Summer is here, and along with the warm, balmy trade winds, we are treated, or I should say, subjected, to the roar of exceptionally loud motorcycles. You know the ones I’m talking about. You can hear them from blocks away, the low, throaty rumble of the Harley and the high-speed whine of the sport bikes. If you were unfortunate enough to be in a car, or be a pedestrian, next to them, they can scare the bejeezus out of you.

The riders of these bikes have illegally replaced their legal and effective factory-installed exhaust system with after market exhaust systems designed to greatly increase their vehicle’s exhaust noise. They do this in spite of local ordinances against excessive and unnecessary noise and in stark violation of federal regulations and state laws mandating that factory-installed equivalent, and EPA approved, exhaust systems be used on highway motorcycles at all times while they are in use.

Many studies have concluded that excessive noise contributes to serious health problems. The danger to the public when a loud bike roars through a community includes spooked car drivers who may react recklessly to a sudden loud noise. The illegal pipes also emit much more pollution, more than the average car, for instance.

Not all motorcycle riders are guilty of this abusive practice. Most riders, myself included, love the freedom motorcycles afford. Whether commuting in heavy traffic and being able to utilize the space between lanes, carving the beautiful canyon roads on sunny weekend afternoon, or something as mundane as grocery shopping, riding a motorcycle in southern California is economical, efficient and thrilling. I can’t understand the mind set, however, that would subject thousands of people to loud, obnoxious noise that serves no purpose other than to draw the attention of everyone for blocks around. When you consider that the typical motorcycle rider will ride for miles through heavily populated communities, those with loud pipes are disturbing thousands of people with their unwanted noise every time they ride.

Santa Monica is famous for its aggressive parking enforcement. The city spares no expense to ensure parking laws are fully enforced. When it comes to these loud motorcycles, however, something most city residents hate, the city does nothing. Ironically, Santa Monica receives money from the state to conduct periodic motorcycle safety checks.  It would not be all that difficult to perform a quick visual check of the exhaust systems of motorcycles suspected of emitting excessive exhaust noise to determine if they have been modified with improper exhaust systems that do not comply with the state law 27150. (a), 27151.(a) and 27202.1.(a).

Of all the types of improper motorcycle exhaust systems that do not comply with both state and federal law, straight pipes are the easiest to spot. The operators of motorcycles illegally equipped should be cited for having an improper exhaust system under 27150.(a) and 27151. Those sections apply to all highway motorcycles regardless of model year.

Motorcycles manufactured on or after January 1, 2013 and that are suspected of emitting “excessive or unusual noise” and that appear to be equipped with an improper exhaust system, should be cited under 27150.(a), 27151.(a) and 27202.1. (a), as no after market “straight pipe” regardless of  the presence of baffles or after market exhaust system or muffler intended “for use on closed course motorcycles only” are in compliance with federal law or state law 27202.1. (a).

The people of Santa Monica deserve the quiet enjoyment of our property. We rely on our police department to protect us from the miscreants, scofflaws and bullies who replace the mufflers on their motorcycles with exceptionally loud pipes so they can announce their arrival from blocks away.

The city of Laguna Beach employed a single officer to enforce their noise laws and the problem of loud motorcycles roaring through Laguna Beach was reduced dramatically while enforcement was in effect. We demand that our city treat this issue as the serious problem it is by prioritizing enforcement of all laws pertaining to illegal exhaust systems and that address excessive noise. It is beyond belief that an effective campaign to rid our city of these bullies cannot be waged. After all, it’s easy to find the illegal bikes since they are so loud and their “excessive or unusual noise emissions” are plainly audible to any reasonable person.

If a lone police officer in Laguna Beach can make a dent in that city’s motorcycle noise problem, imagine what can be done if every police officer on patrol in Santa Monica would do his or her part in proactively enforcing the state law simply by taking notice of excessively loud motorcycles and just issuing a few tickets a week.


Paul Scott is a Santa Monica resident