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Loud disturbing motorcycles are awful but occasionally circle around certain roads after midnight up and down gratuitously if the objective is actually transportation. One would hope that there are laws on the books restricting the legality of such terribly loud machines in the first place, as a great portion of their appeal appears to be the disturbance caused to others, but if there are not, what is the status of riding them gratuitously at indecent hours? The public (neurological) health hazard is indeed great.

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  • Comments have been moved to chat; please do not continue the discussion here. Before posting a comment below this one, please review the purposes of comments. Comments that do not request clarification or suggest improvements usually belong as an answer, on Law Meta, or in Law Chat. Comments continuing discussion may be removed.
    – feetwet
    Mar 24, 2023 at 16:21
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    Wouldn't that also fall under generic "antisocial behaviour"? Maybe that's easier to prove.
    – Carl
    Mar 25, 2023 at 7:40
  • Maybe, but there’s no tangible “smoking gun” so to speak. And it all gets very fuzzy and subjective in terms of what’s ASB or not ASB etc. Mar 26, 2023 at 22:43

7 Answers 7

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In the UK there is a maximum noise level of 89dB for all motorcycles, HGVs, PCVs.

If you often have a very loud motorbike near your home, you can leave a dB sound level meter near the road and film it just enough to get the level and the numberplate, and then the police will have a word and the guy will have to change it.

What happens on many motorbikes is that the noise absorbance tech in the exhaust is cheap and gums up and fails, else new exhausts are fitted.

I live near un up-hill road with loud engines, I became used to sleeping with 3M style foam ear buds, some people can become mentally sapped by noise and bad sleep from road noise.

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    Will the police really trust readings collected from an uncertified sound level meter installed at an unknown distance from the road by a non-professional? Mar 27, 2023 at 7:48
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    @DmitryGrigoryev - that's a very good question. I seem to remember a case in the local press (I can't find the report now as it was some years ago) where the use of an uncertified meter was not enough to get the police involved but it was enough to get the local council to provide properly-certified equipment for the affected residents to use in evidence gathering (noise abatement is part of the local authority's remit, as well as potentially falling into the police's anti-social behaviour remit). Anecdotal for sure, but I can't imagine things have changed much.
    – Spratty
    Mar 27, 2023 at 8:54
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    @DmitryGrigoryev You can rent a certified level meter for about 10 pounds for a day. If a certified level meter reads 93 dB of course it doesn't provide evidence for prosecution but it can give the police enough to have a word at the person's door, check if the vehicle has a valid MOT, and to contact the council. For distance, the standard distance is this? catdrivertraining.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/… So it's kindof impossible to get the distance too close which is what would give a false reading. Mar 27, 2023 at 13:28
  • Note that sometimes it's best not to fight noise if there are many offenders, as some residents would not mind it, and to change abode, at least to get sound proof windows. Mar 27, 2023 at 13:29
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    "the police will have a word and the guy will have to change it". No, in the UK in 2024 that will not happen, don't be putting about delusory assertions, please. For the most part the police couldn't give a fork about any of this sort of thing and pay lip-service to all noise-related questions, preferring to consider that noise is the responsibility of "environmental health" officers. And naturally enough the law in the UK has been deliberately designed to be unworkable and unclear as to liabilities. The OP's only solution is to move home. Apr 30 at 15:03
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It’s illegal to modify the exhaust system to make a vehicle noisier after it has been ‘type approved’ (checked it meets environmental and safety standards). The police can also take action if your vehicle’s silencer doesn’t work in the way it was designed or if you’re driving in a way that creates too much noise.

https://www.gov.uk/noise-pollution-road-train-plane

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    I wonder what "too much noise" means. Presumably there's a decibel limit since noise cameras are being trialled which must have been calibrated to some level: gov.uk/government/news/…
    – thosphor
    Mar 24, 2023 at 13:58
  • In practice this provision might as well not have been written. In effect, except for a few wealthier neighbourhoods (North London in particular) there is simply no law on noisy vehicles and no-one to enforce any which is theoretically there. The police and local authority for a given area know that they can always claim that the other has jurisdiction for these matters, and the law has been deliberately hobbled to produce that effect. Apr 30 at 15:07
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Many jurisdictions have enacted noise restrictions. For example Calgary, Alberta has a traffic bylaw that prohibits a person fom allowing their vehicle to make noise louder than 96 decibels, subject to a penalty of $270.00. See also CBC, "Noisy motorcycles, trucks target of bylaw review" (July 5, 2010).

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    My domestic refuse "wheely-bin" has a warning on it that it can generate 96 decibels albeit when empty). Good job I don't live in Alberta!
    – Phill W.
    Mar 24, 2023 at 14:09
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    In the source "...as measured by a sound pressure level meter at any point of reception" is quite important. Sound falls off quite quickly with distance, so if you'd like to complain about this sort of thing be prepared to get your SPL meter as close as possible. Also worth noting they specify "dBA" which isn't quite the same as just dB, specifically it's a band-pass filter designed to roughly mimic human hearing thresholds across frequencies and is the typical standard used for measuring industrial noise, etc. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A-weighting Mar 24, 2023 at 16:59
  • @PhillW. that's wheely loud !
    – Criggie
    Mar 27, 2023 at 0:09
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In , motor vehicles need a permit to certify their technical fitness. Either the vehicle conforms to the manufacturer's specification, or modifications are inspected and recorded. Modifications to deliberately increase the noise would not be certified and illegal modifications may lead to the impounding of the vehicle. This happens with some frequency, often involving motor scooters and motorbikes.

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    Also: a wrong or missing parts number can doom the vehicle to be impounded till it is made compliant again.
    – Trish
    Mar 24, 2023 at 9:47
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    @Trish, a missing number on a part that should have been numbered indicates it isn't certified. And even if the exhaust muffler has a number, the number must fit the make of the car.
    – o.m.
    Mar 24, 2023 at 11:04
  • or a certified replacement and it has to fit the listed part specs. There are many bikes pulled from the street for using a certified part's number on the muffler but they are not that part and don't meet the specs (or have been modified), making such bikes had no TÜV to begin with...
    – Trish
    Mar 24, 2023 at 11:50
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    of course one would expect that some German cars are made to be more silent during any such inspection.
    – njzk2
    Mar 26, 2023 at 16:29
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In there's an article in the traffic law (Art 33 Verkehrsregelverordnung) that prohibits "continued, unnecessary driving trough towns". People can be fined for driving through towns, if they do that mostly for the sake of driving (and presenting themselves). Some towns have real problems with so called "car posers" that drive trough small streets near public gathering places with (often illegally) modified, expensive cars and howling engines. Of course, the law also applies to motorcycles.

Full article (german): https://www.swissrights.ch/gesetz/Artikel-33-VRV-2021-DE.php

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So, as the OP is UK based, I thought it'd be helpful to answer some specifics:

There's two key offences:

Silencer/ exhaust system altered to increase noise – Reg. 54(2) The Road > Vehicles (Construction & Use) Regulations 1986;

Avoidance of excessive noise – Reg. 97 The Road Vehicles (Construction & Use) Regulations 1986

For cars, the (police measured) limit is 80 dB, and 89 dB for motorcycles...

...but, a crucial point is how these measurements are taken - the police measure the noise at 50% of max engine speed. Quite often, in both performance cars and motorcycles, there are electronically controlled valves to control the noise at lower engine speeds (allowing type approval).

As you can imagine, the noise difference between 7500 rpm and 15000 rpm can be significant.

For very obvious / egregious exhausts ("race use only", visibly modified or in some cases, removed completely), the first of the two offences is easier to prove.

Source:

https://www.essex.police.uk/cy-GB/foi-ai/essex-police/our-policies-and-procedures/h/h0504-procedure---loud-exhaust-offences/

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In Germany, noise pollution is regulated in the immission protection laws which exist at the federal and state levels, and by the traffic regulations ("Straßenverkehrsordnung").

The federal immission protection law ("Bundes-Immissionsschutzgesetz, BImSchG") states in §38:

(1) Kraftfahrzeuge und ihre Anhänger, Schienen-, Luft- und Wasserfahrzeuge sowie Schwimmkörper und schwimmende Anlagen [...] müssen so betrieben werden, dass vermeidbare Emissionen verhindert und unvermeidbare Emissionen auf ein Mindestmaß beschränkt bleiben.

Avoidable emissions are to be avoided. You cannot just make your motorcycle loud because you like the noise.

The traffic regulations generally forbid "unnecessary noise and avoidable nuisance from exhaust fumes". The relevant paragraph is §30 (emphasis by me):

(1) Bei der Benutzung von Fahrzeugen sind unnötiger Lärm und vermeidbare Abgasbelästigungen verboten. Es ist insbesondere verboten, Fahrzeugmotoren unnötig laufen zu lassen und Fahrzeugtüren übermäßig laut zu schließen. Unnützes Hin- und Herfahren ist innerhalb geschlossener Ortschaften verboten, wenn Andere dadurch belästigt werden.

As in the environmental law, the general rule is to avoid avoidable noise and other pollution. More specifically, it is forbidden to run motors without a reason, rev it up where not necessary, slam doors etc.

But a very specific rule forbids riding back and forth within city limits without a reason if and when it annoys others.

This resembles the anti-cruising laws enacted by many communities in the U.S. and leads to similar social and legal discussions: In both countries, driving a car has connotations of freedom and adventure; excessive regulation interferes with the right to lead one's life as one sees fit. The German law only forbids cruising when it disturbs others though and has generally survived judicial scrutiny.

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