Why not use Stillwater’s approach to ticketing engine-revving motorcyclists?

I’m a future resident of downtown, an advocate of more sidewalk dining, and a motorcyclist.

I’d like to see Northfield follow Stillwater’s lead and crack down on motorcyclists (as well as drivers of other vehicles) who come through downtown, deliberately revving their engines. Rather than trying to measure decibels, the cops ticket for the illegal exhaust modifications.

For more background on Stillwater’s approach, see this coverage: Strib editorial, WCCO, and Pioneer Press. For more on loud motorcycles, see Noiseoff and Noisefree America.

And for a clever ad, view this “I have a small penis” YouTube video:

21 thoughts on “Why not use Stillwater’s approach to ticketing engine-revving motorcyclists?”

  1. So far in 2007, Griff has blogged on librarians and scrotums (February 18) and motorcyclists and penises (May 12). He really is giving us the Full Monty. I wonder if “male genitalia” should be added to the Locally Grown Tag Cloud.

  2. Upon the advice of my wife, I’ve moved a portion of the blog post title down into the body of the post in the hopes that everyone will take this topic seriously, unlike Rob and Tony, whose comments I appreciate nonetheless!

  3. There are hundreds of people in Northfield using the food shelf, hundreds of people in Northfield who don’t have enough money for the basic necessities of life and way too many children in Northfield who have too many needs to count and there are people who are concerned about how loud a motorcycle is? Sounds to me like the “decible patrol” needs to reconsider what is really important.

  4. That argument could be used for ignoring lots of problems. We still give out parking tickets, kids are cited for skateboarding downtown. These are minor infractions, yet need enforcement. How about speeding? Injuries and their seriousness increase at speeds of 35-40 mph. Should we stop enforcing speed limits? After all, what is 5-10 mph over the limit. Not much, unless you get hit.

    I see these as separate issues. Yes, we need to feed, clothe and educate our citizens, but we should not stop basic law enforcement because these areas need improvement. Besides one is the responsibility of the police force and the other is not.

  5. I am not sure I can find the place in my comment that says law enforcement should be eliminated but I’ll keep looking –

  6. I guess my point was that if noise is a problem, which it is, the city should do someting about it regardless if there are other issues to deal with.

    Should we build a bike trail or:

    There are hundreds of people in Northfield using the food shelf, hundreds of people in Northfield who don’t have enough money for the basic necessities of life and way too many children in Northfield who have too many needs to count and there are people who are concerned about how loud a motorcycle is? Sounds to me like the “decible patrol” needs to reconsider what is really important.

    Can’t we do both?

  7. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could do both – however there never seems to be enough energy and money to “do both” – People in Northfield pick and choose their causes and I am sure that is the case in every city. Some people prefer to feed, clothe and educate first – and some people choose other causes first. I respect your right to choose your own causes.

  8. I bet if we used the money generated from ticketing loud-revving motorcycles , we could feed plenty of disadvantaged people in Northfield.

  9. I asked Police Chief Gary Smith for his opinion about this, and he wrote:

    Griff, one has to have the ordinance to make it work. State law makes provisions to allow motorcycles to have twice the volume as a motor vehicle. I’ve had this discussion with our city prosecutor, Tim Morisette. He might be the best to answer this question. Our officers do the best they have with the ordinances we currently have in place. Hope this helps.

    I’ll check with Morisette but the statute related to modification of the muffler system is the one Stillwater is evidently using:

    Subp. 3. Modification of vehicle. No person shall modify a motor vehicle or combination of vehicles of a type subject to registration pursuant to Minnesota Statutes, chapter 168 in a manner which will amplify or increase the noise emitted by the vehicle, above the noise limits contained herein for the category of motor vehicle and speed limits specified, when tested with a measurement procedure approved by the commissioner. No person shall operate a motor vehicle so modified.

  10. […] since the Cuccios moved to Rochester.

    We’re not in Rochester. But we’re relatively close to it. 🙂

    Citizens for a Quieter Northfield is still alive. The Bonners (Robert and Barbara) are still representing the grassroots org., and are still fighting the noise fight. Adam Gurno is taking over the website and mailing list in my absence.

    Noise pollution is important – to me and many other folks. The “right to quiet” is essentially ignored in Northfield, and is one of the reasons why we chose to move. Quality of life, tranquility, and property values, will only continue to go downhill unless the issue is not only addressed, but fixed. I think it’s pretty important that a taxpayer and passionate community volunteer left town because of the perpetual “acoustic assaults” within the city.

    I bet if we used the money generated from ticketing loud-revving motorcycles , we could feed plenty of disadvantaged people in Northfield.

    Yep. As well as any unlawfully-loud noise source(s) for that matter (cars, trucks, parties, etc.).

    I’ve published/cited many case studies and articles, with regard to how many municipalities/cities addressed noise pollution.

    I’ve consulted a few city attorneys too from around the US. I learned a lot from my research, and can likely answer many many questions.

    Good luck.

  11. Good to have your input, Chip. Is it your understanding that Stillwater’s approach (ticketing for illegal exhaust modification rather than exceeding decibel limits) is working/could be effective?

  12. Is it your understanding that Stillwater’s approach (ticketing for illegal exhaust modification rather than exceeding decibel limits) is working/could be effective?

    Good question, Griff.

    I’d say time will tell…

    Using SPL measuring devices is the traditional method. It’s extremely accurate, however, using SPL measuring devices are somewhat costly, require training, calibration and certification (just like RADAR and laser speed measuring devices). It also requires a peace officer to proactively measure sound around cities (again, like RADAR/laser). But this approach is common, because cities that enact dB limits on vehicles can also enforce poorly-maintained exhaust systems – not only intentionally and unlawfully modified exhaust systems.

    Stillwater has an interesting (somewhat novel) approach. It’s more of the “obvious approach”; if a peace officer thinks a vehicle is too loud, it can be inspected for non-OEM, modified exhaust systems. Again, an interesting approach, but peace officers should really be trained in order to determine if the exhaust is modified or unlawful after-market etc. (pretty much all exhaust products manufactured by Vance & Hines, S&S, Borla, SuperTrapp, Flowmaster, Gibson, MagnaFlow, Thrush, Hedman, Hooker, Dynomax…to name some, are intentionally built to increase noise [and performance]. If one of those names is emblazoned on the muffler/pipe, it’s a no-brainer at that point). If it’s a straight-pipe (no muffling baffles or core), that’s about as obvious as you can get (and this is what’s most common on V-Twin powered American bikes[1], and believe it or not, Semi’s that are insanely loud[2]).
    The drawback to Stillwater’s approach leaves poorly-maintained vehicles and their exhaust systems in the clear. It looks OEM because it is. But if it’s malfunctioning, and creating a racket, it’s not “illegally modified” according to Sillwater’s terms. So loud, non-functioning OEM exhaust systems are perfectly legal in Stillwater. Pretty big loophole there. 😉

    Tangent footnotes:
    1. Harley Davidsons (HD) are actually very quiet “stock” (when the OEM exhaust is left intact). While they do have a trademark sound (and have sued other bike co.’s for sounding too much like an HD), they aren’t loud. But folks attribute “loud” to HDs by default, mainly because so many HD owners outfit their HDs with straight pipes (with no mufflers). This practice has set the precedent that HDs are “loud” – which only makes these bikes unwelcome in many places, when perfectly legal HDs shouldn’t be. That’s too bad. It’s an education issue. “Loud pipes risk rights”.

    2: Many folks (incorrectly) believe that Semi’s are really loud because of the engine brakes (sometimes referred to [incorrectly] as “Jake Brakes”, which is a genericized trademark). In actuality, engine brakes are very quiet – except when the semi has been outfitted with unlawful “straight stacks”. Un-muffled straight stacks amplify engine brakes an insane amount. This another education issue, even to city officials across the US. I see signs in the state that say “Engine Braking Prohibited”. It’s not the engine brake that’s making the noise…it’s the lack of a functional OEM exhaust system. Engine braking should never be prohibited anywhere…it’s a safety measure. Good reading on this topic: http://www.jakebrake.com/about-us/noise-concerns.php

  13. I support this cause, but I have a correction on sound issues…

    A quote from Chip:
    “Un-muffled straight stacks amplify engine brakes an insane amount.”

    Correction: Straight stack exhaust, after-market mufflers, or other non-oem performance exhaust parts DO NOT AMPLIFY the sound coming from an engine, they only allow the sound to come through at a less muffled rate.

    If you have ever pulled the entire exhaust system off of a vehicle and started the engine you would find THAT is far louder than ANY motor vehicle with a modified exhaust system. So the word “AMPLIFY” is really an exaggeration for what is really occurring in this situation. In order to actually amplify the sound, you would need to add an electronic amplification device like a electronic bullhorn, a large PA speaker & electronic amp (or equivilent device) to an unmuffled engine.

    I make no assumptions whether these terms were used to purposely exaggerate the importance of this situation or not, but if we’re going to make a case against this situation lets use technically correct terms. Sooner or later someone will call you on it if you’re using terms that could be viewed as exaggerated.

    One other issue that may be tough to pass is the “aftermarket parts” issue. Giving the officer the right to issue a ticket based on the brand of exhaust parts is too broad of a power. I have personally witnessed many motor vehicles with aftermarket exhaust parts that are within reasonable sound limits. This is going to give officers the ability to ticket vehicle owners who are within reasonable sound limits just because they are using a Borla exhaust system (for example). One persons opinion of what is reasonable vs. another’s opinion could lead to a lot of wasted time and $.

    (pretty much all exhaust products manufactured by Vance & Hines, S&S, Borla, SuperTrapp, Flowmaster, Gibson, MagnaFlow, Thrush, Hedman, Hooker, Dynomax…

    The other problem her is that OEM “quiet” exhaust systems are ridiculously expensive to replace when they reach the end of their service life. This leads many to use after-market parts like the ones listed above due to the affordability of these parts. Try pricing a genuine GM muffler for a 1998 chevrolet pickup 4×4 with a vortec 350 engine, they’re $850 ea. An aftermarket muffler can be had for $50.

    Then of course theres airplanes and lawnmowers which will eventually become annoying as well.

    One more rant:
    If we cover the “loophole” in the Stillwater policy we may be ticketing the very people who need to receive the financial aid (food, etc…) from this cause (if the revenue generated by ticketing loud vehicles goes to people in need). These folks often don’t have large amounts of money ($850 for a muffler) to spend on maintaining their exhaust systems -especially with the price of gas going up. -Now that’s “Insane”.

  14. “L” wrote:

    Correction: Straight stack exhaust, after-market mufflers, or other non-oem performance exhaust parts DO NOT AMPLIFY the sound coming from an engine, they only allow the sound to come through at a less muffled rate. […] So the word “AMPLIFY” is really an exaggeration for what is really occurring in this situation.

    Just a poor choice of wording on my part. Nothing more. Note, though, that straight pipes afford no muffling characteristics at all.

    […] after-market parts like the ones listed above due to the affordability of these parts

    The brand names I listed above are actually “performance” exhaust systems (and are prices accordingly) – and the ones I refer to are not generic, OEM equivalent after-market systems.

    I’m an ex-auto technician, so I know about a tad about generic OEM after-market vs. “performance” engineered and marketed systems.

    Sooner or later someone will call you on it if you’re using terms that could be viewed as exaggerated.

    Well, you did, and that’s about the extent of it – fortunately, I don’t have to fight the issue where I live, because it doesn’t exist.

    These folks often don’t have large amounts of money ($850 for a muffler) to spend on maintaining their exhaust systems -especially with the price of gas going up.

    If they can’t afford an $850 OEM muffler (and the fuel costs), then perhaps they shouldn’t be driving a vehicle with a 350 CID motor in it. There’s no excuse to break the law and ruin tranquility.

    Good luck with the noise issues.

  15. Its interesting how after awhile we become so accustomed to our envirnment that we forget what it is like in other places in the world. Some of us gradually end up wanting to improve our own environment down to such a refined level that we forget that in some countries thay dont even have time to bother with issues like these. They’re more concerned about much larger issues.

    While some people drink disease infested water that’s full of carcinogens, we get mad about an occasional loud vehicle.

    I support this cause but its a drop in the bucket compared to some other issues out there.

    Hey, but like I said earlier: “I bet if we used the money generated from ticketing loud-revving motorcycles , we could feed plenty of disadvantaged people in Northfield.”

    Maybe the most important part of this ought to be where the revenue goes from all the ticketing? -If theres even any revenue left over at all.

    Adding this responsibility onto law enforcements shoulders wont be cheap.
    It may also generate a large amount of resentment for the NFLD PD.

  16. Tom Swift has a blog post today titled: Because There Aren’t Kids to Kick Off My Lawn

    I work in and live near a great downtown filled with people who give a rip about such things. The other day, after I opened the bookstore door to invite patrons to sample the goods, some dude (no gender-bias worries!) thundered through at what my rattling ears judged to be about 73 m.p.h., with the sound of hell riding shotgun, forcing me to rethink that decision.

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