Pipe down: Edmonton peace officers told to ticket noisy mufflers, motorcycles

Edmonton peace officers are set to crack down on motorcyclists and drivers making excessive noise this summer and will use noise monitors to help do that. 

City will use noise monitoring equipment for enforcement

Noise monitoring equipment was set up in eight locations around Edmonton last year, including this one on Jasper Avenue at 121st Street. (Sam Martin/CBC)

Edmonton peace officers will be cracking down on motorcyclists and drivers making excessive noise this summer. 

On Wednesday, council's urban planning committee directed city operations to pilot a "noise enforcement program," which will pair peace officers with noise monitoring equipment to help them determine who should get a ticket for being too loud. 

Coun. Ben Henderson, whose ward includes Whyte Avenue, Saskatchewan Drive and areas around the University of Alberta, demanded the city start enforcing bylaws around extreme vehicle noise. 

"This is costing the city in terms of health, in terms of economics," Henderson said. "It's just something we gotta stop." 

The pilot is an extension from last year when the city tested noise monitoring equipment in eight locations between September and November. 

In that pilot, the equipment picked up a high number of incidents where vehicles registered 85 decibels or above.

In thousands of cases, vehicles were going 90 decibels or above.

Ninety-five decibels is about the level of sound a Boeing 737 plane makes on a landing. 

"We have the photo radar for noise, that's what we tested before," Henderson said. 

This is ten years of work and we've made almost no progress- Coun. Ben Henderson

This time, the city will assign a person with the equipment to issue tickets.

    "With the photo radar, you gotta have someone there as well," Henderson said. "If someone's there actually making sure that the vehicle that goes by that the camera captures is actually the vehicle and can speak to that, I think we're pretty confident that it'll hold up."

    However, unlike photo radar where tickets are automatically sent to drivers exceeding a certain speed limit, this pilot will not be automated. 

    Staff told the committee that said technology on speed enforcement is much more advanced than technology that measures sound. 

    Gerry Shimko, executive director of traffic safety, said the city needs to staff the equipment before fully moving to an automated system.

    "Identifying with absolutely 100 per cent conviction that that vehicle in that video clip is the one making the noise," Shimko said.

    Video and noise detectors may not be enough to stand up in court yet, he said.

    "By adding a human element to it, you can now put those two together and say, at least testify to that perspective."

    Henderson said the pilot will also enforce the provincial Traffic Safety Act, which makes it illegal for people to modify a vehicle with the goal of making more noise than the original design. 

    Coun. Michael Walters proposed the motion to move ahead with a stiffer enforcement approach. 

    "There's a multitude of strategies and actions we can take, and we will learn precisely what those may be," Walters said. "This motion will say that it's a priority for this committee and for council and so the pilot will be very instructive, at the very least." 

    During the meeting, councillors lamented about how long it's taken for the city to enforce existing bylaws on noise infractions. 
    Council's urban planning committee passes a motion Wednesday calling for tougher enforcement of bylaws governing vehicle noise. (Natasha Riebe/CBC)

    "We sat here a year ago saying by this point, we'd be able to go," Henderson told city operations staff Wednesday. "This is ten years of work and we've made almost no progress." 

    Coun. Scott McKeen said some of his constituents are moving out of Ward 6 neighbourhoods because they can't sleep in the summer with drivers racing around the river valley.

    "One person on one run through the city can have a negative impact on thousands of people's lives," McKeen said. "That is beyond selfish."

    Peace officers pulling over vehicles with modified mufflers can direct the driver to restore the muffler or give them a ticket. The fine for violating the city's noise bylaw is $250.

    The city operations department is expected to report back to the urban planning committee Oct. 30 with their findings, including a way to incorporate automated enforcement for noise infractions in the future.