I’ve always wondered if conspiracy theorists know how ridiculous their drivel sounds.
But, whether it’s the Pizzagate scandal with Hillary Clinton or the contention that Angela Merkel is actually Adolf Hitler’s granddaughter, I’m always left with the same question: “When the poor dear souls say these things out loud, do they not hear how ridiculous they sound?”
Which makes it positively frightening now that I’m asking the very same questions of myself.
What has me on the brink of paranoia is a spate of articles from around the globe (and making me sound like I should be blogging for Breitbart) attacking motorcyclists. To be more specific, said reports are calling for — or celebrating — the limiting, testing, and even in the most egregious of cases, the outright banning of motorcycles from certain areas. Ostensibly, the reason given is noise. More precisely, loud exhaust systems.
Now, I know what a lot of you, especially the non-motorcyclists reading this, are thinking: good riddance to bad rubbish.
And I agree with you. I’m on record as loving the sound of internal-combustion engines. A Ferrari 458 at full-chat or a nicely muffled Ducati is as close as I’ll ever get to appreciating Beethoven. Still, even as a diehard motorcyclist — it may kill my chances for a promotion here at Driving, but I’d rather ride my lowly Suzuki V-Strom 1000 than drive the aforementioned Ferrari — straight-pipe Harleys and open-exhaust rice rockets at 4 a.m. piss me off as much as they would any other suburbanite.
Now, it’s hardly news that various province and cities have taken actions against loud motorcycles. A number of cities in Quebec have banned motorcycles from their downtown cores, some provinces have made loud exhausts an automatic fine (rather than the “fix it” admonishment normally written up), and Toronto mayor John Tory recently decried excess noise as being “all in the apparent cause of feeding the egos of inconsiderate people.” Meanwhile, numerous major newspapers, including our own National Post, have called for stricter rules or outright bans of bikes.
But that’s not what scares me. North Americans, perhaps because they watched “The Wild One” too many times, have always been a bit puritanical when it comes to bikers. What I find truly frightening is that traditionally motorcycle-friendly Europe has turned up the heat on bikers. Austria has recently introduced Draconian sound testing, and according to Motorcycle News, the tests are so strict many stock exhaust systems fail to pass muster. Even worse, the focus of the effort is in the Tyrol and only targets loud motorcycles, not loud cars, an especially egregious focus since the district is one of the prime summer destinations for vacationing bikers.
Germany and the Netherlands, meanwhile, bar motorcycles from certain areas at certain times, while France has set up “noise cameras” specifically targeting bikers. In the U.K., another hub for motorcycling, many British bikers are facing the possibility of local bans. According to MCN’s recent “The Baffle of Britain,” North Yorkshire and Oxfordshire — both popular biker destinations — are amongst those looking to restrict the internal combustion brouhaha. Even London’s influential Times has rallied to the cause.
The motorcycle industry typically counters the uproar by explaining that stock motorcycles are as exhaustively noise-tested as cars and that the problem is always aftermarket modifications. The problem is, with so many motorcyclists modifying their bikes, that this argument is falling on deaf ears. Indeed, despite motorcycles, as they are produced, being progressively quieter as a result of these complaints, motorcycles, as they are ridden, are still too often the most common cause of excessive noise. At least a portion of the general public is seemingly concluding that since the motorcycle industry can’t police itself, then perhaps the only solution if to just ban motorcycles altogether.
What makes this issue even worse — and this is where I am really worried I have descended into Q’Anon kookiness — is that a subset of activists promoting electric vehicles actually want to ban private vehicle ownership altogether. Whether it’s traffic congestion, the injury statistics associated with poorly driven cars, or simply an irrational hatred of all things automobile, the voices calling for reducing, even eliminating, private transportation are growing stronger.
No, I’m not crazy: According to sources, Ontario’s Wynne Liberals once looked at reducing tailpipe emissions on Ontario roads by capping the number of cars sold in the province at five million — there are almost nine million vehicles currently registered in the province — and then holding a shades-of-the-Soviet-Union-type lottery to determine who would be allowed to buy a new car.
What these advocates seem to hate most is the recreational use of vehicles. You know, the good old-fashioned road trip or visiting mom at Christmas. As an avid motorcyclist, what I find most frightening is that, say, unlike in Asia, pretty much all of North American motorcycling is recreational. The use of motorcycles could be easily be restricted — or totally banned — and, unlike any restriction to automobiles, no jobs would be lost, no groceries undelivered, nor Christmas parties unattended.
Which is why, to a lot of motorcyclists, I’m now adding “traitor” to this newfound self-accusation of conspiracy theorist by stating that bikers themselves need to take responsibility for the situation. Motorcyclists around the world — and some of the organizations and media that represent them — constantly fight against any restrictions to their freedom; the obligation to wear a helmet, standards for emissions reduction, and most disastrously, if my persecution complex holds any water, noise restrictions to the exhaust systems we modify for our motorcycles.
So, while I’m surely going to raise the ire of the “loud pipes save lives crowd,” I’m one motorcyclist who says it’s up to us to solve this problem. Rather than fighting the restrictions, we should be advocating for more responsible motorcycling. Whether that’s pressuring those organizations that represent us, restricting dealers and distributors from selling what are often clearly marked as systems designed for “closed-course” use, or, most treasonously of all, alerting the constabulary to the brethren who are causing the problem, we can either take care of this problem ourselves or have it taken care of for us.
Safety advocates already despise motorcycles. Ditto law enforcement types. If noise activists get the same foothold here as they seem to be getting in Europe, it could be dangerous for my favourite sport. Now, truth be told, there is no giant conspiracy to ban motorcycles. But if the various organizations that are aligned against motorcycling start cooperating, the results could be just as disastrous.
Or maybe I’m just being paranoid.
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