Noise

It’s tough to stop those eardrum-shattering motorcyclists

Thundering bikers have grown comfortable riding loudly through Halifax and no one really stops them

Martine Doucet lives on a pretty tree-lined street in Cole Harbour. But the tranquility of her neighbourhood is frequently shattered by the motorcycles who thunder down the roadway, with modified mufflers amplifying the exhaust noise to a deafening level.

They make it louder then it needs to be,” says Doucet, adding it’s “very obtrusive.”

The bikes aren’t manufactured this way, but rather the booming noise that erupts from them comes from holed out exhaust pipes.

The noise gets really loud around Duke Street, reverberating off the window-clad Scotia Square building, as well as Spring Garden Road and Barrington Street.

While main city streets such as Spring Garden and Duke are expected to be noisy, residential areas should generally be quieter.

Main city streets are hotspots for bikers
Main city streets are hotspots for bikers   Sindi Skenderi

However, Butch Diamond, a lover and rider of motorcycles for more than 30 years, says him and his buddies ride loudly to make cars aware of them on the road.

“There is a saying ‘loud pipes save lives’, which is true,” he said. Diamond believes that creating noise will keep bikers safe.

Doucet understands this statement but believes it’s not the only way motorcycle drivers can stay safe.

“Driving correctly and being in other drivers’ line of vision,” is a less noisy and more responsible alternative, she adds.

Dale Williams, manager of Privateers Harvey-Davidson in Halifax, agrees with Doucet. Williams who has been a motorcycle rider for more than 40 years, says from his experience, “Safe driving, good equipment and being aware on the road is just as important as loud pipes.”

“They want to be cool,” said Doucet. “They want to be Sons of Anarchy, sure.”

Trembling ear-drums

The bikers that tinker with the mufflers and the exhaust do it purposefully.

“If you’re just looking for noise you can just take the baffles from [the mufflers],” says Butch Diamond.

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From 25 feet, 120 decibels feels like you’re standing next to a steel mill. From 2 feet, 120 decibels feels like you’re standing next to a chainsaw. Without the headphones.

The parts that make the bikes moderately loud can be bought at motorcycle dealers or motor vehicle shop. They range in price from $500 to $5,000, depending on quality. But the added 20 or 30 decibels only come when a bike has been meddled with, after it leaves the shop.

“Every motorcycle Harley-Davidson creates follows the noise by-laws,” said Williams.

The Nova Scotia Motor Vehicle Act states that every motorcycle must be equipped with a muffler in good working order – without cut-outs – to prevent excessive and unusual noise. It also states that no person shall drive a motor vehicle which can make any unnecessary noise from the engine or exhaust system.

Enforcement isn’t always a priority

However, Diamond isn’t aware of the bylaw.

“I don’t think in Halifax or Nova Scotia there is any by-laws for noise, but I know in other cities there are,” he said.

Halifax Regional Police say it can be difficult to nab the offenders.

“Our blue and white police car tends to scatter [the bikers],” says Sergeant Robert Fox, of the Halifax Regional Police. He said they would have to be around the area to catch the motorcyclists right away.

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Fox says the only way the force tries to prevent the noise is by putting more officers around the area or street where the complaints come from.

But while this may help get tickets out to a few bikers, Sgt. Fox says that they still can’t actually make them change mufflers, or take their bikes away, no matter how many tickets an officer gives out.

“It’s legal to drive the bikes in the city,” says Fox, so if they want, they can choose to let the tickets pile up.