safety Unit (IRSU), told the Trail Times.
“There’s this rhetoric that seems to be going around that police are not interested in enforcing excessive noise from motorcycles because it bring tourists to the area.”
That is not definitely not the case, he reiterated.
“I’ve got no qualms about enforcing it and I am not alone,” he said. “The rest of the officers in IRSU and the highway traffic unit are all like minded – we enforce those laws.”
Local RCMP patrols no longer carry decibel metres because readings can be contested in court. Factors such as wind, passing cars, even birds tweeting, can affect ambient air thus the accuracy of a decibel test.
Instead, police use discretion.
If a bike is extraordinarily loud, the rider is issued a $109 fine.
Typically, a notice of order will be written under one of three categories. Those range from immediately taking the bike off road until it’s repaired, ordering an inspection within 30 days, or giving the person up to two weeks to fix a defect before the local detachment signs off the repair.
Badry says riders generally comply with notice of orders, because if they don’t, a $598 non-compliance ticket will follow.
At the end of the day, unnecessary noise is part of the RCMP mandate, said the corporal.
“It’s important to get that message out there and that we do enforce it,” Badry added.
“But we do have to balance it with our other mandates, some that are obviously very high priority because they cause serious injuries or fatalities- such as impaired driving by drug or alcohol, distracted driving and seat belts.”
The AKBLG is the local government association that represents municipalities and electoral areas of the southeastern B.C. The area includes the Regional Districts of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB), Central Kootenay (RDCK), East Kootenay (RDEK) as well as the Town of Golden and the Village of Valemount.