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Oh No! Noise Cameras

Blog Date - 20 Jun 2019

The BBC has reported a new thing - noise cameras. Within a couple of hours social media is filled with motorcyclists all saying the same things they usually say about speed cameras. Stealth tax, targeting good honest motorcyclists rather than catching real criminals, they're out to get us and all that. 

A custom motorcycle at a show with exhaust pipes with no silencers at all
Proper exhaust, I mean who needs a silencer anyway?

My problem is I think the idea of noise cameras is a good thing - subject to some practical caveats. 

Principally they will work like this. If the camera's microphone senses a noise louder than "X" decibels it will take an image of the vehicle (it's not just bikes) and send a fine to the registered keeper. This seems to make sense save for some huge pitfalls.

What if your perfectly legal and quiet motorcycle is passing a noise camera when you spot a child at the side of the road. You give a toot of your horn to alert said young person to your presence, minimising the risk of injury to both parties. A week later you receive a fine. Rather like speeding fines I'm afraid you may be seen as guilty unless you can prove your innocence.

Again you're on your perfectly legal machine passing a noise camera when your are passed by noisy vehicles in the opposite direction - flash goes the camera. Maybe another vehicle backfires - flash goes the camera. Maybe kids take to standing next to these noise cameras to set off bangers as you pass. My point is there are a variety of potential "other" noises.

The dirty exhaust on Ren's CB500X
My exhaust sounds like a thousand stifled farts from within a thick sleeping bag.

If we find riders and other road users being prosecuted or even just harassed for crimes they have not committed then I could not support noise cameras. But let us imagine the technology does work and can differentiate accurately and reliably. Then yeah, I'd support that.

I recall sitting in the garden at my uncle's house near Hawnby, Yorkshire. It was a beautiful dry day and I'd ridden there on the NTV650 I had back then. As we sat outside drinking tea I could hear screaming 4 cylinder motorcycles and the odd thumping twins at full pelt. My uncle, a motorcyclist himself, explained they were riding the B1257 about 2 miles away. At this distance they were hardly deafening but certainly noticeable. 

I know I am going against the grain when I say this but really, is there any need? A 900cc motorcycle in standard trim will produce far in excess of 110 bhp, is it essential to fit that noisy pipe for another 5 or 10? If you honestly and truly believe you require more then get a 1000cc. 

The real reason for loud pipes is the belief that they sound good and make the rider look cool. The marginal performance gains are primarily an excuse. And with a 70mph limit, 60 on most "biker" roads my dull, standard and politely flatulent 500 is fast enough.

I remain to be convinced the cameras could reliably distinguish between vehicles of any kind producing excessive noise levels and perfectly legal vehicles falling victim to noises beyond their control. How long before someone receives a fine for their all electric no exhaust pipe vehicle?

A Zero motorcycle that is electric so has no exhaust and no noise
"Erm yeah, about that noise fine you sent me, errrrm..."

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Reader's Comments

Bob said :-
I would hope that the noise cameras have some DSP capability, so they're not just looking for any noise above a certain level, but specifically engine noises. It shouldn't be difficult to tell the difference between the rythmic spiky engine and toot of a horn. The picture I saw looked like the device had some sort of doppler array, there was an image of a vehicle and the sound it was making appeared as a kind of ripple over the point where the sound was coming from - so that should prevent false positives.
I admit that in the past I have had loud exhausts, it seemed to make sense at the time but now I've actually grown up (mentally grown up as opposed to just physically) I hate them with a passion. I am in favour of roadside fines and prohibition orders and these cameras would do the same job without needing the police to put resources into it.
02/07/2019 08:24:49 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Like most things in life it's a balance thing. There's been a report this weekend that electric vehicles are so quiet it may be necessary to fit noise devices to alert people, particularly people with sight issues, to the vehicle's presence.

Sharon and I along with a small array of the general populous were happily sipping tea and eating cake in glorious sunshine and the charming green countryside of the Brecon Beacons this weekend. It was embarrassing to have this shattered by the howling, wailing and screaming pipes of the less civilised motorist.
02/07/2019 09:07:09 UTC
Mark C said :-
Well I'm guilty as charged for having an old bike with a loud exhaust in the past and yes my last stolen 1 BMW f800gsa had an apro on it which I considered not to be excessive my replacement bike is having a new exhaust fitted soon, this is not for aesthetic or sound or performance reasons but for the fact that it will save me some 6kg in weight, which is that of an average tent in weight all be a few grams and that's a fare bit of saving when it comes to loading up your machine for that all exciting adventure.
But recently on the news all new electric vehicles will have to replicate the sound of a vehicle for safety reasons!!
Apparently the public can't cross the road correctly and require a noise to help them to check if a vehicle is approaching?!
So now we must move on to pedal cycles which have not much in the way of sound and I would guess that not many even come fitted with an appropriate device to alert those said pedestrians that a cyclist is approaching?!!
So noisy and too noisy with a bit of no noise which then brings me on to the dead and hard of hearing? What do we do to keep those people safe flashing lights maybe.
And to throw a spanner right in the works what the hell are we supposed to do about the deaf blind folks?
I know fit all vehicles with a high frequency modulate and the person with the sensory device to alert them too.
Wtf is happening to the world its complete utter madness with a dose of nonsense thrown in for good measure.
Unfortunately it is blatantly obvious that the powers above are out to make money in which ever way they can and we just stupid enough to accept that.
Moan over...
02/07/2019 05:18:55 UTC
Upt'North said :-
Mark, do you feel better now?
FWIW I do think the electric vehicle noise issue does need addressing, we have an ageing population with deteriorating eye sight, hearing etc and when these things are travelling at low speed they make little noise. At the moment it's not a huge issue because there aren't many EV's but that will soon change.
With regards to the noisy exhausts, you make a valid point about weight but would you buy an exhaust that was both lighter and quieter, if so you are in a minority. Loud exhausts are anti social and do no motorcyclists any good in the long run.
02/07/2019 05:57:38 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
That's a damn fine question Upt'. Lighter is good I completely agree with that but I'd like to see the sales stats for a lightweight quiet pipe versus a lightweight loud pipe.
03/07/2019 09:25:37 UTC

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