Vancouver police using their ears, not decibel meters, to target loud vehicles

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Megan Devlin, CTV Vancouver May 26, 2017

 With the sunshine finally here, complaints about noisy motorcycles are heating up, and officers are bringing out their ticket books. Maria Weisgarber repor

Summer has arrived in Vancouver, and that means it’s the season for loud cars and motorcycles roaring through city. Vancouver police will be issuing tickets to excessively loud drivers without using a decibel meter to measure the noise from the exhaust system.

Vancouver police say that they’re allowing officers to use subjective observation to issue tickets to for unnecessary noise. They’re citing a 2012 B.C. Supreme Court decision as justification. The penalty for unnecessary noise is a $109 fine and three demerit points.

Spencer Chandra Hebert, MLA for Vancouver West End, says motorcycles and vehicles with modified exhaust pipes are a problem that keeps residents of his neighbourhood awake on warm nights when they want to open a window.

“It just takes one guy deciding to rip down the street in his new Lamborghini or in his souped up Harley Davidson, and all of a sudden you can’t hear each other talk,” he told CTV Vancouver in an interview. “In my case, it wakes up my baby. “

Chandra Herbert wants to make the products people can buy to make the modifications illegal.

“People shouldn’t be allowed to install these in the first place,” he said. “Companies shouldn’t be making a profit selling things that break the law once they’re on the road.”

Noisy vehicles are a perennial problem, and police say it affects the quality of life for people living in urban areas like downtown Vancouver.

But Walter Irwin, a motorcyclist based in East Vancouver, says he doesn’t think it’s fair that police can issue tickets based on what they hear.

“I think it’s pretty ridiculous that they can do that,” he said. “My bike’s not loud in any way. But if an officer thought it was loud, then he could give me a ticket anyway.”

The legal limit for exhaust noise from motorcycles is 92 decibels. That sounds about the same as a lawnmower or a chainsaw. Cars have a slightly lower noise limit at 84 decibels.

Irwin says he advises motorcyclists who do have loud exhaust systems to stay away from densely populated areas like downtown Vancouver.

“They have a higher risk of getting a ticket or a noise complaint and ruining it for everybody,” he said.

There’s an argument that loud pipes save lives because they alert other drivers to the bike’s presence. But Chandra Herbert doesn’t buy that.

“If it was true, then pedestrians should walk around with loudspeakers because it would make them safer,” he said. “That’s crazy and silly.”

For Irwin, the most important part of staying safe on his bike is other drivers.

“You can have a quiet bike or the loudest bike ever… But what it comes down to is people paying attention.”

With files from CTV Vancouver’s Maria Weisgarber.