Wednesday, March 12, 2014
AUGUSTA — A legislative committee has overwhelmingly endorsed a bill aimed at curbing loud motorcycle noise.
L.D. 477 would require all motorcycle owners in Maine to display inspection stickers on their license plates, and would punish, through a fine system, riders who modify their muffler systems to amplify the bikes' noise.
Though the bill's language is still being finalized, members of the Legislature's Transportation Committee say it could become law by this summer.
"I'm very excited because I think we have finally found a solution. I'm tired of (motorcycle riders) telling the people of Maine that they have a right to be rude," said the bill's principal sponsor, state Rep. Diane Russell, D-Portland.
Controlling motorcycle noise has been a challenge for the Legislature and local governments for years. In 2009, the Legislature and the city of Portland tried unsuccessfully to pass a motorcycle noise law.
Members of the Transportation Committee say they continue to hear more complaints from constituents about motorcycle noise than any other issue.
"This thing has been haunting the committee for three or four years," said Sen. William Diamond, a Democrat from Windham.
"Undoubtedly, in all the years I've been connected with the Legislature, I've received more complaints and emails on this issue than any other," said Republican Sen. Ron Collins of Wells, a co-chairman of the Transportation Committee. "People are very upset with having their tranquility and peace of mind disturbed by a loud motorcycle."
Collins said the committee voted Friday to endorse L.D. 477.
Diamond, a former Maine secretary of state, said the bill would require all motorcycle riders to display state inspection stickers on their license plates.
Under the current law, a rider can keep the inspection sticker in their wallet or purse if they object to putting it on their bike's enamel.
Under the proposed law, Diamond said, a biker who is stopped by a police officer for having a loud muffler could be fined $137. Committee members said a proposed fine of $500 was too high.
The biker could contest the fine by bringing the bike to an inspection station, where its exhaust sound level would be measured by a decibel reader. Diamond said the legal maximum would be 95 decibels.
Richard Dodge of Portland, director of the Cumberland County Chapter of United Bikers of Maine, said the proposal is unfair.
"This singles out motorcyclists," he said. "What about the noise from chain saws or lawn mowers?"
Dodge said there would be no need for a new law if police enforced current ones.
Any biker who has a loud muffler should be pulled over and forced to show an officer their inspection sticker, he said, but that doesn't happen now. State police say about 40 percent of motorcycles in Maine are not being inspected.
Dodge said that forcing a rider to take a bike to an inspection station for a noise reading could prove costly.
"It's discrimination in its highest form," he said. "Why not do the same for cars, dump trucks or a Metro bus?"
Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: