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Anti-noise group raises ruckus over Harley riders‏

December 16, 2009

Anti-noise group raises ruckus over Harley riders‏

A national group opposed to noise pollution has blasted Harley-Davidson riders who ride loud bikes, saying they’re bullies who ruin the quality of life for others and inflict senseless pain on our ears.

Noise Free America also says the Wisconsin Legislature has won its “Noisy Dozen” award for a resolution declaring Harley as the state’s official motorcycle.

The resolution, Assembly Bill 596, is scheduled for a committee hearing Thursday at noon. Twenty legislators are sponsors of the bill that would require the Wisconsin Blue Book to list Harley-Davidson as the state’s honorary bike.

Noise Free America says the legislation is offensive to its ears.

“Instead of honoring noise terrorism, our representatives should protect us from the awful noise of Harley riders,” said George Atwood, a Noise Free America member from Milton.

The group, based in Albany, N.Y., says it has 50 chapters and several thousand members. Two years ago, it gave the Noisy Dozen award to Madison city officials for turning a deaf ear to noise complaints, including loud parties and train horns.

Now the group has turned up the volume on Harley-Davidson riders, rather than motorcyclists in general.

“Harley is more than a motorcycle,” Atwood said. “It is a state of mind, an idea, an emotion, a brand cult. Unfortunately, the Harley cult has come to represent disorder and noise.”

Atwood says the throaty roar of an unmuffled bike might bug him more than it would some people, but that doesn’t excuse offensive, lawless behavior.

“People don’t have to look at Harleys, but they can’t avoid hearing them,” he said.

“The noise stresses people. It ruins the quality of life in our neighborhoods, and it frightens and intimidates people. It leads to hearing loss, higher medical costs, lost productivity and loss of peace of mind,” Atwood said.

But judging from the thousands of people who lined the streets to watch Harley-Davidson’s 105th anniversary bike parade in 2008, the noise couldn’t have been too bad, according to Harley enthusiasts.

And the image of Harley riders as lawless hooligans stems largely from Hollywood movies.

“Wow. I didn’t know I was that bad,” said Jeff Haig, a retired police chief and member of the Kettle Moraine Harley-Davidson Owners Group.

Haig said the sound of an unmuffled bike offends him, too, and it gives other motorcyclists a bad name.

“There’s no question that some people go way over the top,” he said. “Personally, I have a set of Screaming Eagle mufflers on my bike that are made by Harley and are a little louder. But they’re street legal and have a nice mellow tone. I think most of us are aware of the noise issue and try to find some balance.”

Harley-Davidson motorcycles comply with federal and international noise regulations unless the bikes are modified by their owners.

The company has coined phrases such as “throttle down through town” and “thanks for the rumble, not the roar,” which encourage bike-rally participants to ride respectfully in residential neighborhoods.

“We are extremely committed to educating riders on the benefits of riding with respect,” said Harley spokeswoman Amanda Lee.

Milwaukee police officers use their discretion in ticketing motorcyclists with loud exhaust pipes, according to police spokeswoman Anne Schwartz, who said the number of citations issued was not immediately available.

“We have concentrated our efforts on the loud music violations (Operation Bass Busters), which have generated the most complaints to the MPD and to aldermen regarding noise,” she said.

Legislators say they have no remorse about nominating Harley-Davidson as the state’s official motorcycle, putting it in the same league as the state song, ballad, dance, beverage, tree, flower, bird, insect and animal.

Harley is one of Wisconsin’s largest private employers, and its activities bring thousands of tourists here.

“When I hear loud motorcycle pipes, I think of people having fun and I think of jobs,” said State Sen. Jeff Plale (D-South Milwaukee), a resolution sponsor.

Noise Free America’s complaints are “ridiculous in the extreme,” according to Plale.

“I am proud to accept their Dirty Dozen award, and I look forward to hanging it on my wall,” he said.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. springs permalink
    December 16, 2009 1:16 pm

    George Atwood has said it very well.

    Since 1983, all new motorcycles are required to have an Environmental Protection Agency noise compliance label attached to the chassis and a matching label stamped into the muffler. It’s illegal under federal law to replace the certified exhaust system with one that isn’t, or to tamper with the legal muffler in order to produce more noise. In fact, all motorcycle manuals are required to have a section entitled, Tampering with Noise Control System Prohibited.
    This excellent law is easy to enforce and is designed so that states and cities can adopt it. The city of Denver adopted the EPA label law in 2007 and has been very successful in greatly reduce the numbers of loud motorcycles operating in the city. Green Bay has also adopted the EPA label system where its patrol officers like it because it’s very easy to enforce.
    Also, when the legal exhaust is replaced with an open pipe system, such as drag pipes, the air pollution equipment is disabled. This results in a very large increase in toxins being released into the air to the point where one loud motorcycle can emit as much toxins as 200 or more of todays cars.
    The air emission standards have become more stringent with the 2010 models.
    Noise pollution from loud motorcycles is increasingly blighting our neighborhoods and communities and many Americans are demanding that something be done about it.
    There’s more information on this at the Noiseoff website.

    Author : springs (IP: ,
    E-mail :

  2. December 16, 2009 11:55 pm

    I think its nice that “Springs” or whoever felt it was necessary to support this idea with misinformation and environmental scares. Let’s for one moment actually look at the “nuts and bolts” of the situation and how this individual is more than misinformed.

    1) It is correct that the EPA required stamp is to be put on all Factory Mass Production Motorcycles… It is illegal for a business to tamper with said devices and operate it on the Highways. However, what the owner of the vehicle does to his property is his business. And … a builder, such as myself, who only produces one-off bikes is emissions exempt. I can even sell you and install competition exhaust systems. The owner is the one who chooses to put them on the street. The same can be said for people changing their stock Mustang or SUV exhaust for a sound or performance gain. Yet, you attack the motorcyclist and say nothing of the Mustang or lifted pickup truck? Sounds like discrimination.

    2) Apparently, you are in no way shape or form a mechanic. Let me clue you into a few things about guys who tamper with vehicles to get power. Efficiency is how power is made. Most of your modern gas motors are lucky to be 70% efficient out of the factory. To make more power, you have to take a mass production motor and make it more efficient, meaning that you have to maximize intake and exhaust of the motor… which, yes, raises noise levels some, but also, when done properly, makes exhaust emissions lower. Modern motorcycles (since we are singling them out in the vehicular world like the Natzis did the Jews) come from the factory with what mechanics refer to as a lean AFR… by removing the mufflers you loose back-pressure and allow the motor to breathe a bit easier. By removing the mufflers, you didn’t change the fuel metering devices at all. There are quite a few motorcycles in my past that I removed the mufflers to pass Smog tests and then put them back on for the customers benefit. Manyl mufflers are fiberglass-packed cores which will store HC’s and give a higher reading (kind of like breathing through a dirty sock.) So a motorcycle without mufflers, when tuned properly, will actually produce less emissions than a bike that has been storing unburnt fuel in the big pollution sponges you are fighting to keep that we all call mufflers. My personal motorcycles have no “mufflers” at all – and they are quiet enough to pass by cops without getting a ticket, due to noise reversion chambers built into my one-off drag headers. And get this – the bike we just took to emissions produced 87 HC and .56 CO… which is much much cleaner than your average Honda Accord. We get 50mpg, so we apparently aren’t wasting gas like your uncalled-out SUV. And my bike actually will have water dripping out of the exhaust after a quarter mile pass…. So explain to me again how mufflers keep pollution down?

    Basically, YOU hate loud bikes. Because you would appear to be discriminating against a group of people you are not like, and you are trying to use an environment argument to support your dislike for people on motorcycles. I burn cleaner than you, I take up less space, I get better fuel economy, I use less oil, paint and tires. Factories producing bikes pollute less than the ones producing SUVs. There are people driving down the road in their SUV or BMW, throwing their Starbucks paper cup out the window, getting 12miles to the gallon and you say the NOISE is destroying the environment? You need to back up your thoughts with fact. Fast, loud bikes do not pollute with chemicals like your misinformation pollutes this page. Try being honest, you HATE BIKERS and what they stand for. Don’t try to use science and mechanical theory to try to back up your hate. Just say you hate noise, unless its in your vehicle’s stereo, playing for all to hear, regardless of who wants to hear it.

    Fact 1) Bikes get better milage and use less resources to produce and operate.
    2) Packed mufflers store harmful pollution that will get into the environment.
    3) Good performing bikes mean more efficient fuel and air usage.
    4) YOU are using bunk statements and the EPA to fight your cause – Laws should be for the good of society, not to placate an individual who has a grudge.
    5) All your Enviro-Propaganda does is hurt the large businesses who keep the economy going. So when Harley closes because of your law, remember you were a part of it.
    6) The cop who stops someone for their pipes might have been able to save the life of your loved ones if they didn’t have to spend 30min giving out noise ordinance tickets.

    Don’t hate-monger just because someone’s bike is a bit noisy. Mine apparently isn’t noisy enough, because a year ago, I was hit by truck who claimed she didn’t hear or see me.

    Seriously, let the police officers do more important things, like stopping REAL criminals and leave the bikers alone.

  3. Jamason permalink
    October 6, 2010 10:26 pm

    No one has the right to make others miserable. I should not fart in your face while you are in the movie nor should I yell in your ear while you are trying to talk. Thousands of cars pass us everyday. Then one silly imbicile comes by on a half engineered Harley making more noise than a thousand cars. I would like anyone who thinks these idiots should be able to make that kind of noise take a moment to think what the world would be like if we all took our mufflers off our cars. I know of a Harley freak who is about to move from his home because they just put in some apartments down the road from him and he claims that the traffic noise is driving him nuts. I asked what if all the cars were as loud as his bike and he just stared.

    Motorcycles are great. I own a BMW and put roughly 12000 miles per year on it. Harley owners are usually rude, and wear their costumes and thereby giving motorcyclist a bad name.

    Maybe it is just the fat and old baby boomers that have created this problem. Maybe when they die off the real bikers will prevail in an environmentally friendly and responsible manner.

    Bikes forever.


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