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California Senate tells motorcyclists to pipe down [Updated]

August 31, 2010 |  2:58 pm

MotorcycletailpipeLuisSinco Motorcyclists who swap their bikes' stock exhaust systems for so-called loud pipes may be more likely to get a traffic ticket under a California bill that passed the Senate on Monday. SB 435, also known as the Motorcycle Anti-Tampering Act, gives law enforcement officials the ability to cite noise pollution violations under the California Vehicle Code, reinforcing a 27-year-old federal regulation that is rarely enforced.

Under the proposed law, motorcyclists pulled over for other traffic violations could also be cited for illegally noisy exhaust pipes and fined $50 to $100 for a first violation -- a fix-it ticket that could be dismissed with a proof of correction. Subsequent offenses would result in fines of $100 to $250. The bill, which has also passed the Assembly, is headed for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to sign. It would apply to motorcycles and after-market parts from the 2013 model year forward.

"The noise pollution caused by illegally modified motorcycle exhaust systems is a major quality of life issue across the state," SB 435's author, Sen. Fran Pavely (D-Santa Monica), said in a news release issued Monday. "Basic common sense and decency dictates that when a motorcycle drives by and sets off every car alarm on the street, that is too loud.

[Updated on Wednesday, 9:45 a.m.: The Motorcycle Industry Council, the Irvine-based trade association that represents motorcycle manufacturers and parts suppliers, opposes SB 435.

"It is not a practical solution to address excessive motorcycle noise," said MIC Vice President Pamela Arnette. Instead, Arnette said, the council recommends the J2825 standard developed by the Society of Automotive Engineers "as a fair, practical and economical enforcement tool." J2825 is a stationary sound test and specifies the type of sound meter to be used.]

 According to Senator Pavley, "Many of the modifications which are aimed at making a bike louder -- for example removing the catalytic converter -- also make the bike exponentially more polluting. This has direct, measurable and negative impacts on public health."

 

SB 435 is a watered-down version of a bill first introduced in the senate in February 2009. The earlier version of SB 435, which had also targeted illegally modified motorcycle exhaust systems but for emissions violations and would have required biennial smog checks for motorcycles, met too much resistance from bikers' rights groups and was amended last year.

The retooled version of SB 435 focuses only on exhaust-pipe-tampering and bikes that exceed the EPA-regulated 80-decibel limit for bikes manufactured since 1985. While an illegally noisy exhaust often goes hand in hand with a bike that exceeds allowable emissions, the 2010 version of SB 435 does not specifically address the smog-forming pollutants resulting from illegally modified bikes. It does, however, hold the potential to also reduce emissions -- if it's enforced. 

According to the Air Resources Board, which backed the smog-check version of SB 435, motorcycles account for less than 1% of vehicle-miles traveled in the state yet account for 10% of passenger vehicles' smog-forming emissions; swapping a compliant tailpipe equipped with a catalytic converter for one without emissions controls can emit as many as 10 times more smog-forming pollutants per mile.

-- Susan Carpenter

Photo: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

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