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The Globe and Mail

Not just idle threats: Motorcycle riders fined for loud bikes

Last year, the city of Edmonton passed a bylaw setting motorcycle noise limits. Bikers get slapped with a $250 ticket if they are caught idling at more than 92 dB or cruising at 96 dB. Police have noise-meter kits to use in enforcement.

Continuous sound of 85 decibels or higher is considered hazardous and can cause long-term hearing loss. That's about as loud as a gas lawn mower. Motorcycles with straight pipes, not stock mufflers, go way beyond that. Each increase of 6 decibels doubles the noise level and noise above 130 decibels causes pain.

Obviously, a lot of bikers don't like the new law and one group recently pulled a motorcycle charity run out of the city to more welcoming towns without motorcycle noise bylaws. In court, the bylaw has achieved mixed results. The latest report I saw stated 115 tickets were issued last year; 24 cases went to trial resulting in 10 convictions and 14 cases dismissed; 20 people didn't show up in court and were convicted in absence and 31 people paid the fine. One case was headed to appeal but the city dropped the case. The motorcyclist claimed the police officer didn't follow the noise testing procedures established by the Society of Automotive Engineers.

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Harley-Davidson knows that a lot of its customers like their bikes as noisy as possible and remove the legal mufflers to substitute straight pipes. Jim McCaslin, president and CEO of Harley-Davidson Motor Co., realizes that causes problems and has said, "We need to think about the consequences our actions have on others, before others take action against us."

In a message to Hog owners, he points out, "Negative news stories regarding motorcycle noise have increased 400 per cent over the past 10 years. In the last year, communities across the United States have upped their efforts to curb motorcycle noise. Some communities have instituted outright bans on motorcycles. Worldwide, motorcycle noise is becoming more heavily restricted. Europe and Japan now require lower than U.S. dB levels for new motorcycles right out of the box. In Australia, for example, a permanent label must be affixed and remain on to signify legal pipes. Annual inspections are also required."

McCaslin has seen the writing on the wall. As a result Harley is now selling "performance" mufflers that still meet legal noise limits.

Three-cylinder Fords

All that noise from a Harley is coming from a two-cylinder engine. Well, how about a quiet three-cylinder engine in your next Ford.

Ford has a turbocharged, 1.0-litre, EcoBoost engine that should be able to crank out 120 horsepower. This three-cylinder mill will go into production next spring for Ford's European mini-cars – the Ka and the Figo. However, it sounds perfect for the subcompact Ford Fiesta which is sold in North America.

Tough new fuel economy standards are coming in 2015; three-cylinders engines are going to be part of the solution.

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Free transit for life

I noticed on (yes, I do check it occasionally) a report that the city of Murcia, Spain, is offering a deal to its residents – turn in your car and get a lifetime pass to the city's new public transportation system.

Murcia is in southeastern Spain; it has a population of nearly half a million and a brand-new tram system through the city. Would a lifetime of free public transportation persuade you to scrap the car?

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