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The Boston Globe

Opinion

SCOT LEHIGH

Will Boston get bikers to pipe down?

Some people hear motorcycles as they are — that is, loud enough to rattle the fillings out of your teeth from a hundred yards away — and say, why?

Others dream of motorcycles as they should be — which is to say, quiet enough so that all other human activity doesn’t come to a sonically stunned stop when they ride by — and say, why not?

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Good question, that. Although state law forbids altering an exhaust system in a way that makes it louder, bikers regularly flout that law because, with the exception of a few energetic police departments (kudos, Salem PD!), addressing the issue hasn’t been a priority.

But for those Bostonians who dream of a spring and summer absent the acoustic assault from throttle jockeys who consider it their God-given right to spray noise all over the city, there’s some good news on the horizon.

Police Commissioner William Evans says that he understands that excessive noise is an important quality-of-life issue and intends to do something about the city’s seasonal plague of loud pipes.

“If you have the window open in the summer, you shouldn’t have to listen to it,” he says.

Now, I can almost guess your reaction: Um, Scot, former police commissioner Ed Davis also told you that. And what did he do? Nothing.

But let’s be fair. It wasn’t quite nothing that Davis did. Let’s call it: next to nothing. When I checked last summer, Boston police had written a sum total of two tickets and one warning under a 2009 city statute specifically designed to target unmuffled motorcycles.

That city law, the hard work of City Councilor Sal LaMattina, whose district includes the loud-pipe-plagued North End, stipulates that pipes on motorcycles operating in Boston must bear an imprinted stamp saying they comply with the EPA’s noise standards. The stock pipes on new, street-legal motorcycles have such a stamp. The loud after-market pipes some owners later install don’t because they either lack baffles or are only minimally muffled.

So LaMattina’s statute gives police a smart tool to target the noise pollution from loud pipes. To enforce it, however, police obviously must have some interest in tackling the problem.

Evans tells me he does. He notes that he recently assigned two officers to take the lead in dealing with issues such as loud motorcycles and people driving dangerously or creating nuisances with motor scooters and all-terrain vehicles.

“Their sole purpose is to keep on top of those issues,” he told me. “I am going to have them and their unit target it. Hopefully we can do a better job with it.”

Mind you, that doesn’t set the standard particularly high; it’s hard to imagine doing a worse job than the previous administration, unless, say, the BPD decided to set up a clinic to help bikers swap their stock pipes for ultra-loud straight pipes.

But Evans does seem genuinely interested. Certainly he’s aware enough of the problem to know that loud motorcycles have been a particular issue in the North End and on Newbury Street, where the loud-pipers make regular “look-at-me” engine-revving tours.

“I’m encouraged,” declares LaMattina, who recently heard a similar message from the commissioner.

Me too. Evans’s attitude is a breath of fresh — um, make that quiet — air. So if your Boston neighborhood has a motorcycle-noise problem, speak up. You can text your concerns to the BPD’s tip line — Crime or 27463 — or call them in to 1-800-494-TIPS (8477).

We have a police commissioner who has put this qualify-of-life concern on his agenda. Let’s help him in his effort to get the loud bikers to pipe down.

More: Lehigh | 2013: Boston Police write two tickets and one warning for motorcycle noise violations

Scot Lehigh can be reached at lehigh@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GlobeScotLehigh.
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