Photo radar-style noise control to be tested on Edmonton streets

Edmonton councillors say culture is behind excessively loud vehicles on city streets and they’re ready to do something about it.

'It's allowing a few idiots to drive people out of the core of the city,' Coun. Ben Henderson said

The city will continue testing the photo-radar style noise monitoring technology this summer. (City of Edmonton)

Edmonton city councillors say culture is behind excessively loud vehicles on city streets and they're ready to do something about it.

The city's community and public services committee agreed Wednesday to continue testing photo-radar style noise monitoring technology and develop an in-house solution to the problem — rather than relying on police for enforcement. 

Instead of registering speed, the monitoring equipment would measure sound and ticket vehicles that exceed a predetermined decibel level.

Coun. Scott McKeen admitted not everybody will support the move. 

"I don't think Henry and Martha will be upset," McKeen said. "But Henry and Martha's son who has modified his pickup truck, his car or his motorcycle to make it really loud, he won't like that kind of enforcement. Frankly, I'm not that worried about him."

The city tested the noise monitoring equipment in October 2016 at four locations in Edmonton. On Jasper Avenue at 123rd Street and on Groat Road, the equipment picked up on vehicles as loud as 90 decibels, similar to the sound of a power lawn mower.

Ben Henderson, councillor for Ward 8, which includes Whyte Avenue and Old Strathcona, has been frustrated that attempts at curbing the noise problem with the existing bylaw and enforcement, put into place in 2008, haven't succeeded.

"It's allowing a few idiots to drive people out of the core of the city, where we're trying to encourage people to move," Henderson said. "It's coming from a few people, who think for whatever reason, showing off their vehicle at 3 o'clock in the morning is more important than people's sleep. 
Coun. Ben Henderson is frustrated city bylaws and enforcement haven't curbed noise complaints. (CBC)

"Or driving down Whyte Avenue so everybody can look at them is more important than the people — the hundreds and hundreds of people that are sitting outdoors in the cafes."

Kim Clegg with the Queen Alexandra community league agreed it's a cultural problem, with some drivers modifying their mufflers and zooming down streets around Whyte Avenue late at night.

He said it's disturbing for residents in the community that has a mix of old and new housing.

"You're lying there at night, awake, listening to some jerk go all around the neighbourhood with his 110 decibel, and thinking, 'Why does this guy have the right to destroy all of our sleep just to show off?' "

He's pushing for stronger enforcement and also supports the photo-radar style noise trap. 
Kim Clegg with the Queen Alexandra community league wants more enforcement to stop drivers from zooming around Whyte Avenue with loud, modified mufflers. (CBC)

Some motorcyclists argue they need to make noise to let drivers, otherwise unaware, know they're on the road. 

"Almost every year, I've almost been killed or involved in a serious accident on my motorcycle by another person in a vehicle," Terry Johnson said in an interview with CBC News.  "And every time I've cranked my throttle open and it's saved me, pretty much saved my life."

The city is also suggesting education campaigns and digital display boards.

"I don't see how education is going to make any difference on that," Henderson said. "They know perfectly well what they're doing."

McKeen said every spring he gets inundated with emails from constituents asking him what the city plans to do about excessive noise.

He and Henderson agreed that enforcement has been a challenge and it's time for an in-house solution. A lot of the noise happens after midnight, he pointed out, and police have more pressing calls than noise complaints.

"I don't think we're going to get anywhere as long as we depend on the police force to enforce this," Henderson said. 

The committee passed a motion asking for staff to report back in September with data from the extended pilot project with noise trap guns.

The motion also calls for the city to work with the province to tighten regulations around vehicle and motorcycle noise. 

Staff will report back with suggestions about amending current bylaws.