Maine Legislator Heats Up Motorcycle Noise Debate

Many motorcyclists in Maine may be still hibernating with temperatures dipping below freezing at night and  a chance of snow forecast for later in the week but that isn’t stopping Rep. Diane Russel from pushing her anti-motorcycle agenda in the State Senate.

Russell who admits her noise legislation is personal says motorcyclists who ride with modified exhaust are “stupid.”   She has introduced two bills aimed at increasing the fine for non-EPA approved exhaust to $999 for a third offense.

Russell told the media, “If they want to drive a motorcyle and make a lot of noise and if they get zinged for it and have to pay $500 bucks, that’s their problem and I don’t feel sorry for them–if they’re that stupid then they deserve to pay $500 bucks,” he said. “But why should the rest of Maine suffer because some cowboy wants to put a great big thing and drive like anything?”

Motorcycle rights group oppose the bill on several grounds, one of which is that the fines exceed those of “life threatening injuries.”

Eric Fuller of Jay, who chairs the Maine Motorcyclists Political Action Committee said, “While it may be nice to target certain actions or people we dislike, the judicial systems of this nation have held a system of equality for this country.”

Senator Russel says that a group of motorcycle riders momentarily disrupted a party at her house and that is what gave her the incentive to try to punish those with loud pipes.

“The reason I got involved with this: I was having a family get together at my house and I had grandchildren there and great grandchildren there. Four motorcycles came by–boom, boom, boom,” he told lawmakers. “All of us except one grabbed their ears. That’s common sense and common knowledge–except the six-month-old in the stroller. For some reason he wasn’t smart enough to do that. I’m asking you people here to protect us citizens of the state of Maine.”

 

Motorcycle Checkpoints May End Up in Supreme Court

Disputing the Constitutionality of Motorcycle Only Checkpoints

NEW YORK, Feb. 18, 2011 /PRNewswire/ — Motorcyclists across the nation are awaiting a decision from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York which they hope will declare New York’s “motorcycle only” roadway checkpoints to be unconstitutional. The case Wagner et al. v. The County of Schenectady, et al. could end up in the United States Supreme Court. The checkpoints, which target well-known motorcycle events, force motorcyclists traveling to and from those events to leave the roadway, regardless of any wrongdoing, and have their vehicles and equipment inspected for safety and non-safety equipment violations and stolen VIN numbers. Motorcyclists have been detained as long as 45 minutes in makeshift stockades while undergoing the inspections. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration recently began Federal funding for motorcycle checkpoints nationwide in order to assess their effectiveness despite objections raised by members of Congress.

The New York lawsuit is the first to challenge the constitutionality of motorcycle checkpoints. The plaintiffs are being represented by Proner & Proner, a plaintiffs personal injury law firm with a long history of doing “pro bono” legal work on behalf of motorcyclists. The Proner firm commenced the lawsuit on behalf of four motorcyclists who were detained at two separate checkpoints.

The checkpoints are funded by a grant from the New York Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee and the troopers who work them are paid overtime. Although the stated purpose of the checkpoints is to promote safety, the majority of the more than a thousand tickets which were issued during the first year of the checkpoints had nothing to do with safety and instead focused on non-safety violations such as loud pipes. The written guidelines for the checkpoints specifically state that one of the purposes of the checkpoints is to look for stolen and forged VINs and the police readily admit that they often have undercover members of their gang and auto theft units working the checkpoints looking for signs of criminal activity.

The Supreme Court of the United States has repeatedly made it clear that any roadway checkpoint whose primary purpose is general crime control constitutes an unreasonable search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment and is presumptively unconstitutional. Notwithstanding that fact, the progress reports which the police prepared on the checkpoints specifically state that the grant funds are used “for overtime for intelligence gathering and the subsequent criminal and traffic enforcement.” The police admit that the checkpoints, which focus only on equipment violations and forged and stolen VINs, do not address any of the major causes of motorcycle accidents such as reckless driving, driver inattentiveness and alcohol impairment.

Lawyers for the Plaintiff Riders and Defendant State Police are both seeking summary judgment on the Fourth Amendment claims. The future of motorcyclists’ rights hangs in the balance.

Loud Pipes Are An Expression, Not Safety Equipment

Loud Exhaust; Safety or Expression?

By Scott Cochran, Editor

This will, in all probability, be the most unpopular editorial I have written in the ten years of puking out ink in this space.

I don’t know any other way to say it, but I’m throwing a BS flag on the popular slogan, “Loud Pipes Save Lives.”

Normally I don’t make it my business to debunk pithy helmet stickers.  There are plenty out there that are as suspect as the Loud Pipes sticker, but most of them are assumed to be tongue in cheek and not taken seriously.

Some of my favorite stickers are “For a small town this sure has a lot of assholes” and “If I don’t remember…it didn’t happen!” The one I’ve used in conversation recently is,  “Who Lit The Fuse On Your Tampon?” And one that is applicable here, “I have the right to remain silent but not the ability.”

But, back on loud pipes.

My first real “road” bike was previously owned.   The original owner had removed the stock exhaust and replaced it with “straight” pipes.

I remember how much I loved the sound of that bike.  I especially enjoyed riding through the concrete canyons of metro areas late at night and blipping the throttle to hear the thunder echo through the alleyways and empty parking garages.

My current bike has aftermarket pipes which are louder than stock, but not obnoxiously so.  The note is deeper and more throaty but still louder.

But, I’ve never believed those loud pipes have saved my life, or caused anything other than admiration at the sound, or irritation at the noise, depending on the person’s viewpoint.

Exhaust noise travels backwards.  Unless you’re riding 3 mph and blipping the throttle constantly, there’s little chance anyone in front of you will hear your “loud pipes.”

True enough some drivers will turn their head when you ride by and you may have convinced yourself that you “got their attention” with your loud pipes but as any baseball outfielder will attest, you see the ball heading your way before you hear the crack of the bat.

You would do much better to invest in the loudest train horn you can find to alert inattentive drivers who may turn or pull out in front of you.

“OK Cochran, but what about on the interstate when I’m riding alongside some soccer mom talking on the cell phone and yelling at her kids in the back?  She hears my pipes and it keeps her from pulling into my lane!”

Personally I never ride along beside anyone on the interstate. I’m usually riding slightly faster than the flow, but I still say a extremely loud horn is more effective, but arguably not as cool.

Now I know many of you will disagree with me, and that’s OK.  I’ve been on the politically incorrect side  of the fence before and I’m sure I’ll be there again.

Don’t misunderstand me, I like my exhaust to be louder than stock.  California’s recent legislation which will make it illegal to have anything on your new bike other than stock exhaust,  really chaps my ass.  I think it’s a slippery slope and one that begins to erode the guarantees of the First Amendment.

But my point is that loud pipes are not a “safety” issue and we, as a community and as voters, shouldn’t try to frame our arguments against noise legislation around that.  Loud pipes are an expression, just as pithy helmet stickers and “The Bitch Fell Off” t-shirts.

Plus the EPA sticker on most new bikes is placed in obscure locations, not easily read by law enforcement and in some cases only viewable by removing plastic or chrome parts.  This  will undoubtedly result in subjective enforcement until more legislation is passed to standardize placement of the EPA stamps.

Recently Dublin Georgia (30 miles from my office) enacted an ordinance which bans “saggy pants” and if you get caught with your pants 3 inches below your hips you’ll get slapped with a $200 fine.   Not many motorcyclists worry about getting pinched on this one but, I’m sure that the majority of you reading this editorial probably agree with that ordinance because you dislike seeing urban gang-bangers walking around the mall with their pants half to their knees and their boxers hiked up over their shirts.

But, the truth is, what is offensive to some of us is a form of expression, rebellion or a statement of individuality to others.

I think it’s juvenile to wear your pants half down to your knees but there are just as many people who believe its juvenile to ride a motorcycle that’s louder than a fire truck and those same people are convinced that social nirvana is reached by outlawing anything that offends either their eyes or their ears.

I’m not proposing we all replace our aftermarket pipes with factory silencers, but if we’re going to win this one we’d better get the non-riding public on our side.

Since I don’t see that happening any time soon, I’ll enjoy my aftermarket exhaust as long as possible.

Oh, and my new favorite sticker? “Yes it’s loud, but you’re ugly and you don’t hear me suggesting you get plastic surgery do you?

Ride Safe, and always take the road less traveled.


California Wants Quieter Motorcycles

California Wants All Exhaust to Be EPA Approved

It’s a trend that is quietly building momentum across the country.  States and Cities are enacting legislation to force motorcyclists to comply with federal noise emission standards as a way to quiet loud pipes.

On Monday August 30, California joined the growing number of states who passed legislation making it a crime to operate a motorcycle manufactured after Jan. 1, 2013, without a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency label certifying that the bike’s exhaust meets the federal standard.

The problem, say critics, is that most of the EPA stamps and labels on stock exhaust pipes are difficult if not impossible to find and as a result, many motorcyclists will be unfairly ticketed and harrassed.

The police chief of North Hampton Maine told lawmakers that clean stock pipes on the police department’s Harley-Davidson’s are easy to locate if you lay on the ground, but that would require two officers to check.  “I would still need two people (present when checking a motorcycle for the EPA label),” Page was quoted on Seacoast online saying  that he would want one officer in position to watch the operator while the other checked for the label. “I’m not going to have anyone lie under the cycle with the rider (on it).”

New York and Denver have passed similar legislation this year.