NDP MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert, who represents the West End, said a provincewide strategy is needed to combat noisy vehicles.

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Vancouver police target loud cars and motorbikes Number of complaints up in downtown and the West EndBy Yvonne Zacharias, Vancouver Sun July 10, 2015
Vancouver police target loud cars and motorbikes Photograph by: Arlen Redekop , Vancouver Sun

VANCOUVER — Drivers of motorcycles or cars with ear-splitting exhausts or booming stereos beware.

As it does every time summer hits the city, the Vancouver Police Department is planning a crackdown.

Anyone caught disturbing the peace with noise exceeding 91 decibels from a vehicle’s engine, tires, brakes or exhaust could be nailed with a ticket for $109 plus three demerit points.

How loud is that? It is roughly the sound of a train whistle at 150 metres, a jackhammer at 15 m or a subway train at 60 m.

The number of citizen complaints about noisy vehicles is up, with the problem being greatest in the downtown and the West End, said Vancouver police spokesman Const. Brian Montague.

Police can issue a ticket if, based on their experience, they believe the driver is making too much noise. If the officer has any doubt or the driver argues the noise level is acceptable, the officer can direct the driver to a vehicle-testing site, Montague said.

But NDP MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert, who represents the West End, said municipal bylaws have created an inconsistent patchwork across the province. What is needed, he argued, is a provincewide strategy.

Under the current system, when a complaint is received about a loud biker, all he has to do is roar into another municipality where the bylaws might vary, said Chandra Herbert.

He said MLAs of all political stripes in the West End have long urged the government to act, without success.

In April, in response to a question in the legislature, Transportation Minister Todd Stone agreed this was a hot issue, adding that a working group comprising chiefs of police and ministry staff had been recently formed to come up with recommendations in the fall to be taken to motorcycle organizations and local governments for feedback. Police chiefs have also been urging the government to come up with a common testing standard.

The minister promised a more consistent approach across the province that would go to the root of the problem.

But Chandra Herbert said he hasn’t heard of anything being done since then.

Meanwhile, “more people seem to be changing out their mufflers … so their little Honda Civics sound like monster trucks,” he said. “It’s not for safety. I think it’s for ego.”

He said there is no evidence that louder pipes on motorcycles make them safer. In fact, there is evidence to the contrary. Bikers have told him that a quieter bike enables them to hear traffic and be more aware of what is around them. A loud horn suffices to warn errant car drivers.

He said the province also needs to address the need for better testing mechanisms.

“When I talk to police officers, they say each municipality has a slightly different bylaw and some really don’t stand up to court challenges because the testing is not always scientifically sound.”

He said motorcyclists are getting a bad rap because of the few who break the law.

“It’s not that we want all peace and quiet. We live downtown. We are used to noise, but let’s make it reasonable.”