Each weekend seems to be louder than the one before.
There are hundreds of motorcycles roaring through the streets of Calistoga and the roads of the upper Napa Valley that have illegally altered exhausts. The exhausts are “straight pipes” or after-market non-EPA noise-compliant pipes, which do little or nothing to reduce the noise.
Most motorcycles made after 1982 must have an EPA noise-compliant exhaust with a clearly visible label embossed into the muffler certifying such. It’s illegal under federal law to replace the noise-compliant exhaust with one that isn’t compliant.
I have pleaded with the Calistoga City Council numerous times to do something to reduce the noise that has become out of control, particularly on weekends. I have been informed by Richard Spitler, the city manager, that as long as he has that job, he would make it a policy that the city police do not cite illegally loud motorcycles.
I was told by one city councilman that he wants nothing done to police the illegal bikes, saying he does not want Calistoga to become “unfriendly to bikers” (his words). He went on to explain that he did not want to discourage bikers from coming here, as they spend money at local businesses.
We need to distinguish those motorcyclists who are riding bikes with legal exhausts that are quiet, from those who have illegal exhausts. The most egregious noise is made by the large bikes, the majority of which have been altered to intentionally make them noisy.
According to a news story that was published in 2009, reporters asked Harley dealers to estimate the percentage of their customers who purchased a new Harley who then changed the exhaust to make it louder at the time of purchase or shortly thereafter. The lowest estimate was 65 percent and the highest was 85 percent.
I told a friend about the “unfriendly to bikers” comment made by the city councilman, and he said, “Why can’t the bikers be friendly to us?” That is a better way to look at this problem.
If motorcyclists who come here are riding with legal exhaust systems, then they are friendly to us. Motorcyclists who invade our area and create all this noise with their illegal exhausts are being unfriendly to us. The noise is disruptive and ugly.
It causes health problems for those exposed to it, and it even causes wildlife to suffer. Studies show that birds have difficulty reproducing, and abandon their young when subject to loud noise, like that from motorcycles.
Additionally, the bikes that are altered create excessive exhaust emissions because the fuel systems must be adjusted to compensate for reduced exhaust back-pressure.
And finally, homes that are located where the bikes travel could be reduced in value due to the excessive noise.
Illegal behavior that is deliberately not addressed by the police, because the politicians prefer to let it take place, is both immoral and irresponsible. When laws can be enforced subjectively based on political pressure, it is a sign to me that our town has become corrupt. It is wrong to allow financial interests to bend the rules, and to ruin the quality of life of those who live here so that bikers can break the law by creating noise that serves no purpose other than to give the bike riders an additional thrill by disturbing the rest of us.