Some public issues are defined by how widespread their impact is, by the fact that they affect so many people or apply across a substantial area.

Others gain notice because they create an intensity of interest, even if they affect relatively few people in a few limited sectors. The strong responses they raise guarantee attention.

The noise created by loud motorcycle mufflers falls closer to the second part of that scale than the first, but because the people who are bothered by it are really bothered by it, the entire Maine Legislature is now poised to take action on the issue.

There are plenty of bikers who downplay the disturbance factor, saying that the noise that aftermarket mufflers produce isn’t substantially different than that of original equipment pipes, which must meet a decibel standard.

Or they say that a respectable level of rumble is part of the biking experience and shouldn’t be taken away.

People who say that peace and quiet count more disagree, and do so strongly. When it comes to what matters more, peace and quiet rank pretty high on the civilization scale — more so than a biker’s desire to broadcast his presence far and wide, it seems to us.


Intensity of interest counts in a democracy, and it should. It’s people who care deeply about an issue who are typically the ones who will take the steps necessary to put it on the public agenda for resolution. We usually call those people ”activists,” and there is nothing wrong with that word.

In this case, the activist spirit has led people to support a bill, LD 1675, that would require motorcyclists to display inspection stickers as soon as this summer, and to abide by rules banning noisy aftermarket mufflers and other parts. The inspections would require that motorcycles have stock or factory mufflers, outlawing alternatives that critics say produce objectionable levels of ”brraaapppppp” on the street.

Bikers opposed to the rule say the bill would not stop people from replacing the factory pipes as soon as the sticker was applied, and would do nothing about bikes registered out of state. However, the bill also calls for a study group to report back next January on how to define and police excessive motorcycle noise. Such standards could be used to go after violators, no matter where they come from.

That’s what intensity will get you.


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