City Council Bill Aims to Quiet Motorcycle Noise

The City Council is considering a bill to keep excessively loud motorcycles from stopping, standing or parking on city streets.

hellsangels.jpgRelax guys, you can keep your jackets. Photo: SliceofNYC/Flickr

Intro 416-A would require motorcycles in New York to be equipped with EPA-stamped exhaust systems — a federal mandate since 1983, but one that is rarely enforced. Though replacing or altering EPA-approved mufflers is against the law, installations of louder after-market equipment are common.

NoiseOFF, a Queens-based org dedicated to combating noise pollution, writes:

Modified motorcycles can reach noise levels in excess of 100db(a); a
level that easily triggers an involuntary stress response commonly
known as "flight or flight." This results in the secretion of
adrenaline, with ensuing spikes in cardio-respiratory rates, muscle
tension, and elevated blood pressure. For affected residents, the
never-ending cycle of noise constitutes a serious health issue.

"It is
already illegal to ride with loud pipes in NYC," says NoiseOFF founder Richard Tur. "Intro 416-A is designed
to allow better enforcement of the law."

A similar local ordinance was adopted in Denver. The New York iteration is sponsored by Council Member Alan Gerson. It would allow for graduated fines for repeat offenders, as well as confiscation of illegally-equipped motorcycles.

Not surprisingly, such laws are unpopular with motorcycle owners and lobbying groups, who claim they discriminate against their vehicle of choice while letting drivers of loud cars and trucks off the hook. Sound from other vehicles is, in fact, already regulated under current city code, but the New York bill nevertheless got plenty of attention from motorcycle enthusiasts when it was introduced late last year.

"We’re still working diligently to get it passed," a Gerson spokesperson told Streetsblog.

While the new bill would ideally raise the profile of noisy motorcycles as a quality of life concern city-wide, some NYPD precincts are already well acquainted with the problem. Police in Inwood and Washington Heights, where neighborhood streets often double as a race course, routinely ticket riders and have impounded over a dozen motorcycles this year.

  • I’d rather see the Council wasting their time on superfluous, unnecessary lawmaking like this than devising more tax hikes or vice bans as is their usual practice.

  • spike

    I am so tired of hearing loud motorcycles at three in the morning. It is every single night where I live. I have little hope the cops will enforce this law, but it would be nice.

  • James

    The question is, will it be enforced? And IMO, car alarms and honking are an even worse menace than motorcycles. The latter especially… rush hour in my neighborhood is basically one long fight or flight stress response for residents due to all of the honking and aggressive driving. The culture of entitlement among motorists is just unbelievable at times.

  • this is great news (if it happens and is enforced)

    i despise arrogant bikers ripping through my neighborhood at all hours
    noise pollution is an important issue that is unfortunately not taken seriously enough in nyc.

  • vnm

    If they can pass a bill to fight motorcycle noise, they can pass a bill to eliminate car alarms, which are totally useless and a much bigger problem.

  • I live on the 5th floor of an apartment building, and even with our windows tightly closed, we have to crank the volume on the TV every time the local Harley owner comes or goes. No truck or car is as loud as this ridiculous motorcycle. Sell the damn thing and get a cheaper, quieter, more efficient Honda instead.

  • When I hear unnecessarily loud motorcycles in the city, I can’t help thinking that the driver is simply looking for a fight. They’re knowingly saying “f you” to entire neighborhoods, and they’re just hoping, in their sick way, someone will confront them.

  • When I moved to Riverside Drive in the 90s in 1981, I noticed that a bunch of motorbikers would come through on weekends at around one a.m. They’re still doing it. You could set their watch by them. Lately I hear more individual riders coming through at unpredictable times, which is actually more upsetting.

    Car alarms were a problem in my area in the 1980s but the problem seems to have leveled off. Maybe the drivers are getting more considerate and leaving them off? Or the alarms have gotten more sophisticated and less likely to go off? I’m not sure. When one goes on for more than 10 minutes, I report the license number to the police.

  • Paul

    YES! Nothing makes me more irritated than purposeful and unnecessary noise like what comes out of these heaps of crap. Internal combustion can go away for all I care. Thanks!

  • tacostand

    It won’t work. Because the city’s law will be out of sync with the surrounding states’ and counties’ laws for motorcycles. It will be easily overturned.

  • Shemp

    This is not great news – it’s theater of the absurd that the Council is legislating on problems that are already illegal. It’s an appalling comment on how weak law enforcement on anything related to motor vehicles is. There’s no reason for it other than the culture of NYPD and City Hall’s unwillingness to get their attention on the issue, because such enforcement would likely be revenue-positive.

  • MrManhattan

    Back in the 90’s when I lived in the West Village (RIP), just about the only thing wrong with the neighborhood was the closing time Harley procession down Washington Street from Hogs and Heffers. Of course, What used to be Hogs and Heffers is now probably a Abacrombe and Fitch.

    Maybe the bikes weren’t so bad after all…

  • TijuanaTornado

    How about they ban loud garbage trucks picking up garbage at 1, 3 and 5 am in the morning?

    What’s that? The unions wouldn’t like it? The mob? Or is it the politicians who get hefty donations from garbage companies and unions?

  • blaut

    I think it’s great to ban them. They set off car alarms.

  • Motorcyclists ripping through the streets are a real scourge of Inwood. At our last Livable Streets meeting, held outside in a community garden, we were deafened at times by all the motorcycle noise.

    At least car alarms serve a legitimate purpose, while motorcycle rumbling is simply egregious and, as ddartley points out, a collective “f you” to the entire neighborhood.

  • bb

    These bikers are as childish as the guys who fix their lawnmower cars to make a loud exahust noise – Oh yea, now I think you’re driving an Aston Martin. Bang bang on my drum look at me.

    Just ban adults who act like 5 yr old boys and we’ll solve both problems.

  • IQ

    No 13 – you can’t be serious. They are PICKING UP GARBAGE, a necessary service. Riding down the street on your superloud toy just for the hell of it is not necessary.

  • Urbanis, I’d like to persuade you that car alarms do not serve a legitimate purpose. The thought behind their invention may have been legitimate, but in actual cars in actual environments, they do no damn good and all damn bad.

    I’ve often thought that one good way to protest car alarms would be to call 911 to report a car being stolen every time one goes off. It would highlight what b.s. devices they are. Of course making it an effective protest would require lots of obnoxious people with time on their hands…

  • Greg

    I would love to see something effective done about this. On summer weekends in my neighborhood the bikers are unbelievably loud. It is an attack on the neighborhood that is completely unacceptable.

  • Exposure to noise is more than a nuisance, it is a public health hazard, with measurable effects in stress and hypertension as well as ear damage. See this fact sheet from the World Health Organization:

    Moreover, the cumulative din from the streets — car stereos, ice cream trucks, car alarms (which serve no purpose), and motorcycles — undercuts the goals of “new urbanism” to bring people together in liveable communities.

    It’s time to take this seriously.

  • Leo

    As a motorcyclist, I don’t like to be woken up by loud motorcycles either, or cars, or alarms, or garbage trucks, etc…

    And I do not have a problem with current laws that ticket loud motorcycles. This is a quality of life issue, and in the city you need to be considerate of other people. As a motorcyclist I get pulled over at checkpoints a dozen times over the warm months, that gives NYPD plenty of opportunities to check for bikes that are violating current noise laws.

    The problem with this new bill is that you can’t tell how loud a machine is while it is parked. The presence or absence of a sticker (which the DOT does not currently issue) cannot tell you if the vehicle is actually too loud or not.

    Here’s why motorcyclists are against this bill: it’s not that we want to make noise in front of your windows… it’s because we know how city government and ticketing agencies work. People are going to get $1000 tickets (which is the actual proposed fine) for losing a sticker that is currently non-existent to begin with. Eventually this law will be enforced with the same rigor (or lack thereof) as the current noise laws. But from time to time, maybe near the ends of each month, law abiding bikers will be ticketed for losing a sticker. Meanwhile noisy obnoxious bikers will have an easy time modifying exhausts internally to be as loud as they like.

    If Alan Gershon was serious about the noise problem in NY, he’d think of a better solution.

  • All right, I cave on the car alarms–it’s not like I enjoy listening to them go off either. And ice cream trucks, don’t get me started…

  • I don’t know about where you lot live, but in my neighbourhood we only hear ice-cream trucks after dark. The only reason I can think of is that they’re actually selling something more interesting than ice-cream…

  • Coolness

    It’s a well known fact that motorcyclists with loud, obnoxious bikes have very tiny genitalia. In fact, studies have proved that the louder the bike, the smaller the penis.

    This is a true story.

  • I think we need an automated machine with a flash camera and a highly directional microphone (yes, they exist, i work in broadcast), like the automated speed cameras but for noisy vehicles. Anyone that drives by too loud gets a fine. You can put one outside my house.

  • Sorry for reviving an old thread, but while we’re on the subject of noise… Is the leaf-blower the most useless invention ever, or what??

  • Hiz

    Hello all,

    one I like to reply to coolness, usally people that worry about other mens penis size are the ones with unusally small penis. It’s a fact.
    All loud pipe do serve a purpose, for the same reason most of you are complaining the city is to noise and a motorcycle is to small. For a viechle that travels the speed limit of 30 + miles an hour a car getting in front of it can be deadly. I know many of you drive and living in new York many of you have been cut off and I am sure most of you didn’t even honk but instead slaked the breaks and graves the wheel tight. What I am try to point out is even in situations like in a automatic car were your hands are free and you are more protected it is hard to use something that is right at hand for warning, what does this have to with motorcycles you say? Try grabbing a hand full of brake graving the clutch and down shifting while some one is cutting you off, yea you can beep the horn too but you have to admit if it’s hard to do it in a car it has to be more dificult while doing all of that.
    This is our choice though this is what we wish to ride, for what ever reason it is freedom, clostifobia, expression of one style, mid age crisis but we all handle the dangers in different ways, some of us wear bright clothing, which makes no sense to me because if they are plowing in to you because they don’t see you then what the heck does it matter what your wearing! Still they believe it better there chances just like some of us believe that our pipes better ours maybe you can’t see a man size viechle in your rear view but if you hear it you will know it’s coming and take extra percotion.
    Many of you may think this is bull but then again not many of you ride, the riders that think this is bull well that is their opinion just like the bright clothes was mine. I can tell you from experince it dies add some level of protection. Now the are many arguments about this, that the pipes are facing rear so the car in the front don’t hear it well many of you know that is bull as you have heard bikes coming. It’s echo the sound bounces off of other cars and movies forward and around you. The othe argument I heard is that maybe only the car in front hears you but not two or three cars ahead, well I am only concern with a viechle that is withing stricking distance I can care less about a car three cars ahead of me. When your in your car do you worry about the guy three Cara ahead of you? I am sure you pay attention to him but because what he does can affect you but your primary concern is the cars immedatly around you as is a motorcyclist concern as well.
    Now I have heard that bicyclest share the road with cars and they make no noise. The people who say that should go back to drivers Ed. Bicycles have privlages that motorcyclist don’t for example they have their own lanes, they are encourage to ride the oppiset way of traffic and they have the right way. I mean give me does privlages and I will be quieter then a church mouse.
    All this was just to tell you that there is a reason for loud pipes, can all this be argued of course, everyone has their own opinion and viewes mine is just one of them, I just hope it gives a little insight to some.
    Now, I have to say not everyone puts their loud pipes to good use. Or are conciously aware if their desicions. Have you ever heard the saying safety in numbers? Many motorcyclest ride in groups for this reason not realizing that because they are in a group and they have loud pipes they Moira becomes even worse and more anoying. I have also seen a up spurt of newbiees, these are motorcyclest with only two to three years under their belt, slot of these guys are trying to fit in or to potray the persona of a biker but over kill. You also have the youngleenes new riders altoghether guys how just got became of age to get a license a year ago or so an like many of us at that age want to push the bar wants to outstand out shine want to be the best, like a peecock in mating season. So, yes loud pipes in my opinion do serve a purpose but just like everything else in humanity can be taken out if porportion due to ignorance and stupidity.

    My only true concern is this, an EPA stamp will not stop the noise what it will stop is my freedom of choice, no my freedom of choice does not give ne the privlage to inflect others with noise that is not what I am saying but it should give me the right to choose the style of pipes I instal on my bike the bike that I bought with my money and payed taxes on. Thus new law us not regulating noies since even EPA stamp bikes can be made loud all it is doing is regulating my choice, telling my what to do with what I bought, I have no problem liwering the sound of my pipes but I do have a problem changing the look for OEM stock parts. Many of you may say that is vane but yet you choose your cars on your taste, glasses, house, clothes, hair style! I know your saying it is nit the same because those choices are not affecting anyone but what if I tell you my pipes will be as low as you want just as long as I can keep the style? That wouldn’t affect anyone but by the passing of this bill I won’t have that option and that is something not only motorcyclest should be concerened about but everyone. The biggest things are started by the smallest ideas. What happens when in the benefit of better living they try to regulate what we wear! Don’t dissmis this so fast, remember they already passes uniforms in school, saying it’s for the better, sure it’s not truley unforced as of yet but how long befor it is?
    thus law doesn’t work and they are so many different ways to fix this with out taking away our right to choose.
    1. A motorcycle revives a yearly inspection just like cars why isn’t the db measured then and if it fails you don’t get an inspection sticker just like a car and just like a car you get a ticket for not being inspected if your driving or parked on the road.
    2. We all know what noise is we are not stupid and neither is a cop if he feels a motorcycle is making to much noise give him a ticket for noise polution and let the motorcyclest fight in court, with a new law that states you must bring the vechile as proof, the court can test on the spot and make

    And I am sure they are a dozen more ways that don’t take my right to buy and do of my choosing what I want with my stuff as long as it does not affect anyone.

    And as for the person that suggested buying a queiter bike like a hond, can i ask you to show a little remorse for our fellow Americans and the financial situation we are in and encourage people to buy American so we can keep some of our heard earn money in America. This is not a personal attack and I am sure it was not meant as any way except as an alternative to liwering the volume on motorcycle but I truely encourage everyone take pride in your country buy American if you buy American maybe our goverment will stop looking for other ways to make money off of us. And buy the pipes that you want just remember you have neighbors be concidarte.

  • JRM

    I don’t like the look of OEM stock pipes. I prefer the look of short stubby straight pipes, I can live with out the noise but not with out the look.
    The problem I have is this ” EPA fed law and the new 416-a bill” reason being is they don’t allow ne the choice to keep the style of pipes I have as long as I lower the sound. If the noise is the real issue why are they not giving me that choice?
    It’s like someone mentioned were is my civil freedom? According to the constitution bill of rights, I have the right to own property and do with it as I please. Of course this doesn’t mean I can make noise and disturbe everyone but it should mean that if I don’t like big long pipes with clunky mufflers at the end I should have the right to change them to something of my choice as long as it is not going to disturbe others civil liberty. That is my issue with this motorcycle noise thing.
    I do think people should pay close attention to this and if they agree with loud pipes or not pay close attention to the underlying affects you just might be giving your civil rights away, then you won’t be able to comb your hair a certian way or wear your jeans, over the top, think about it public schools now have uniforms, it is not mandatory yet but it is encouraged of you know what I mean!

  • James

    Hiz, I did not make it all the way through your incoherent ramble but you will not find many sympathizers at this blog. Motorcycles as a mode of transportation or recreation are not the issue here – the problem is the massive sonic nuisance posed by motorcycles with modified exhausts. 90% of what you stated was just a red herring and excuse to justify imposing your “look at me!” behavior on unwilling and uninterested neighborhood residents. Your rights end when mine begin and no one but you is impressed by your loud bike.

    And for the record, cyclists are most certainly NOT encouraged to ride in the opposite direction of traffic. At least, they aren’t encouraged to do so here or by anyone else with half a brain.

  • Hiz


    Yes my comment was incoherent, had a little trouble texting it from my phone.
    I am not looking for sympathy. What was a red herring, the fact that motorcycles with loud pipes can be heard? I don’t think we would be here if that was not true.
    I am not sure what is wrong with you and other people with the “LOOK AT ME” statement, is it that you are so afraid of being noticed that you hate other people who are not! What does it matter if I want attention or not, what is the problem with that, why does it bother you so much.
    The truth is James I would get attention with or with out loud pipes, what will you have to get mad about then. You guys keep saying it’s about the noise but seem to have a problem with the attention we receive.
    Ok, cyclists are not encouraged to ride in the opposite direction of traffic nor do they get into any trouble if they do.
    I have no problem lowering the noise of my pipes, none once so every because despite what I think and believe, that loud pipes add protection. I do not want to disturb other residents or neighborhoods. My problem is simple, my problem is will you people allow me to live with low 80db legal pipes even though I don’t change there look to OEM pipes. Because this new bill is not allowing for that and there is no red herring in that this is a violation of rights.
    Civil liberties are freedoms that protect an individual from the government of the nation in which they reside. Civil liberties set limits for government so that it cannot abuse its power and interfere unduly with the lives of its citizens.
    Common civil liberties include the rights of people, freedom of religion, and freedom of speech, and additionally, the right to due process, to a trial, to own property, and to privacy.
    Property is any physical or virtual entity that is owned by an individual or jointly by a group of individuals. An owner of property has the right to consume, sell, rent, mortgage, transfer and exchange his or her property. Important widely-recognized types of property include real property (land), personal property (physical possessions belonging to an individual), private property (property owned by legal persons or business entities), public property (state owned or publicly owned and available possessions) and intellectual property (exclusive rights over artistic creations, inventions, etc.), although the latter is not always as widely recognized or enforced. A title, or a right of ownership, is associated with property that establishes the relation between the goods/services and other individuals or groups, assuring the owner the right to dispense with the property in a manner he or she sees fit.

    I am not saying this gives us the right to disturbe others with noisy pipes, I am just saying that the bill does not allow us to use our right to customize or motorcycles the way we see fit even if we are taking other in to account and making sure the noise is not disturbing others.

  • Jeff D.

    I am annoyed at motorcyclists who have blatant disregard for people in quiet neighborhoods.

    There’s this guy with a motorbike in our neighborhood who constantly flies down the street at like 50 mph – on a side street. and the noise from the pipes is quite excessive engine noise. at later than 9pm–its very annoying!
    He has done it at 1am before too.

    I can’t figure out who the owner of the bike is so I can’t complain to the town yet.

    But people! Please. Can you please have some common courtesy after 7pm to people in quieter neighborhoods off the major roads. Its loud enough noise from the major streets in the towns, But for someone to just ride through with heavy noise from the engines..- blowing through a quiet neighborhood where people are trying to relax, get ready for bed, and put the kids to bed with kids trying to sleep.

    Have some common decency and courtesy!

    Drive thorugh smaller quieter neighborhoods and side roads at a slower/quieter speed with less noise from your engines

    Thank you

  • Jeff D.


  • Jeff D.

    Motorcycles are one thing Lee. but I’m going to play my music as loud as I please. And nothing you can do will stop me 😛

  • Janis B

    We live in uncivilized times when jerks like Jeff D’s selfish needs are more important than those of the greater majority–that being people who are actually aware that they are not the only people on the planet, and their noise should not disturb the quality of life of others. Excessive noise from boom cars and motorcycles (don’t get me started on the “kneeling bus”) is stressful and unnecessary. If you want to listen to loud music, go ahead, but to drive around and play it so loud that my teeth are practically vibrating in my head–I have a problem with that. I pay taxes. I respect my fellow New Yorkers. I don’t force them to listen to my music against their will, that’s what headphones are for. Jeff–you’re clueless, smug, and not too bright. Your time will come, trust me. What comes around, goes around.

  • NY’er

    This move is long overdue. No excuse for loud pipes in the city. Take it out on the highway or go live in the desert, but it’s insane to add to the noise here for no reason.

  • annoyed

    They have laws to quiet car mufflers, it should be the same for motorcycles. I am sick and tired of motorcyclists revving the hell out of their little cycles to get attention thinking their cool but in reality people think they are absolute idiots. Stupid kid with a loud muffler on his car is no different then an evener louder motorcycle exhaust.

  • Guest

    Our glorious city constantly passes laws against the Motorcyclist.
    As a Rider, the muffler thing is no big deal, but there is a strong belief “Loud Pipes Save Lives”. Most drivers never pay attention and any edge we can get helps keep us alive.

  • Walter

    New York State lawmakers should put a plug in the earsplitting loud roar from modified loud motorcycles, similar to what state of California is now doing.
    The State Senate and Assembly in Albany should create a bill that will make it a felony to operate a motorcycle that fails to meet federal noise-emission standards.
    Motorcycles who use two-wheeled bikes lacks the proper U.S. EPA label should be subject to a fine.
    People who own motorcycles modify them making them much louder (e.g. between 110db and 120db) that is very loud, that earplugs are required if you are near it, that create a public nuisance (they should belong on a race track, not on a public city street). Riders caught should issue an appearance ticket. The bill should go to Governor Andrew Cuomo
    Whoever came up with a modified motorcycle, should be locked up in jail

  • Msne14579

    what a jerk ye are!

  • fed up

    I’ve endured an entire summer with these idiots passing by my house and work at all hours of the day.  Day and Night.  I’ve been woken up several times.  Tell me something, cyclists, whose lives are supposed to be saved when you roar down the street?   One Sunday, on the Belt Parkway, I was scared to death by several cyclists, weaving in and out of traffic, and yes I heard them and saw them and they were extremely irresponsible.  The noise is out of control, something must be done because there are way too many on the road and the problem will only get worse.  You know the old saying “monkey see, monkey do”.   The only time I get any peace is on a rainy day and that’s changing.

  • standard

    so what happened?  did it pass?

  • Standard

    we are hoping to form an anti motorcycle noise group in queens.
    we also want to work on airport noise pollution.
    any interest parties, please contact standardbrand(at)

  • Oooooksana

    On Staten Island is not possible to sleep with open window. This noise is absolutly consistent after 11pm up to 3 am

  • JayTee

    There is no research that I am aware of that supports this “belief”. Are you aware of any?

  • armyvet05

    Yeah, I’ve done plenty of research where a driver looks twice and then doesn’t hit me. Loud pipes=look twice


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