PRESS EDITORIAL: Too loud on two wheels

You can hear summer coming.

Summer along with its adjacent weeks of late spring and early fall is not just Wisconsin’s warm season—it’s the loud season.

Lawn mowers, string trimmers, electric leaf blowers and the noise kings of lawn maintenance devices, gas-powered leaf blowers, fill the warming air with swarms of decibels.

This internal combustion engine din can be annoying and certainly not pleasant as are other distinctive sounds of summer like birdsong and children playing. Even so, it is usually a tolerable racket.

Most homeowners are mindful enough of their neighbors’ sensibilities to limit motor noise with civilized regard for duration and time of day. Besides, the noise has a redeeming purpose in facilitating the grooming of lawns and landscaping that come to verdant life in this season, beautifying communities after months of brown dormancy.

There is no redeeming purpose, however, to what is far and away the most obnoxious sound of the season—the explosive roar of motorcycles with illegal exhaust pipes in the hands of riders who care nothing about disrupting the enjoyment of the season by others who savor life outside.

Harley Davidson motorcycles, the iconic brand that has a passionate cultural following in Wisconsin, are by nature quite loud when they leave the Milwaukee plant where they’re made. But these are aren’t the destroyers of summer peace. The culprits are the Harleys that have been modified, in violation of federal and state laws, for the express purpose of making noise. There are no data indicating how many illegally loud motorcycles are on the roads, but ear-aching anecdotal evidence says there are many.

Because the purpose of making motorcycles outrageously loud is to draw attention to the rider, people in normally quiet places suffer most from this behavior. How better to show off than to detonate a crackling explosion of exhaust sound while cruising through, say, downtown Port Washington on a summer evening when the sidewalk tables of restaurants are filled?

Other favorite haunts of the two-wheeled noisemakers are the quiet country roads of Ozaukee County. After all, it’s no fun making noise on busy highways where everyone is driving too fast to appreciate the full aural assault of extra-loud motorcycles. Folks living along some county roads have to put up with days and nights interrupted by repeated invasions of their homes, yards, decks and patios by the cacophony produced by squads of motorcycles fitted with aftermarket exhaust systems.

A popular defense by riders for illegally modifying their motorcycles is that their outsized noise is a necessary safety feature that alerts other drivers to their presence. Really? Are they saying their chosen vehicles can only be safely used if they make more noise then anything else on the road? Perhaps they should consider a different type of motor vehicle. Or a very loud horn.

The fact that super-loud motorcycles are illegal and numerous begs the question of how their owners get away with flouting the law. The answer seems to be that police don’t pay much attention.

Of course, police have other duties that take priority over what would amount to enforcing nuisance laws.    But a few warnings or tickets after roaring motorcycles rattle the concentration of an officer in one of the ubiquitous City Port Washington squad cars parked on the main drag or catch the attention of a sheriff’s deputy patrolling a county road might at least send a message that it’s not OK to use a motorcycle as a weapon to disturb the peace.

Many owners of factory-legal Harleys would likely applaud a crackdown on riders whose behavior threatens to give a bad name to a pastime meant to be an exuberant, wind-in-the face enjoyment of summer that harkens to the American ideal of the open road. For these responsible riders, it’s an enjoyment that does not derive from disturbing the summer joy of others.


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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
(262) 284-3494


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