Sunday, February 05, 2017
Do Loud Pipes Really Save Lives? Facts, Myths, and the In Between
It's been a hot-button issue for over 50 years: loud exhausts on motorcycles. Do they really make the rider safer, or is it just an excuse to be loud? Or is it a little of both? Just as importantly, do the opponents of aftermarket exhausts have their own unfair social and political axes to grind? Are the laws governing exhaust noise just? Do some people simply hate it when they see other people having fun? Let's talk about it. Here's how I see the issue.
ADDITIONAL NOTES ON THIS EPISODE:
My opinion of Rick Holtsclaw is that he is not a bad person, just misguided, apparently to the point of being self-destructive in his zeal. I discovered that in early 2016, Holtsclaw filed a motorcycle-noise-related federal lawsuit against Fort Smith, Arkansas Mayor Sandy Sanders and Fort Smith Police Chief Kevin Lindsey, along with Fayetteville Mayor Lioneld Jordan and Fayetteville Police Chief Greg Tabor. It alleged that the defendants failed to regulate loud motorcycles attending the Steel Horse Rally and BBQ. Predictably, the suit was dismissed, but it certainly made me wonder more curiously about his motivations.
That curiosity led me to research his record as an officer, where I found multiple references to this story. According to various sources, Holtsclaw was put on administrative leave in 2010 and investigated internally by his department for allegedly harassing motorcyclists in the Houston area, writing a mountain of noise citations in the process. According to the same sources, he was eventually returned to patrol, but continued the same behavior. This reportedly led to community outrage, and by Holtsclaw's own admission, he was forced into retirement by his superiors. Let me tell you something; when a person is so fanatically dedicated to a frivolous cause that he or she is will sacrifice a career over it, you have to wonder about things like Martyr Complex.
And that's often the most frustrating thing to me about the people I consider anti-noise jihadists. In my opinion, they use the motorcycle exhaust issue as a persecution tool against the motorcycling lifestyle in general, a lifestyle they'd actually love to see done away with. The tactic seems eerily similar to other attempts at legalistic coercion here in the US, such as when anti-Christian groups go after public displays of the ten commandments and so forth. For them, it's not really about the so-called separation of church and state; it's more often about doing everything they can within the letter of the law to stamp out a religion. In the end, it's little more than intolerance and aggression toward a lot of good people.
The worst part is that politicians, government agencies, and corporations happily work together to take advantage of these social dynamics. For example, when the EPA smells blood in these situations, it quickly and invariably issues a mandate to "fix the problem", thereby giving itself more power and influence than it had before. In turn, corporations will rarely oppose the mandates if viable for implementation, because they can then profit more greatly from them. Adjusted for 2016 inflation, a new car in 1950 costed its buyer about $11,000. I ask you, how many brand new cars can you buy for that price today? There are several reasons for the massive jump in new-vehicle prices over the past generation, and one is definitely over-regulation of the industries through EPA and safety mandates. This over-regulation always comes at a cost, and both the government and the manufacturers profit from it. Until Americans decide to get serious about ending corporate cronyism and returning the federal government to the anemic entity it was intended to be, things will most assuredly get worse through bad lawmaking.
It's a loud, interesting, colorful world out there, folks. Complaining about bike noise is what shallow, pampered snowflakes do when they don't have any real problems to deal with. Welcome to the lap of luxury and the ever accelerating wussification of America. The bottom line is that there will always be hot-rodders. They are as American as apple pie and they will always modify their cars and motorcycles to be a little louder, a little faster, and handle a little better. The question we have to ask ourselves is, while some of them will go too far, what is the greater societal cost in regulating the whole of them into oblivion with things like nebulous 80dB sound pressure maximums and other draconian laws? To me, that's not an America where people would ultimately be freer and happier.
There is obviously no place for outright criminals in a free society. But there is a place for rebels and there is certainly a place for outlaws. This country was founded by outlaws who revolted over much less tyranny than we live under today. The outlaw mentality is part of what makes us who we are, and if we ever lose that free-spirited nature, we will lose America. Some would argue that it's happening already. Moreover, if dangerous-minded people and their oppressive ideas of social order are left to their druthers, it can quickly become a frightening, miserable place.
SHADETREE'S TAKE (WHICH IS AWESOME)