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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Supporters, opponents make noise about proposed motorcycle noise restrictions

CONCORD – Veteran motorcycle riders, shop owners and law enforcement turned out Tuesday to oppose what they described as stiff noise restrictions on vehicles sold in New Hampshire.

Many residents came to the hearing in Representatives Hall to urge the Legislature do something about what they consider to be a growing problem: unrelenting noise from bikes in residential neighborhoods.

Thomas Mack of Hopkinton is an Afghanistan war veteran and a licensed motorcyclist himself.

“We are woken all hours of the night. My family cannot hear each other at dinner. This is a problem. It’s getting worse every year,” Mack told the House Transportation Committee.

Ted O’Brien of Sharon, a member of Citizens Against Loud Motorcycles, said the worst offending machines go over the line.

“As you go up the scale, it begins to damage health,” O’Brien said. “Excessive noise by motorcycles is not necessary, and it begins to damage hearing if you have two, five or 20 chain saws running through your town.”

But more than 200 motorcycle club members and their supporters said the answer was not the bill from Rep. Michele Peckham, R-North Hampton, which would impose stiff fines and set unrealistically low decibel levels on all bikes sold in N.H. after Jan. 1, 2013.

The lobbyist for the American Motorcyclist Association said Peckham’s bill was similar to a California law adopted in 2010.

“The AMA has long held that few other factors contribute to misunderstanding and prejudice against the motorcycling community more than excessively loud motorcycles,” said Imre Szauter, government affairs manager for the AMA. “We do not support the use of any open or unbaffled exhaust system.”

State police Sgt. Steven Casey and several police chiefs said Peckham’s bill would impose federal testing that required too much space for inspection garage owners to examine and for law enforcement to police.

“This bill would be impractical and practically unsafe,” Casey said.

House Transportation Committee Chairman Sherman Packard, R-Londonderry, is a longtime motorcycle enthusiast and pursued a compromise Tuesday.

Packard proposed the state adopt a noise standard, similar to what Maine did last year, that could be tested by police at the scene and the motorcycle owner would not have to leave their bike.

Unlike Maine’s law, Packard’s proposal would not require the owner of the tested bike to then go to an inspection station.

This so-called J2825 standard is the recommended practice of the Society of Automotive Engineers.

AMA lobbyist Szauter said it would work.

“This is objective, not subjective,” Szauter said. “This makes the process nondiscriminatory for the motorcycle owner and operator, law enforcement, the courts and the public.”

Peckham said with a minor modification, she could live with Packard’s plan.

Kevin Landrigan can reached at 321-7040 or klandrigan@nashuatelegraph.com; also check out Kevin Landrigan (@KLandrigan) on Twitter and don’t forget The Telegraph’s new, interactive live feed at www.nashuatelegraph.com/topics/livefeed.