WATERVILLE — Police put local motorcyclists on alert this weekend, after handing out 13 tickets for loud exhaust pipes.

Bikers say they’re outraged by the crackdown and plan on fighting their tickets, as well as the law that targets exhaust noise.

Changes to that law went into effect July 12, making it illegal to drive a car or motorcycle with an exhaust system that’s modified to be louder.

Waterville Police Chief Joseph Massey said last month that for two weeks after the law went into effect, his department would issue warnings for violations. That grace period ended Friday.

During the weekend, Massey said Monday, police issued summonses to 11 motorcyclists and two car drivers. The fine is $137.

Gordon Austin, who was one of the people to get ticketed, said the group of Harley-Davidson owners he hangs out with are collecting signatures for a petition to change the law.

“Everyone’s just ripping, roaring mad,” he said.

Austin lives in Canaan. Most days, he rides his motorcycle down to Waterville and hangs out by the Dunkin Donuts on College Avenue, where his friends get together in the late afternoon.

He used go for rides around town before meeting up with his friends, but now, once he crosses the Waterville border, he’s staying put.

“I’m afraid to move,” he said.

David Lefebvre, who owns The Starting Line Speed and Custom on College Avenue, said the changes to the law effectively make it illegal to upgrade a motorcycle’s exhaust system, because replacement mufflers are all louder than the ones that come on the bikes.

Lefebvre said there’s nothing in the law that says how loud is too loud, which puts inspectors like him in a precarious position, because they’re only supposed to give out inspection stickers if bikes are in compliance with noise regulations.

“It’s our word against the officer’s word,” Lefebvre said. “I think they need to give us some language that’s more definitive.”

Massey said he’s heard the criticism that determining what’s too loud shouldn’t be at an officer’s discretion. There are many laws in which police have to make a call about whether to hand out a ticket based on their common sense, he said.

But if a bike with an inspection sticker from Lefebvre’s shop gets ticketed for excessive noise, his license is on the line, Lefebvre said. And there’s no hard evidence that can show whether the officer or the inspector made the right determination.

“My mechanics are scared to put stickers on,” he said.

Austin said he and his friends know people who ride motorcycles all around the state, and there’s no other police department that’s enforcing the new law to the extent that Waterville is.

York County sheriff’s deputies set up a checkpoint on Route 1 in Arundel on Sunday, stopping 116 motorcycles to make sure the bikes were inspected and that the riders were aware of the changes to the law. They issued 21 tickets for motorcycles that hadn’t been inspected or weren’t legally registered.

Although Austin has changed his habits to ride in Waterville as little as possible, he said he’s not about to downgrade his exhaust system because of the new law. He said it cost him $2,000 to replace his pipes, and it would cost just as much to change back.

“I’ll pay my ticket if I have to,” he said.

Lefebvre said the original exhausts for some older bikes aren’t made anymore, so their owners couldn’t change back if they wanted to.

Massey said he thinks some motorcyclists already have altered their riding and driving habits in light of the new law, because he’s noticed less noise coming from exhaust pipes since it went into effect.

“It seems a lot of people are voluntarily complying with the law, and that’s what we want,” he said.

Massey also said he’s gotten positive feedback from people who had been disturbed by excessive exhaust noise while they were sleeping, gardening or sitting on their porches.

“It’s a quality of life issue,” he said.

Leslie Bridgers — 861-9252

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