Massachusetts Motorcycle Law - What to do?

United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Office of Noise Abatement and Control (ONAC), Noise Ordinances, Activism, Lobbying, Advocacy, Testimony, Rights, Enforcement.
Sat May 29, 2010 11:19 pm
What to do? Any suggestions?

Considering the following, how can I reply to the police when they say, "there is nothing we can do because the law is subjective. Some people do not think that a motorcycle is loud and others think it is too loud?"

Analysis: by T.P.S.

"The existing Massachusetts motorcycle noise regulations are unenforceable because they are either unworkable or are vague and subjective in enforcement. The moving motorcycle exhaust noise test (adopted from the motorcycle manufacturer’s test protocol for exhaust noise compliance certification) would require a dedicated test facility together with automotive and acoustical test engineers to administer. The stationary test is also unworkable since it requires a certified dB meter, knowledge of the motorcycle manufacturer’s specifications and at least two enforcement officers. This test also requires test site parameters not suitable for convenient roadside enforcement. The final Massachusetts motorcycle noise regulation is completely subjective and unenforceable since it prohibits the operation of any motor vehicle that makes “a harsh, objectionable or unreasonable noise"

The law is contained in Mass General Laws Chapter 90, Sections 7 and 12. (See below):

Chapter 90:

Section 7S. Motorcycle sound emissions; definitions

The following words used in this section twenty-four A to twenty-four C, inclusive, unless the context otherwise requires shall have the following meanings:—

“A-weighted sound level”, the sound level in decibels as measured on a sound level meter using the A-weighting network. The level is designated dB(A).

“Decibel (dB)”, a unit for measuring the volume of a sound, equal to twenty times the logarithm to the base 10 of the ratio of the pressure of the sound measured to the reference pressure; which is 20 micropascals or 20 micronewtons per square meter.

“Motorcycle”, any motor vehicle having a seat or saddle for the use of the rider and designed to travel on not more than three wheels in contact with the ground, including any bicycle with a motor or driving wheel attached, except a tractor or a motor vehicle designed for carrying golf clubs and not more than four persons, an industrial three-wheel truck, or a motor vehicle on which the operator and passengers ride within an enclosed cab.

“Person”, any individual, association, partnership, or corporation, and includes any officer, employee, department, agency or instrumentality of the commonwealth or any political subdivision of the commonwealth.

“Registrar”, the registrar of motor vehicles.

“Sound level”, the weighted sound pressure level obtained by the use of a sound level meter and frequency weighting network, such as A, B or C as specified in American National Standards Institute specifications for sound level meters (ANSI S1.4-1971). If the frequency weighting employed is not indicated, the A-weighting shall apply.

Section 7T. The registrar shall adopt regulations establishing test procedures and instrumentation to be utilized for measuring sound levels of in-use vehicles. Such regulation shall include site criteria and moving and stationary vehicle measurement procedures and shall take into consideration accepted scientific and professional methods for the measurement of vehicular sound levels. The measurement procedures shall include adjustment factors to be applied to the noise limit for measurement distances of other than fifty feet from the center of the lane of travel and shall allow the extent feasible sound level measurement and enforcement action to be accomplished in reasonably confined areas such as residential areas of urban cities and off highway locations. Test procedures established by the registrar shall be in substantial conformance with applicable standards and practices established or recommended by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

Section 7U. No person shall operate a motorcycle intended for use on the highways of the commonwealth and registered under the provisions of section two of chapter ninety at any time or under any condition of grade, load, acceleration or deceleration in such a manner as to exceed eighty-two decibels when operated within a speed zone of forty-five miles per hour or less, or in such a manner as to exceed eighty-six decibels when operated within a speed zone of over forty-five miles per hour measured at fifty feet using the prescribed highway vehicle sound level measurement procedure.
Sat May 29, 2010 11:56 pm
Here is the final Massachusetts law,
Chapter 90, Section 16 which is considered subjective by the police.

…. No person shall operate a motor vehicle, nor shall any owner of such vehicle permit it to be operated upon any way, except fire department and fire patrol apparatus, unless such motor vehicle is equipped with a muffler to prevent excessive or unnecessary noise, which muffler is in good working order and in constant operation, and complies with such minimum standards for construction and performance as the registrar may prescribe. No person shall use a muffler cut-out or by-pass. No person shall operate a motor vehicle on any way which motor vehicle is equipped (1) with a muffler from which the baffle plates, screens or other original internal parts have been removed and not replaced; or (2) with an exhaust system which has been modified in a manner which will amplify or increase the noise emitted by the exhaust. No person operating a motor vehicle shall sound a bell, horn or other device, nor in any manner operate such motor vehicle so as to make a harsh, objectionable or unreasonable noise, nor permit to escape from such vehicle smoke or pollutants in such amounts or at such levels as may violate motor vehicle air pollution control regulations adopted under the provisions of chapter one hundred and eleven ….
… Whoever violates the provisions of this paragraph shall be punished by a fine of not more than fifty dollars.
Sun May 30, 2010 9:25 am
Motorcycle label match-up is the answer:

The EPA stamp requirement was designed to make it plain and simple for law enforcement to cite motorcycles that do violate federal noise emissions. Boston passed the EPA stamp requirement, hopefully residents and legislators can work together to make it state-wide.
Thu Jun 10, 2010 10:30 pm
My take on the Massachusetts laws being too complex for enforcement is this is a convenience for police who don't really want to pull bikers over - my understanding is Massachusetts allows any police officer to use professional judgement in deciding whether a vehicle is creating a public disturbance. My experience has been many bikers using noisy straight pipes are cops...the fox guarding the chicken coop.

Also, change in Boston's laws would indicate local cities and towns have the right to enforce. The police CHOOSE to feel confused.
Fri Jun 11, 2010 3:35 pm
Massachusetts Motorcycle exhaust law is a sound meter based (with the vehicle in motion, yet) law that is essentially unenforceable, as are all in the field sound meter based laws. This is the best excuse the police can use not to enforce the law. Motorcycle rights groups, such as the Massachusetts Motorcycle Association, enthusiastically endorses unenforceable motorcycle laws and influences your legislature to keep them that way. Take a look at their legislative agenda taken from their web site. ... e_id=25812

3) “Motorcycle Sound Emissions Bill” – SENATE BILL NUMBER 1893 (S.1893) - Designed to direct law enforcement officials to enforce the current motorcycle sounds emissions definitions, testing regulations, and maximum sounds levels as already clearly specified as opposed to more ambiguous “harsh, objectionable or unreasonable noise” definitions. Federal Law requires State defined testing procedures for sound emissions and makes no mention of the unmeasurable practices currently “on the books” which allows law enforcement full latitude to determine whether a motorcycle noise emission is “illegal”. The MMA’s proposal identifies the correct segments of current Massachusetts Law which define how Sound Emissions for Motorcycles should be defined.
1/13/2010 - Assigned to Study for further analysis
3/26/2009 - Assigned to the Joint Committee on Transportation
3/26/2009 - Official Senate Bill Text for S.1893
2/21/2009 - Bill-MC Sound Emissions Bill Text-Click Here
Filed by Senator Brewer and co-sponsored by 14 additional legislators (3 Senators and 11 Representatives)

There is language in the current Massachusetts law that prohibits exhaust systems that 'have been modified in a manner which will amplify or increase the noise emitted by the exhaust". This is the part that the biker's rights groups say is too vague and subjective. Unfortunately, they seem to have convinced the police in Massachusetts of that. There has been some citations issued by some Massachusetts police departments based on the that language in the law. That ticked off the loud bikers and they want to get rid of the only tool that the police can actually use to deal with loud motorcycles in Massachusetts. The MMA has a proposed Senate bill that would gut that language so the police would be forced only to use the unenforceable sound meter law.

MMA "Motorcycle Sound Emissions Bill" for the
2009-2010 Legislative Session
This bill has been submitted by Legislators who wish to help clarify fair & equitable enforcement for motorcycle sound emissions.
“Motorcycle Sound Emissions Bill”:
Senate Bill Number: 1893
Senate Docket Number: 211
Primary Sponsor: Senator Brewer
Sponsorship: 15 Sponsors in total – 4 Senators & 11 Representatives
"Motorcycle Sound Emissions Bill" Text

SECTION 1. Section 16 of chapter 90, as appearing in the 1998 Official Edition and amended September 1, 2007, is hereby amended following the sentence ending with:

(2) with an exhaust system which has been modified in a manner which will amplify or increase the noise emitted by the exhaust.

by appending the new sentence/clause:
In determining if a motorcycle is in compliance, the definitions, testing regulations, and maximum sound levels as defined in Chapter 90, Sections 7T, 7S, and 7U, will be applied.

The MMA makes this statement as part of their justification to get rid of the 'offensive' language in the law.
"Federal Law requires State defined testing procedures for sound emissions and makes no mention of the unmeasurable practices currently “on the books” which allows law enforcement full latitude to determine whether a motorcycle noise emission is “illegal”."

There is no such federal law that requires State defined testing procedures for sound emissions for motorcycles. But there is a federal law that precisely defines the allowable noise emissions for motorcycles and how they are to be equipped as Richard pointed out in his post about your question. You need to lobby your Representatives to recognized and adopt the federal EPA regulations for motorcycle exhaust systems. All motorcycles since 12/31/1982 have been required by federal law to be equipped with EPA compliant exhaust systems that have been designed to be reasonably quiet. The mufflers on these exhaust systems are embossed with a label of compliance. All the police have to do is look for the label of compliance in order to determine of the the muffler is legal. It is up to the states and their political subdivisions to enforce this law at the local level but they must recognized and adopt the federal law. The is nothing subjective about it. It is simple and does not require expensive sound meters. It is the way to go. The state should adopt this law but your town can do it too, regardless of what the state law is since federal law trumps state and local law. The town of North Hampton, NH has just adopted the EPA regulations into their ordinance since the New Hampshire state law is as unenforceable as Massachusetts law. Denver Colorado has been using the EPA law since 2007 with success. Boston has adopted the EPA law but has been shy to to enforce it, probably due to biker opposition. They need to get over that and stop listening to the loud bikers who have nothing to offer but more noise. I have just learned that there is a proposal for a Senate bill in California to adopt the EPA regulations. Maine is considering adopting the EPA regulations. Check out, a Maine citizens motorcycle noise control activist group. There is citizens group patterned after MECALM in to works for New Hampshire. You may consider starting such a group in Massachusetts.

Nothing will change in Massachusetts unless citizens like yourself organize and lobby for enforceable motorcycle noise control laws. The biker's rights groups, which represent a tiny minority in Massachusetts, has too much influence on you state legislature. You need to get organized like they are in order to nullify that influence and bring peace and quiet to Massachusetts. Don't forget though, you can start right now by lobbying your local government to adopt the EPA regulations. If not, the loud Bikers will continue to roar all over you.
Sun Jul 25, 2010 2:29 pm
One way to start is to form a Citizens Against Loud Motorcycles group. This was done in Maine ( about one year ago and although there's a long ways to go, a lot has been accomplished.

You could probably get permission to copy the MECALM website to get an easy start and you'd need only a few people to start this up, say four or five. It will likely grow because of the increasing numbers of Massachusetts residents who are really fed up with motorcycle noise pollution.

A NHCALM group was started just last week and it has a good website and Facebook page.

If an informal group is based on the Internet and has a clearly stated purpose, there shouldn't be any need for time consuming meetings.

I hope this happens soon and that progress can be made to suppress the loud Mass. bikers.
Fri Jun 09, 2017 12:09 am
Is it possible to argue that motorcycle noise is a type of verbal and physical abuse? Verbal in the sense that they are yelling at people through their motorcycles and they are causing physical abuse by inflicting painful noise? Because by the argument that noise laws can't be enforced is like saying abuse laws can't be enforced. A slap can be harmless to one but hurtful to another. But abuse laws are enforced when the vicitim speaks up. In the same sense, noise laws should be enforced depending on how it makes the person feel. If a person is honestly scared for themselves and others when a motorcycle is on the road, this should justify enforcing the noise levels. Even if a motorcycle startles them, this should be enough to force the owner to modify their motorcycle so it doesn't do that.

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