AMA Opposes New Denver Exhaust Law

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The American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) has expressed serious concerns about a new law passed by the Denver City Council that essentially requires all riders in the city to use only stock exhaust systems on their motorcycles.

Denver officials approved changes to the city's vehicle noise ordinance June 4 that allow police to issue tickets to riders if their bikes don't have a federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sound certification label on the exhaust systems. The new ordinance, which takes effect July 1, would apply to all motorcycles made since 1982, which was the first year that federal law required motorcycles sold in the U.S. to comply with EPA sound regulations.

In practical terms, that means the bike would have to have the original exhaust system installed by the manufacturer. Violators would have two weeks to prove to a judge that they have fixed the problem or would be forced to pay a $500 fine.

Previously, the Denver ordinance required all motor vehicles to pass a sound test that set a limit of 80 decibels at 25 feet. That type of performance standard remains in effect for cars and trucks, except that the allowable limits have been raised. Under the new ordinance, vehicles with a gross weight rating under 10,000 pounds couldn't exceed 82 db(A) at 25 feet, and trucks over 10,000 pounds couldn't exceed 90 db(A) at 50 feet. Only motorcycles would be subject to the EPA sound certification labeling requirement.

"We understand the motivation for cities to pass laws controlling sound levels from traffic," said Ed Moreland, AMA vice president for Government Relations. "But the approach being taken in Denver creates a special class of enforcement that unfairly targets motorcyclists. Loud trucks and cars are every bit as annoying as loud motorcycles, but only motorcyclists would be subject to this new provision of the labeling law."

The AMA's position on the ordinance got support June 7 in an editorial in the Rocky Mountain News, which stated: "As more than one critic of the ordinance?noted, it just doesn't appear ready for prime time."

Several years ago, the city of Albuquerque, New Mexico, passed a similar certification ordinance affecting motorcyclists there. Motorcyclist groups, included the AMA, worked with city officials for two years before that provision was rescinded and the city went back to a performance-based sound standard.

The AMA is contacting Denver City Council members in the hope of opening a dialogue before enforcement of the new law begins on July 1.

"We look forward to working with the Denver City Council to come up with a more reasonable solution for dealing with excessive sound levels from traffic," Moreland said. "Our experience has shown that there are a range of approaches cities can take to this issue without imposing restrictive laws on motorcyclists."