Windsor, Ont., targets motorcycle noise

Police officers in Windsor, Ont., are on the lookout for altered motorcycle mufflers that generate excessive or unusual noise, says Deputy Chief Jerome Brannigan.

Windsor's deputy police chief calls noise problem a North American issue

The fine for noise violations under the Highway Traffic Act is $110. (CBC)

Police are cracking down on motorcycle noise in Windsor, Ont.

Deputy Chief Jerome Brannigan said officers are on the lookout for altered mufflers that generate excessive or unusual noise.

He said police have laid charges and ticketed 50 people since officers began the crackdown earlier this year. They have experienced a conviction rate of 50 per cent.

Brannigan said the issue isn't unique to the Windsor region.

"It's a country-wide issue, actually it's a North American issue," he said. "I've read all kinds of information in the United States where communities are experiencing very similar, troubling issues with noise."

Patrol officers are still on the lookout for offending bikers. Brannigan said 250 officers took specialized training to make the crackdown effective.

"We went through the definition of what a straight pipe is and what a gutted muffler is and what a Hollywood muffler is," Brannigan said. "We also gave examples and suggestions on how to articulate unnecessary or unusual noise."

Windsor Coun. Jo-Anne Gignac said loud bikes affect the quality of life in Windsor and that council has received numerous complaints about the noise, particularly at night.

In June 2010, Edmonton passed Canada’s first excessive motorcycle noise bylaw. It focused on engines louder than 92 decibels while idling and 96 decibels while the engine was revving. Police in Edmonton used decibel meters but found they lost cases because of compromising factors such as background noise.

Law enforced under Highway Traffic Act

According to paperwork filed at council Monday night, Windsor Police will, instead, enforce the law as it relates to vehicles and motorcycles under the Highway Traffic Act as it is currently written. Until the province introduces changes to regulate motor vehicle noise using decibel meters, the department will not buy any of the devices. Instead, police will focus on modified mufflers.

The Highway Traffic Act says it is an offence to cause a vehicle to make any unnecessary noise or operate without a muffler or certain modified mufflers. It also gives police the authority to inspect motor vehicles.

The fine for noise violations under the Highway Traffic Act is $110.

Brannigan and city councillors said the province needs to pass stricter regulations on altered mufflers and noise to further help police.

Gord Anderson rides a Yamaha motorcycle with a modified muffler. He said it's not nearly as loud as some stock mufflers and tailpipes on other bike brands. He made the change to obtain more horsepower.

"It's the same as putting a header on a car. It doesn’t necessarily make it louder. But technically, I could be illegal," he said. "It should be okay to modify an exhaust as long it’s below a reasonable decibel level."

Tim Ryall has owned and operated Kustom Bike Shop for 38 years. He modifies bikes for a living.

"Out of the box, they’re too quiet. The first thing someone changes on a bike is the exhaust. Myself, I don’t like loud pipes. But, the younger guys, that’s what they want," Ryall said. "There are some bikes out there that are pretty loud. Everyone else in the country is cracking down, so it was just a matter of time before it came to Windsor."

A similar law was passed in Bathurst, N.B., in 2011. A year before the ban on noisy bikes there, Bathurst police held clinics so bikers could check the decibel levels of their motorcycles.

If they were over the 92-decibel limit, they were asked to remove the modified after-market exhaust systems many of them had installed.