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Sleep is Good, Rights are Better


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Like many starving artists, I find inspiration in the odd hours of the day, or most often, the odder hours of the night. When the house has grown quiet, the last episode of “Cops” has ended and the outside becomes rather peaceful, my mind begins to crank up like an old engine. Nothing, though, stops the gears like the obnoxious sound of an unmuffled motorcycle roaring by my window.

The sound is deliberate, intrusive and completely unnecessary.

Believe me; I know the sound of motorcycles. I sold the car last year so that I could afford to fix the old Hondas sitting in my garage. I also understand the feeling all that noise can deliver.

In fact, I believe that if Ponce De Leon had, indeed, stumbled upon the fabled fountain of youth, the sound of him dipping his feet in and wading around would be less like that of splashing water and more akin to the noise of a revving motorcycle engine. It’s a somewhat abrasive sound—somewhere between a jackhammer and an aged smoker’s deadly hack.

But to those who know the feeling associated with it, the noise is like a delicate cherub singing in your ear: “You’re free and haven’t a worry in the world.”

It’s best heard on the so-called open road—not on East County Line Road at 11 p.m., on a school night.

Our fair capitol city, Denver, tends to agree, and it passed a noise ordinance on July 1, hoping to put a stop to the earaches. The new law allows police to cite motorcycles made after 1982 if they lack mufflers with a factory-issued federal noise-rating stamp. The idea, of course, is to punish those renegades who parade their Harleys down the road, waking up the neighborhood at 3 a.m.

And believe me, I’m all for that. Those jerks should pay in full for upsetting my mid-night slumber. The problem, though, is that anyone who owns a motorcycle built in the last few decades with aftermarket exhaust is at risk.

What the law does, in practical terms, is bar anyone from using an exhaust system on a motorcycle that did not come stock. This treatment is not given to cars or loud trucks, despite the annoyance and overwhelming complaints against “coffee can” exhausts, whistle-tips or any other after-market automobile noisemaker.

The reason for that, of course, is that the city of Denver, as well as most surrounding suburbs up here in the North Metro area, already have a noise ordinance in place that covers these things: 80 decibels at 25 feet. That same ordinance covers motorcycles, too. The additional law simply discriminates against the two-wheeled vehicles I’ve grown to love. It also allows Denver police to pull over any motorcyclist in city limits and ask them to show their federal noise-rating stamp.

The reason given for the additional provision is due in large part to Denver not wanting to cough up the dough to invest in decibel testing units for every office, which cost roughly $1,000 each. What the cops are asked to do, then, is listen for bikes that are “louder than the average motorcycle,” and then pull them over to prove compliance.

It’s a bit of a quandary for someone who believes in “live and let live.” On one hand, I hate when my personal space is intruded on and, believe me, an excessively loud motorcycle is an intrusion. On the other hand, I loathe anything that revokes my personal rights, especially blanket laws to make punishing only a few violators more convenient for police.

Let’s just hope Denver doesn’t become the leader of the metro-area pack in this case. Regardless, I plan on making the best of this scenario. I’m starting my new business tomorrow: black market federal noise-rating stamps. They’ll be huge in Denver and any other metro area community that follows the capitol’s lead.

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