City finds no way to muffle motorcycle noise

City finds no way to muffle motorcycle noise
“It’s an unbelievably penetrating sound,” says Lew Dominy on motorcycle noise. The city of Del Mar looked into ways to possibly reduce motorcycle noise. Photo by Tony Cagala

DEL MAR — Responding to complaints that included a petition signed by 70 residents, the city looked into ways to possibly reduce motorcycle noise, especially along north-and-south running streets in the northern beach area.

Based on findings presented at the May 2 meeting, council members concluded there is little they can do.

“Our options are extremely limited,” said Councilman Don Mosier, whose main mode of transportation is a motorcycle.

“I think it’s a valuable exercise when there’s an issue that’s frustrating to members of the community to do what we’ve done, which is research it,” Councilman Dwight Worden said.

“But it’s also important to recognize we can’t solve every problem and … let the community know we did take a really hard look at it but there’s nothing effective that’s practical that we can do about it.”

Two Del Mar residents and one from Solana Beach asked council at the April 18 meeting to consider adding signage or addressing the issue through the city’s noise ordinance.

Richard Levak said the excessive noise is at times unbearable, “especially when a gang of motor bikes comes through.”

“The whole house shakes,” he said. “Car alarms go off. … There is no reason for it.”

“It’s an unbelievably penetrating sound,” added Lew Dominy, who suggested posting whimsical signs such as “This is where our families sleep … Too much noise, can’t count sheep” or “As you drive down our street, your courtesy can’t be beat.”

Because they spoke during the public comment period at last month’s meeting, council members couldn’t discuss the problem but directed staff to research potential solutions and report back.

What they found — and the city attorney confirmed — is that motorcycle noise is regulated by the California Vehicle Code and local authorities can’t enforce additional noise limitations.

If they did, any citations issued under such ordinances would be invalid, Mosier said.

Assistant City Manager Mark Delin said the state code establishes specific noise limits based on the year the motorcycle was made.

The acceptable level for bikes built before 1970 is 92 decibels, the same standard for a train crossing. For 1986 and newer models it is 80 decibels.

But Delin said law enforcement doesn’t use sound level meters to enforce motorcycle noises because decibel meters require calibration, extensive training to use and certification of the traffic officers.

He also said readings taken on a moving vehicle are typically not sufficient grounds to issue a citation.

“You have to prove that the exact sound came from that bike and not any other contaminating sources,” he said. “So enforcement is limited to observation of illegal modification of the exhaust system.”

Motorcycles are equipped with mufflers to reduce sound and catalytic converters to reduce pollution. Additionally, every exhaust system must have an Environmental Protection Agency label.

However, owners often modify their motorcycles, replacing mufflers with straight pipes to increase sound and “presumably more performance, but I don’t know how well correlated that is,” Delin said.

Such a violation is considered mechanical and the corrective action is a fix-it ticket.

“It’s a persistent widespread problem,” Delin said. “Communities all over the place are troubled by this. … But there are things we can do, which is the good news.”

Options include adding signage or increasing the enforcement of mechanical violations by asking the Sheriff’s Department to be more aggressive or hiring an additional motorcycle officer for $60 to $70 an hour.

However, officers can only cite mechanical violations as a secondary infraction and bike owners can easily replace mufflers after the ticket is signed off on, Delin said.

The city could also consider alternative traffic controls.

“There are a lot of stop signs in the beach area,” Delin said, adding that they create a lot of stopping and acceleration noise for every vehicle.

Replacing stop signs with roundabouts at some intersections might help reduce the noise because traffic circles tend to maintain a slow and even vehicle speed. Traffic lights allow more vehicles to pass without stopping.

Another option would be to work with the League of Cities to pursue legislation at the state level for a motorcycle inspection program to ensure exhaust systems comply with sound and smog requirements.

“What we’re facing is a behavioral problem,” Mosier said. “And we don’t have any legal tools to solve it. I think the only course is to support legislation saying that things have to be checked occasionally.

“I think spending extra for sheriff patrols is not going to help,” he added. “Putting up signs is just an invitation to rev your engine. … The only proposed solution that I like is putting more roundabouts down the beach stretch.”

“I don’t think (additional enforcement) will help and it’s certainly not worth the money,” Worden said. “I’m not in favor of more sign pollution. They’re unattractive.”

He said he doubted traffic controls would work but telling the city’s lobbyists to sponsor or promote inspections “would be easy and cheap.”

He said the only other viable alternative is what he calls “the shaming options,” which shouldn’t involve city officials.

But residents could post pictures on social media of motorcyclists who are causing excessive noise, he said.

“Bottom line — I don’t really think there’s anything that’s very effective,” Worden added. “This is one of those things we just can’t get our hands around effectively.”

9 Comments
  1. Mike 8 months ago

    Live on Carlsbad Blvd, and every Sunday bikers ride with bikes much newer than 1988 that register in the 90db range.
    Give them a ticket and make them prove it is less.

  2. Rickey Holtsclaw 8 months ago

    Shame on YOU Del Mar Council for acquiescing to the Loud Motorcycle Cult[ure], their selfishness, their unlawful intrusion into the lives and homes of YOUR residents. I am a 31 year veteran of a major law enforcement community in the United States, YOU DO HAVE OPTIONS AND YOU CAN STOP THE VEHICULAR NOISE THUGGERY IN DEL MAR. Please listen to this retired cop who has fought this battle…

    You do NOT need to employ sound meters into vehicular noise enforcement protocol and the State code is relevant and sufficient for your local law enforcement to intercede on behalf of your vehicular noise beleaguered citizenry. Stop the obfuscation and stop the futile attitude of defeatism!

    Please listen…Every street production motorcycle in the United States is regulated by the US EPA via the Code of Federal Regulations; therefore, every street production motorcycle, a make and model thereof, must pass a very strict/detailed scientifically controlled drive-by testing procedure before said make and model of motorcycle receives EPA certification to be operated on our public roadways.

    1) A sample of every street production motorcycle (make and model) is tested under full acceleration/maximum brake horsepower between two designated points and the “total ” motorcycle noise emissions is evaluated at 49.2 feet on each side of the motorcycle. Every moving part is tested in its totality and “total” motorcycle noise emissions cannot exceed 80 dB(A). Simply think how quiet that EPA approved MUFFLER must actually be in order to dampen noise emissions to a level that does NOT contribute to “total” motorcycle noise emissions exceeding 80 dB(A).

    2) Once that motorcycle and its muffler passes the drive-by testing procedure, the factory-installed muffler for that particular make and model is required to be permanently labeled in a readily visible location with a rather large EPA certification label with specific wording indicating that said muffler meets the noise emissions requirements of the EPA.

    3) Then, the EPA has enacted “tampering” prohibitions against modifying the acoustical dampening characteristics of that EPA approved muffler and said muffler can only be removed for maintenance, repair and if said muffler is replaced, it MUST be replaced with a muffler that does NOT emit noise levels exceeding the 80 dB(A) “total” motorcycle noise emissions restriction…this is mandated for the “life of the motorcycle.”

    4) Why are 60% to 80% of the motorcycles operating on the roadways of Del Mar so egregiously LOUD and INTRUSIVE? Because their owners, via entitlement and selfishness, have opted to either remove the acoustical dampening material from their factory-installed muffler or they’ve opted to remove the factory-installed muffler and replace same with a NOT FOR ROAD USE – Closed Course Only – Racing, aftermarket exhaust that is not, nor was it ever, designed to be used on our public roadways.

    When measured on a logarithmic scale, these aftermarket exhaust mechanisms emit two-four-six or more times the legal, safe, respectable 80 dB(A) total motorcycle noise emissions restriction as per the US EPA. Why so loud? Because their owners have internalized a sense of hedonism, a lack of respect and care for their neighbors and for our environment – the LOUD Biker Cult[ure] cares for nothing but their own self-gratification and Del Mar Council, please DO NOT FALL FOR THE OLD LIE THAT LOUD MOTORCYCLES ARE SOMEHOW “SAFER.” NOT SO… Do Loud Pipes Save Lives: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qRxyoSj4sNU

    Del Mar Council I ask you, why has the US EPA so stringently regulated motorcycle noise emissions – why all of the testing – the labeling – the prohibitions relevant to tampering – the expense – the time and production efforts? Because after thorough testing and input from the medical and related science communities, it has been determined that the 80 dB(A) total motorcycle noise restriction (1986 year model forward) is the “MINIMUM” level of protection for the general public e.g. the residents of Del Mar and – let it be known that the most sensitive and most susceptible to physiological/psychological injury from unregulated NOISE in our environment are our children, our elderly and our handicapped – Del Mar Council I ask you – do you care about these most innocent in your care who reside within your jurisdiction?

    Del Mar Council are you simply going to turn your backside to these who look to you for protection and services? Please don’t be impotent and weak leaders of your community as is the case with a majority of our Municipalities throughout our Nation. As a side note, the US EPA actually wanted total motorcycle noise emissions reduced to 78 dB(A) but Suzuki complained stating that 78 dB(A) would be cost prohibitive; therefore, the US EPA settled on 80 dB(A).

    How to enforce the law and stop the selfish, irresponsible vehicular NOISE mongers in Del Mar.

    1) Seeing that every street motorcycle, a sample thereof, has been thoroughly tested for sound emissions prior to certification, you do not need a sound meter for enforcement protocol – the motorcycle has already been tested with a sound meter! Introducing a sound-meter “instrument” into the adjudicatory process opens up a plethora of unnecessary legal challenges, it’s cost prohibitive, requires too much training/certification/time and any half-wit defense attorney can easily use these requirements to instill “reasonable doubt” into the mind of a magistrate or juror – don’t muddy the waters of vehicular noise enforcement with a sound-meter – again – the motorcycle muffler in question has already been tested as per US EPA mandates! Use the factory-installed muffler as your “objective” standard in enforcement protocol!

    2) Understand that “probable cause” for law enforcement to make that initial stop using “sound” emissions is under-girded by legal precedent (http://law.justia.com/cases/texas/fourth-court-of-appeals/2008/20953.html (Aaron C. Aguilar v. Texas 2008)) – vehicular noise enforcement is wonderful probable cause for any street officer. Why? Because you will discover that the personality-type that modifies a motor vehicle to make senseless NOISE then proceeds out onto our roadways to audibly assault children, women, the elderly, our handicapped with that illegal noise is the very same personality-type that possess a propensity to offend in other areas of the law; therefore, any officer taking the time to enforce vehicular noise will generally see a dramatic rise in their warrant arrest statistics.

    3) Seeing that you already have an “objective” standard when using the factory-installed muffler for comparison – enforcement of motorcycle noise is VERY SIMPLE AND UNCOMPLICATED. First, have your officers inspect the motorcycle for the presence of the US EPA certification label. If there is a certification label present and the motorcycle is egregiously LOUD, check for tampering. The differentiation in NOISE emissions between a stock OEM factory-installed muffler and 99% of the aftermarket exhausts on the market is STARK AND VERY OBVIOUS. If the motorcycle is obviously louder than the quiet/EPA approved motorcycle muffler – cite the violator with a hefty fine and increase that fine incrementally for subsequent violations – ultimately arrest the violator and require bond/bail and impound the offending vehicle after the third violation. Train your officers in court testimony relevant to noise comparison protocol and the nuances concerned intrusiveness, destruction to daily quality of life and the physiological/physiological dangers of unregulated vehicular noise. Protect your citizenry!

    4) Familiarize your officers with the noise emissions of a stock exhaust and the egregiously loud emissions of an aftermarket exhaust – it is VERy simple – also, with very little training, an officer can recognize an illegal aftermarket exhaust by sight and establish probable cause to stop. Noise Free America, a National Coalition fighting environmental noise, has recently developed a very thorough pictorial guide for law enforcement relevant to recognizing the plethora of illegal aftermarket exhaust mechanisms being used on street motorcycles by the LOUD Motorcycle Culture – contact Noise Free America at Noisefree.org – they will be more than happy to assist you.

    5) Del Mar Council, sit down with your legal representatives and discuss the Constitutionality of “noise comparison evaluation” for motorcycle noise enforcement protocol. Also see: http://law.justia.com/cases/texas/fourth-court-of-appeals/2008/20953.html (Aaron C. Aguilar v. Texas 2008) regarding subjective enforcement of vehicular noise/probable cause. Be sure to include the judicial entities in your community so they are on board and aware of the “noise comparison” enforcement parameters and protocol being used for adjudicatory purposes.

    Again, Del Mar Council, you CAN STOP the vehicular noise thuggery in your City and protect the health and welfare as well as the daily quality of life of your residents. It’s the right thing to do and it’s YOUR DUTY! Using “factory-installed muffler noise comparison enforcement” protocol, I maintained a 99.8% conviction-rate for all vehicular noise cases brought before me for adjudication – you can too! Though my Municipal Leadership cowed to the cries and threats of the Motorcycle Rights Organizations and the Loud Biker Cult[ure], I hope you possess the guts, the courage to face this NOISE Goliath with tenacity and forthrightness! Simply be a good neighbor and a good leader – do the right thing and STOP the vehicular NOISE NONSENSE on the roadways and within the communities of Del Mar – don’t let the vehicular noise thugs abuse the citizens of Del Mar!

    I have written an article relevant to motorcycle noise enforcement if you’re interested: The “truth” about Loud Motorcycles the Police can’t or won’t tell you: https://rickeyholtsclaw.wordpress.com/2016/03/10/the-truth-about-loud-motorcycles-the-police-wont-or-cant-tell-you/

    I am available and will be happy to assist Del Mar in anyway possible to eradicate the vehicular noise problem in your beautiful City – simply contact me if interested.

    Endeavoring to do the right thing,

    Rick Holtsclaw, Houston PD/Retired
    Concerned Citizens Against Loud Motorcycles – Facebook and YouTube

  3. Rickey Holtsclaw 8 months ago

    Del Mar Council, your police department is authorized to enforce the State Code:

    27150. (a) Every motor vehicle subject to registration shall at all
    times be equipped with an adequate muffler in constant operation and
    properly maintained to prevent any excessive or unusual noise, and
    no muffler or exhaust system shall be equipped with a cutout, bypass,
    or similar device.

    Your City Ordinance is useless due to sound meter requirements and related enforcement nonsense; therefore, use the State Code.

    I ask you, what is “excessive or unusual noise” as per the CA Code 27150? Answer: Any noise emissions above the level emitted by the OEM Factory-installed muffler! This is your “objective” standard for noise comparison enforcement protocol – please use it!

    Stop Vehicular Noise Abuse in Del Mar,

    Rick Holtsclaw, Houston PD/Retired
    Concerned Citizens Against Loud Motorcycles – Facebook

  4. Steven 8 months ago

    Get used to it and enjoy the publicity will bring more in your not that important.

  5. Steven 8 months ago

    Also what your hearing are stock mufflers the bike makers hear the voice of the riders and thier lives are more important than your birds chirping get over yourselves really.

  6. Steven 8 months ago

    Always got earplugs or headphones that’s why nobody cares much. And not careful they make stock mufflers louder only need to idle past the sound checks why don’t you zen lovers cultivate peace in all conditions and promote love and harmony instead of showing everyone your own misery no one cares.

  7. Donald Sinclair 8 months ago

    The motorcycle noise issue is a nationwide problem.
    I suspect the motorcycle manufacturers lobby has lots of power and influence over law enforcement concerning loud pipes.
    I believe that if it can be presented as a noise ” pollution ”
    problem, perhaps the EPA could then get involved.
    Hopefully the Coast News will print some of these
    responses to this story.

  8. Respectable Motorcyclist 8 months ago

    The picture used for the article is not the problem described in the article. That Honda CBR 250 is a quiet machine driven by new (and likely respectful motorcyclists). This article should use a picture of a pirate upon his/her chromed out Harley Davidson or other chopper equivalent.

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