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City Council rejects proposal to regulate motorcycle noise

September 10, 2009

City Council rejects proposal to regulate motorcycle noise

Motorcyclists turn out to testify and persuade some of the councilors to change their minds.

By TOM BELL, Staff Writer September 10, 2009

PORTLAND — The City Council unanimously rejected a proposal Wednesday night to regulate motorcycle noise and sent the measure back to committee for more work.

The testimony of some of the dozen bikers who attended the meeting changed the minds of some of the councilors.

“It sounds a little like Big Brother, to me, looking down and trying to wrap their hands around a group of folks,” Councilor John Coyne said of the proposed ordinance.

The proposal would have required EPA-approved mufflers on all motorcycles ridden in the city. The mufflers have been standard on all motorcycles built since 1983.

A biker riding a motorcycle without an EPA sticker on the muffler would have been fined $50.

Residents of Munjoy Hill who say they contend with illegally loud motorcycles roaring up and down their streets at night submitted the proposal.

Another Portland resident, Andy Ford, said that loud motorcycle noise is anti-social behavior. He compared the proposed ordinance to laws that ban smoking in restaurants and hospitals.

He urged the council to pass it so that “maybe the people who live here and work here will be spared the blight of loud motorcycles.”

Councilor Daniel Skolnik, chair of the council’s Public Safety Committee, said the measure wouldn’t affect the vast majority of bikers.

“It affects ridiculously loud, obnoxiously loud motorcycles,” he said. “We are talking more like the volume of a jet engine or a pneumatic drill in your bedroom. We are talking screaming banshees from hell.”

The ordinance would have been the first of its kind in Maine, and supporters said its adoption would have made it easier to pass a similar state law.

Opponents, including the motorcyclists who attended the council hearing, said the measure would discriminate against motorcyclists and hurt businesses in the city by discouraging motorcyclists from visiting.

Steve DiMillo, a co-owner of DiMillo’s Restaurant, said his business and others would lose customers. DiMillo, who rides a motorcycle and lives in the city, said that other residents should accept motorcycle noise.

“It’s part of life in the city, like fire engines and dump trucks,” he said.

Other bikers said they have invested thousands of dollars in motorcycles that have after-market mufflers and they would not be able to ride them anymore.

“Don’t let a couple of bad apples cause you to implement an ordinance like this that discriminates against motorcycles,” said Rick Dodge, a motorcycle rider who lives in the city.

Some of the councilors said the Public Safety Committee should engage bikers to work out a solution. Others argued that the problem should be dealt with at the state level.

“We need a broad approach so that it doesn’t single out one town,” said Councilor Cheryl Leeman.

Councilor John Anton, who has been criticized for sending an e-mail to a Massachusetts motorcyclist urging him and others bikers to vacation in New Hampshire instead of Portland, took a moment during the meeting to apologize to bikers in the room, many of whom wore leather jackets.

“Regardless of how this turns out, I hope people understand that I have no animus to people who ride motorcycles,” he said. “I should have taken the high road, and I didn’t.”

Staff Writer Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at:

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