Annoying and excessive motorcycle exhaust noise is an issue that never strays far from Luke Stack.
Although the Kelowna city councillor took the lead in an ultimately unsuccessful effort back in 2013, to better police excessive motorcycle exhaust noise, the complaints he hears from people in the years since continue.
He cited a recent example of going to the Trinity Baptist Church for his scheduled COVID vaccine inoculation where he introduced himself as a member of council to the person giving him the shot.
“I just wanted to say from council’s perspective how many positive comments we’ve been getting about how the vaccine clinic process was being carried out, and the woman next to her overheard the conversation and who I was, and she proceeded to lambast me about how sick she was with the noise up and down what she called the ‘Glenmore Speedway’ and when council was going to do something about it,” Stack recounted.
He says the issue draws out passionate responses on both sides, the focal point being largely Harley Davidson riders who remove the stock exhaust baffles in favour of open or ‘shot gun’ pipes, which they argue both heightens the motorcycle riding experience and offers added safety awareness to other drivers of their road presence.
Back in 2013, Stack advocated for city council to adopt a noise bylaw that limited motorcycle noise to 92 decibels when idling and 96 decibels when moving.
But, Kelowna RCMP at the time felt it wouldn’t be practical to enforce, particularly when neighbouring communities where loud motorcycles travel to and from Kelowna don’t have similar noise restrictions in place.
The bylaw did reach the floor of a Union of B.C. Municipalities convention for adoption as a province-wide regulation.
“It was adopted on the floor in a vote but never went anywhere after that,” Stack said.
Ultimately, Stack says the Motor Vehicle Act includes regulations regarding excessive exhaust noise for motorcycles and motor vehicles which can be enforced on a consistent basis across the province.
“The RCMP have the tools at their disposal with the Motor Vehicle Act regulation but we have not found the appetite for that to be pursued,” said Stack, citing the response from Kelowna RCMP of already stretched resources combined with the city’s other crime enforcement priority demands.
Last month, Kelowna traffic cops carried out an enforcement blitz for illegally modified vehicles.
More than 30 fines were issued during the month, which included an eye towards modified exhaust systems and loud mufflers, say RCMP.
“We all have a responsibility as vehicle operators to ensure the safety of our community,” said Sgt. Mark Booth, with the Kelowna RCMP Municipal Traffic Section.
“Part of that is making sure that any vehicle we have is in compliance with the safety standards of the province.”
Last year when interviewed by the Kelowna Capital News about policing excessive motorcycle noise, outside of policing safety blitz campaign efforts, Kelowna RCMP media relations officer Cpl. Jocelyn Noseworthy said noise complaints are dealt with on a case-by-case basis as available resources will allow.
Noseworthy also acknowledged the Motor Vehicle Act, rather than individual community noise level bylaws, remains the most effective and accessible policing tool.
But critics of the RCMP’s approach say enforcing motorcycle noise regulations should not be limited to roadside blitzes, but readily responded to whenever the policing opportunity presents itself.
Norm Letnick, the Liberal MLA for Kelowna-Lake Country, noted the noise complaints involve a small segment of the motorcycle riding community, while the RCMP is challenged constantly to meet public and city policing priorities.
“What I would tell people to continue to advocate and call the RCMP if it’s a concern. The more people who complain, the more they realize this is not an isolated issue but something that requires more of their attention,” said Letnick.
Letnick said he spoke last week with a former Kelowna mayor and RCMP superintendent on the issue, and planned to follow up with the current Kelowna RCMP superintendent as well.
“Perhaps we need to increase the fines beyond the $109 under the Motor Vehicle Act so there is a bigger bite to them,” he said.
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