The American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) has developed model legislation for use by cities seeking a simple, consistent and economical way to deal with sound complaints related to on-highway motorcycles within the larger context of excessive sound from all sources.
The model legislation offers an objective method for municipal jurisdictions to evaluate motorcycle sound through science-based measurement. It’s based on the Society of Automotive Engineers’ (SAE) new J2825 standard, "Measurement of Exhaust Sound Pressure Levels of Stationary On-Highway Motorcycles." The AMA produced similar model legislation for off-highway motorcycles several years ago.
"Many cities and other jurisdictions already have excessive sound laws on the books, but when they get citizen complaints about loud motorcycles, they sometimes decide to single out the riding public with unfair or overly restrictive ordinances and laws," said Imre Szauter, AMA government affairs manager. "We believe that motorcycles shouldn’t be singled out, but should be regulated as part of a comprehensive sound management policy that also addresses cars, trucks, leaf blowers, generators and other sources of excessive sound."
The J2825 standard, issued by the SAE in May, is based on a comprehensive study of a wide variety of on-highway motorcycles. It establishes instrumentation, test site, test conditions, procedures, measurements and sound level limits.
"Too many times, jurisdictions responding to citizen complaints about excessive motorcycle sound create laws that simply don’t work in the real world," Szauter said. "They either set an unreasonable decibel limit, leave it up to a police officer to subjectively decide whether a bike is too noisy, or come up with another plan that is arbitrary or unworkable. Our model legislation is objective, workable and fair."
The model legislation adopts the SAE J2825 standard for stationary on-highway motorcycle sound testing, specifies the type of sound meter to be used, and allows for each city to specify the penalties for violating the law. Szauter stressed, however, that the sound-testing procedures and decibel limits established in the SAE J2825 standard should remain unchanged to ensure that the law remains objective and fair.
Under the SAE J2825 standard, decibel limits range from 92 dBA at idle for all motorcycles, to up to 100 dBA at certain RPMs for various motorcycles, depending on the type of engine.
In 2003, the AMA organized the National Summit on Motorcycle Sound to bring together riders and user organizations, representatives of the motorcycle manufacturers, the aftermarket industry, racing promoters, government agencies, law enforcement and others to develop proposals regarding the increasingly controversial issue of excessive motorcycle sound. The creation of a new on-highway motorcycle sound measurement procedure was a top recommendation of the summit’s Motorcycle Sound Working Group.
"The motorcycling community, local governments and police officers have sought a practical sound field test for streetbikes for many years, and now it exists, thanks to a collaboration between the Motorcycle Industry Council and the SAE," Szauter said. "The next step is for jurisdictions struggling with motorcycle sound complaints to adopt fair and objective laws, and the AMA is providing the tool for them to do that."