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They make mufflers don't they?

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
May 27, 2005


Living in coastal Southern California, one must quickly come to terms with noise pollution. Living within earshot of Interstate 5 I have perfected the art of selective hearing. Bird songs would be lost, without the ability to tune out the roar of 24-hour traffic. Regrettably, constant noise is just another cost of living near the coast, so we adapt.

Helicopters are a growing nuisance as are lawn blowers and those annoying motorized "stand-up skateboard with a handle thing" scooters. You know, the ones that sound like giant mosquitoes. Boom boxes, car stereos, car alarms, lawn blowers, tree shredders and passing trains add to the audio barrage. None of these however are as obnoxious or indefensible as weekend warriors who think everyone is sexually aroused by the amount of noise they can generate on the back of a shiny motorcycle.

As an environmentalist I am ethically opposed to the ritual of going for a drive, for the sake of a going for a drive. Thankfully most motorists don't cruise the coast as a vanity exercise in conspicuous consumption and excessive posturing. Unfortunately there is a breed of motorcycle and chopper enthusiasts whose idea of recreation involves burning fossil fuels and disturbing the peace with displays brutish behavior. These people are a public nuisance.

Some motorcycles are so loud they set off car alarms as they pass by. Imagine sitting in a sidewalk café when a hog-riding hobbyist trying to get in touch with his inner Hell's Angel triggers a car alarm. It's deafening. Now imagine that same business near a busy intersection when a herd of lather-clad lemmings stop at the light and decide to impress the locals with a revving of engines and a chorus of car alarms.

It's as if these weekend road warriors are demanding to be notice, with each deafening roar of an engine being the communicative equivalent of screaming "Hey look at me I'm cool." Sorry dudes and dudettes noise pollution is not cool, not even from a Harley Davidson.

Here's another theory. I believe human beings create noise, designing it into the very fabric of their lives, so that don't have to hear themselves think. Every heavy metal band can attribute their success to the fact people would rather listen to noise than nothing. Television is popular just for that reason. Without constant audio input people would be unable to ignore the voices in their head. A loud motorcycle is just another way to drown out the cultural programming telling us we are not good enough, cool enough, young enough, or tough enough.

The old saying, "the louder the hog the smaller the log" comes to mind.

Noise pollution is a battle most municipalities will wage only when it involves rock music and alcohol. I remember numerous occasions where the threat of loud music has prompted citizens to oppose entertainment licenses for local restaurants. Ironically the same "no noise after dark" crowd hire landscaping crews who rely on every loud garden appliance known to man to keep leaf litter from marring their environmentally challenged lawn or yardscape. Not surprising, the only noise pollution people have a problem with the noise other people make.

The noise mongers on motorcycles are no different. I bet the people polluting the coast highway with their Easy Rider fantasies, would scream like banshees if a garage band were to move in next door.

Try registering a complaint about noise pollution, 9 times out of 10 municipal staffers will say there is no way to measure or enforce a noise pollution ordinance. Try to ban leaf blowers and other generators of invasive noise pollution, and an army of pro-noise lobbyists will rally to argue their constitutional right to property rights and personal liberty. Neighbors be damned.

Noise pollution is a quality of life issue that coastal communities should address. Most don't. Instead government simply ignores the problem while adding to it with pro-growth and anti-regulatory rhetoric while advancing personal agendas and careers. By design these agendas place economic quantity over environmental quality. We the people just adapt to the growing cacophony.

In a perfect world, those responsible for completely preventable noise pollution would be dealt with in a costly and timely manner. In a perfect world people wouldn't require machines to determine self worth. In a perfect world motorcycles wouldn't exist because they rely totally on an appetite for destruction.

In a perfect world birds wouldn't have to scream to be heard over monkeys on motorcycles.

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