Living in the core, you expect a little noise. But Edmonton’s roads can sound like a speedway when drivers, and especially motorcyclists, feel compelled to stunt with pimped out rides, leading recreational vehicle users to clash with patio patrons.
As Edmonton improves the core’s walkability and street life, community members and a determined city councillor want exhaust pipes to pipe down. “Patio culture can add so much to an urban area,” says Coun. Scott McKeen. “If cruising noisy vehicles take away from that it’ll impact the area and it success.” Loud vehicles aren’t just disturbing the patio peace, but young families, seniors residences and those catching sleep after a night shift, he says.
Edmonton implemented a noise bylaw for motorcycles in 2010. Vehicles must not be louder than 96 decibels while driving. EPS has a sound level meter that captures levels provable in court.
But enforcement of noise complaints is not an easy process. Police are aware of the problem spots, such as Jasper and Whyte avenues, but they can’t respond to individual complaints, and instead will set up zones to test vehicles. “There [needs to] be better enforcement of noise issues on Jasper,” says Dustin Martin, civics chair with the OCL.
In a presentation to the police commission in January this year, Insp. Dennis Storey admitted the major collisions investigation unit, which was conducting noise enforcement, didn’t have the resources to address noise, let alone the unit’s main focus of major collisions. Only 175 violations were enforced by police in 2015. This year, EPS trained 25 more officers to deal with noise violations and has stationed those officers throughout the city, which shifts enforcement to a neighbourhood-level approach.
McKeen says this shouldn’t be a police priority. Instead he’d like to see bylaw officers’ powers expanded in the Municipal Government Act. “Any patrol officer or peace officer should be able to write an order on the street to say you have to appear within the next two weeks and have your bike tested,” says McKeen.
Many motorcycle riders argue that loud pipes are necessary for safety—to let bigger vehicles know their comparatively small presence—but not all will agree that noise is a necessary part of riding. “High visibility trumps loud pipes for safety,” says Ricardo Dominguez, a local rider of six years. He says the pipes are useless because they point backwards, not forwards, toward the traffic it’s approaching.
The Oliver Community League and Downtown Edmonton Community League would like to see a public education campaign on the effects of noise. They also want traffic planning to constrain riders’ speed in the core—and thus their noise—by timing street lights in a way that doesn’t turn them green for blocks on end, and by better emphasizing cyclist infrastructure and pedestrian crossings as road-calming measures.