Photo by Damozeljane
Today’s media brings news of two strategies being deployed in the fight against excessive vehicle noise. Both, coincidentally, aimed at the worst (in my humble, patio-loving opinion) of the summertime soundscape offenders – the pimped out motorbike.
If you spend anytime outdoors during that all-to-brief period between the blossoms and rain, you’ll probably have had this experience. You’re enjoying a nice stroll along one of the city’s commercial streets, or maybe a pint with friends on a terrace, or perhaps lazing in a green pocket park… and all of the sudden the bubble and tenor of the city’s acoustics are shattered by the violent belch of a muffler-pumped motor-bike as it roars down the street.
In that too-long-an-instant a chorus of interesting conversations are forced to stop, are drowned out. People jam their hands over their ears. Kids wail. The windows in buildings — sometimes even the buildings themselves — shake and rattle. And all because the owner of said vehicle has taken it upon themselves to amp up their bike’s exhaust system well-beyond reason or regulation. It seems, if you’ll pardon the armchair psychology, to be self-centredness at its worst. It also violates both the municipal Motor Vehicle Noise Bylaw and Provincial Motor Vehicle Act.
Situations like that leave you scratching your shell-shocked head, shaking your fist and wondering what to do. Thank goodness, as the Vancouver Sun reports, a German student has led the way with an innovative solution. Earlier this week a 26-year old in the town of Allershausen took on a group of Hells Angels in their clubhouse, first tossing rude gestures at the gang before hurling a puppy at them. A puppy! And what next you ask? He escaped on a stolen bulldozer. Pure genius. I have no evidence to support this, but I’m convinced that such bravery only came about because our student hero had his morning koffie und struesel interupted by a fleet of full-patch riders tearing down the strasse.
Naturally, this approach poses a number of logistical problems for for progressive Vancouverites like myself opposed to motor cycle noise — for example: availability and disposition of puppies, likelihood of personal injury from incorrect throwing, possibility that PETA will arrive en masse with (or without) Pamela Anderson, etc., etc. On top of that, as a gesture, it just wouldn’t translate well.
And for this and other reasons, we can find solace on the domestic front by turning our attention to the City of Edmonton. Here, a hop-skip-and-jump over the Rockies, we find another solution (courtesy of the Globe and Mail). The City has recently passed a motion wherein motorcycle-specific noise limits have been created. Riders whose vehicles idle at more than 92 decibels, or cruise at more than 96 decibels will find themselves facing a $250 fine. They’re specifically going after the two wheel trouble-makers as well, so it’s a more nuanced and targeted approach than the one we have in Vancouver.
The problem, of course, is enforcement. The best bylaws mean little if there’s no one to enforce them. A while back when I spoke to a Vancouver Police officer about the issue of vehicle noise they said, bluntly, “we might do a sweep once a year… but other than that, if you’re not bleeding as a result of the vehicle we don’t respond.” Discouraging. But maybe the economic argument can assuage the (I think) resource-related concerns of the officer I spoke to.
There are, it would seem, too many bikes that flout the law and make life miserable for the rest of us. At $250 bucks, the Edmonton model suggests the possibility of a bylaw that could pay for itself and send a serious message at the same time. It’s a heftier (and more useful) penalty and has a bit more bite than a puppy hurled by an angry Deutschlander, student or not.
It would also help to enrich those great summer spaces — and summer conversations — that we love so much.