Laws to muffle bikes create confusion, worry
Daytona Beach News-Journal, FL - Cities from New York to Denver are giving motorcyclists the silent treatment. And that worries riders rights groups, which fear that a wave of ordinances aimed at muffling Harley-Davidsons, hushing Hondas and stifling Suzukis will create a confusing patchwork of laws that motorcyclists won't be able to navigate. The motorcycle industry is concerned it could turn these frustrated riders away.
"From our perspective, this creates enormous problems for us because people notice the one motorcycle that makes a lot of noise," said Bill Wood, spokesman for the American Motorcyclist Association. "They don't notice the 50 that pass that don't."
Ordinances come in many forms. Some are against certain types of products -- like mufflers that would rattle the apples off of trees -- while others are aimed more on the intent of the driver, who may want to turn some heads or rile up the neighbors on a Sunday afternoon.
· The Florida Highway Patrol pulls bikers over "when we can hear it" 25 feet or more away, said spokeswoman Lt. Kim Miller. Also, it's against the law to drive any vehicle that has had an exhaust system altered it to make it louder, she said.
· In Daytona Beach a city ordinance prohibits operating "any noise-creating device for the purpose of drawing attention to the source of the noise."
· As of July 1, riders in New York City are subject to a minimum $440 fine for having a muffler or exhaust system that can be heard within 200 feet.
· In Lancaster, Pa., riders -- and all motor vehicle drivers -- could be ticketed for drawing attention to themselves, whether by creating too much noise by revving their engines or doing hard accelerations. Tickets start at $150.
· Motorcyclists in Denver can be ticketed $500 for putting mufflers on their bikes made by someone other than the original manufacturer, if the bike is 25 years old or less. These so-called after-market products can be louder than their manufacturer-made counterparts.
The changes leave riders confused, said Pamela Amette, vice president of the Motorcycle Industry Council, the industry's trade group. Enforcement can be subjective, too. The Council is working with the American Society of Engineers to establish a sound test that would help equalize enforcement.
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