Motorcycle noise bylaw may come to Saint John

The city of Saint John may become the second municipality in New Brunswick to introduce a bylaw aimed at restricting motorcycle noise.

The city of Saint John may become the second municipality in New Brunswick to introduce a bylaw aimed at restricting motorcycle noise.

Bathurst recently passed such a bylaw and is waiting to have it approved at the provincial level, because it requires changes to the motor vehicle act.

Fredericton has had a vehicle noise reduction strategy in place for several years now — police officers have handed out warnings and fines to owners of noisy bikes.

It's enough to inspire similar efforts in Saint John.

"It's always an issue every spring, and it's probably been an issue, I'm going to say, for the last three to four years," said Saint John Traffic Sgt. Jeff LaFrance, who wants to help the city write a noise bylaw.

LaFrance said he's looking at the bylaw in Bathurst to see if it can be copied in Saint John.

"I'd like to see it for the summer but that's probably not going to happen for this summer."

Police in St. Andrews also field complaints, especially during Atlanticade, when crowds of motorcycle enthusiasts descend upon the seaside town.

"St. Andrews is a quiet, quaint little town. And you start putting 5,000, 10,000 motorcycles in there for three or four days, certainly the noise level comes up, but I try to tell people that noise is the sound of money," said Atlanticade organizer Dale Hicks.

Hicks said Atlanticade delivers a significant boost to the Charlotte County economy.

He said the event draws people who otherwise might not come.

Testing motorcycle noise

The Bathurst bylaw limits motorbike noise to 92 decibels — about the range of a lawnmower and a level where sustained exposure can lead to hearing damage.

It allows officers to do noise spot-checks and direct bikes off the roads, if they fail the test.

Fredericton police use a sound meter combined with a tachometer to measure the noise level at certain engine speeds to help an officer determine if a ticket is warranted.

Not all bikes come with a tachometer. On bikes without one, police take a reading from a sparkplug to determine the engine speed.

Police take a decibel reading at half of the bike engine's redline, which is the maximum safe revolutions per minute.

In February, an Edmonton man successfully fought his motorcycle noise ticket, citing concerns about how the sound tests are conducted.

"It's all a modification thing," said LaFrance. "The more freely your exhaust flows, the more power your bike produces basically and then there's also those guys who just like the rumble effect."

Meanwhile, a group called Noise-Free Saint John is organizing a noise-tracking event for June 4.

They plan to use sound meters in King's Square to record incidents of excessive noise pollution.

They're hoping it will provoke the city to do something sooner rather than later.

Police say after-market exhaust pipes that enhance motorbike noise are a lucrative business and there might be some resistance from motorbike dealers to the idea of a bylaw.