California outlaws loud pipes

I guess now we’ll see if loud pipes really do save lives.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed Senate Bill 435 yesterday that will authorize state law enforcement to ticket motorcyclists who have swapped out their stock pipes for an aftermarket exhaust. The new law will make it a crime to operate a motorcycle manufactured after January 1, 2013, that does not meet federal noise-emission standards. Motorcycles will be required to display a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) label certifying that the exhaust system is clean burning and does not exceed 80 decibels. First-time offenders will face fines up to $100 while subsequent infractions can run up to $250.

Now that it’s become law in California, you can expect this to be implemented in other states as well.

The Perennial Loud Pipe Controversy

Maybe you think loud pipes are an important safety feature.  You’re entitled to your opinion, even if I think it’s a pretty stupid one. What you’re not entitled to do, however, is physically threaten city officials who want to keep the noise to a bearable level by introducing noise limits. But that’s what’s happening to Saskatoon city councilor Bob Pringle.

Saskatoon city councillor Bob Pringle says he’s received several threatening phone calls after asking city administrators to examine the possible prohibition of aftermarket exhaust pipes that amplify a motorcycle’s exhaust note. Pringle claims he hasn’t been threatened so much since his days as social services minister under former Premier Roy Romanow in the 1990s.

“Bikers are very angry. They feel like I’m targeting them unfairly and they need this extra noise for safety reasons,” said Pringle in a recent interview.

Many loud pipe proponents have called Pringle to simply tell him to back off, but others have been more sinister, he claims.

“I would love to meet you in a back lane and you wouldn’t come out,” said one caller, according to Pringle.

I guess if you’re foolish enough to think that super loud pipes are the only thing standing between you and certain death, you’re probably foolish enough to make terrorist threats against officials who try to limit the noise.

The thing is, loud pipes don’t actually appear to save lives.  The Hurt Report shows that motorcycles with modified exhausts are involved in accidents more frequently than bikes with stock pipes.  I wonder if that has more to do with the attitude of the rider than the decibel output of the pipes.

As Motorcycle Cruiser puts it:

Yeah, there are a few situations—like where you are right next to a driver with his window down who is about the to change lanes—where full-time noise-makers might help a driver notice you, but all that noise directed rearward doesn’t do much in the most common and much more dangerous conflict where a car turns in front of you. Maybe it’s the fatigue caused by the noise, maybe it’s the attitudes of riders who insist on making annoying noise, or perhaps loud bikes annoy enough drivers to make them aggressive. Whatever the reason, the research shows that bikes with modified exhaust systems crash more frequently than those with stock pipes. If you really want to save lives, turn to a loud jacket or a bright helmet color, which have been proven to do the job. Or install a louder horn. Otherwise, just shut up.

That last piece of advice is particularly good.