14 July 2010

A new noise bylaw for Calgary ... finally!

Finally, Calgary City Council is considering a new noise bylaw. As an inner-city resident, living on the very busy 25th Avenue SW, I am very familiar with urban noise. I accept almost all of it as part of the hustle and bustle of inner city life, the life I enjoy. Trucks can be noisy but they are engaged in the commerce of the city and, therefore, are generally tolerable. Construction can be annoying, but it too is an essential part of city life and, in any case, is generally limited to working hours. My only beef is with motorcycles.

The noise generated by motorcycles is uniquely offensive. It is exceptionally loud, particularly harsh and threatening, and often explodes with heart-stopping suddenness. And, as if all this wasn’t enough, it is completely unnecessary. Motorcycles can be effectively muffled, just as cars and trucks can. Unmuffled motorcycle noise constitutes nothing less than an assault - and should be treated as such.

I go out almost every day for lunch or coffee, most often to the cafes and pubs along 17th Avenue SW. I particularly enjoy the patios in the summer. Or at least I do until the motorcycles show up. Their ear-shattering noise ruins the patio atmosphere for everyone and almost has an older person like me worrying about a heart attack.

When Edmonton brought in a new noise bylaw, bikers complained of discrimination because it specifically mentioned motorcycles. And so it should have. If bikers don’t want to be singled out, they simply have to muffle their machines. Don't want to pay the fine, don't do the crime. Indeed I wonder if Calgary wouldn’t do better to enact a muffler bylaw rather than a new noise bylaw. Any vehicle without an appropriate muffler would be ticketed and severely fined. This would, I expect, be easier to enforce.

Many men love big, noisy machines but most seem to retain some respect for the rest of society. Those that don't make up one of society's most obnoxious minorities, a minority that deserves to be discriminated against for gratuitously inflicting their obnoxious racket on others: motorcycle racket on urbanites trying to enjoy the street life, power boat racket on cottagers trying to enjoy their lake, and snowmobile racket on hikers trying to walk peacefully in the woods. When confronted about their behaviour, as they were with the Edmonton noise bylaw, they whine that they have a right to enjoy the street, or the lake, or the woods, as much as anyone else. And of course they do, but the right to wreck everyone else's pleasure at the same time isn't necessarily included.

But I'm digressing - back to motorcycles in Calgary. I strongly support Council's initiative and encourage them to develop an effective bylaw with punitive measures sufficient to maintain 17th Avenue as the enjoyable people place it ought to be.

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