Judge Kills Noise Ordinance
A motorcycle specific noise ordinance enacted by the town of North Hampton, New Hampshire, has been struck down by a Rockingham County Superior court Judge last month.
The ordinance had set motorcycle exhaust noise limits at 80 decibels. The state of New Hampshire has a limit of 106 decibels. Passage of the law brought the town to court quickly, as Seacoast Motorcycles, Inc, which owns Seacoast Harley-Davidson, challenged the ordinance as unlawful.
The North Hampton police chief, Brian Page, had said he would not enforce the ordinance until the law was supported by the court system. Now, it seems, he won’t have to enforce it at all.
The court ruling essentially said the town could not enact a law stricter than the state law.
The decision came at the same time New Hampshire legislators were trying to find a way to silence bikes. A series of bills wee introduced to do so, including one putting an 80-db limit on bikes at idle. When it was pointed out the bill was nearly identical to the struck-down North Hampton ordinance, an amendment was offered that raised the limit to 92-db in the House Transportation Committee. Committee Chairman Sherman Packard proposed the state also adopt a noise standard "that could be tested by police at the scene" and wouldn't require the motorcycle owner to "leave their bike" or take it "to an inspection station" to be tested.
That is something Page, the North Hampton top cop want to see happen.
“The federal testing procedure is far too burdensome and would have taken away the ability of the North Hampton Police Department and any other department to conduct roadside testing because of the size of the area that is required under the federal procedure,” he said. “The federal procedure requires that the motorcycle being tested be driven by on four separate occasions in order to try to come up with the decibels being emitted from the exhaust from 49 feet away. This would have made it very improbable if not impossible to conduct the testing roadside as many of our Seacoast police departments have become accustomed to doing and want to continue doing. “
Page used a “Motorcycle Safety checkpoint” last summer to stop and test bike exhaust noise to create a database for the legislation now being considered in New Hampshire, in addition to writing tickets for additional violations.
Such check points have been upheld in New York, which uses them to hide a slew of “law enforcement goals.” The checkpoints were federally funded.
The US congress has inserted a ban on the checkpoints into the House Highway Bill currently working its way through congress.
In Virginia, a bill that prohibits law enforcement agencies from establishing checkpoints where the only vehicles subject to inspection are motorcycles was signed into law. The law was introduced after the Arlington County Police Department set up a motorcycle-only checkpoint during the Rolling Thunder ride on May 28, 2011. That action caused considerable outrage.
"Officials say they set up these motorcycle-only checkpoints to pull over motorcyclists to check for safety violations," said Rick Podliska, a Virginia resident and AMA deputy director of government relations. "But if officials are really concerned about motorcyclists' safety, then they need to stop discriminating against us with these checkpoints and start supporting programs that prevent motorcycle crashes, such as rider safety training and driver awareness programs."