Shhhh.... You'll Wake the Neighboooors!

Sean Alexander
by Sean Alexander
*More from the AMA*

Portland, Maine residents and motorcyclists from around the state are hashing out the pros and cons of a proposed amendment to the City Code regarding motorcycle noise that likely will see some changes in local noise enforcement. A demonstration during the meeting showed that even the city's police motorcycles wouldn't pass the proposed nighttime noise limit for residential neighborhoods. The ordinance also fails to consider that many motorcycles don't have tachometers, needed to determine proper engine speed for accurate sound level readings.

The council heard nearly two hours of testimony after Portland police demonstrated how they would use a decibel meter to test whether motorcycles violated the ordinance's noise limits. Modeled after a New Hampshire statute, the amendment would limit motorcycles to 106 decibels (measured during a stationary test 20 inches from the exhaust pipe) when the engine is operating at 2,800 to 3,500 rpm, depending on the number of cylinders.

Also proposed was a limit of 70 decibels in residential zones from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. Penalties would include escalating fines, starting with a warning for the first offense and reaching $500 for the fourth and subsequent offenses.

Councilor Peter O'Donnell proposed the amendment in response to rising complaints from residents. Portland officials hope the amended City Code will be easier to enforce than Maine's law, which prohibits modified exhaust systems but sets no noise limits.

The American Motorcyclists Association wrote to the Portland City Council, recommending they drop the 70 decibel limit in residential areas because testing methods for this provision were not defined. "The ordinance before you isn't anti-motorcycle - it's anti-excessive noise," said Samuel Zaitlin, a motorcycle owner who lives in Biddeford Pool and has a summer home in Old Orchard Beach. "The real reason we're here is becausemotorcycles are modified to make more noise. If we don't deal with this ourselves (as motorcycle owners), people are going to deal with it for us."

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