Thank the Boston Police for a quieter city

05roadpitch - Motorcyclists arrive for the Central Vermont Road Pitch in Barre, Vt., on Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2016. Over the course of five days venture capitalists traveled across the state by motorcycle to meet with entrepreneurs and startup companies. (Paul Hayes For The Boston Globe)
Paul Hayes For The Boston Globe
Motorcyclists arrive for the Central Vermont Road Pitch in Barre, Vt.

Maybe it’s been this ghastly spring, which has only just surrendered to hints of summer.

Or perhaps I’m going deaf. Or maybe I just have a hopeful ear.

If so, readers, please let me know.


But from my listening post on Beacon Hill — otherwise known as this newspaper’s State House bureau — the city seems quieter. Sometimes long hours — days, almost — go by without the roar of an unmuffled motorcycle blasting noise all over the Common or the Public Garden. Or through the several miles of the city I regularly walk. It no longer feels as though we’re under sustained sonic assault from a bevy of boorish bikers. My ears and eyes in other parts of the city agree that things are considerably better.

Get Today in Opinion in your inbox:
Globe Opinion's must-reads, delivered to you every Sunday-Friday.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

Not perfect. One aural agent reports riders regularly revving and roaring out near Jamaica Pond. But that’s one of the few complaints I’ve heard so far this motorcycling season.

So today I’m tipping my new Tall Ships cap to Boston’s quality-of-life police commissioner, Bill Evans, who has spurred the Boston Police Department to pay some long-overdue attention to excessive, illegal, and thoroughly noxious noise.

It violates both state law and city ordinance to ride a motorcycle whose exhaust system isn’t muffled. That is, to operate with straight pipes, as those without baffles are called. But until Mayor Marty Walsh appointed Evans police commissioner, little or nothing had been done to combat that problem.

No longer. This year, the BPD has already written about 40 citations, split about half and half between warnings and actual tickets. “We are jumping on it early,” Evans told me when we talked on Friday, adding that addressing this kind of nuisance “goes with our style of policing.”


“We listen to the concerns of the people and we take their concerns seriously,” Evans says. “To them this is an important issue.” As for reporting problems in your neighborhood, the commissioner says the best way is either to call the mayor’s 311 line or phone your district police station and ask to speak with the community service officer.

Now, this is the part of my annual noise-reduction column that triggers readers to e-mail to say: That’s great if you live in Boston, but what about the racket in my town, where throttle jockeys ride solipsistically along, blasting noise all about the landscape with apparent impunity?

Well, state law (Chapter 90, Section 16) says, “No person shall operate a motor vehicle on any way which motor vehicle is equipped (1) with a muffler from which the baffle plates, screens or other original internal parts have been removed and not replaced; or (2) with an exhaust system which has been modified in a manner which will amplify or increase the noise emitted by the exhaust.” And if you aren’t lucky enough to live in Massachusetts? Take note: nearly every state has a law like that, according to Ted Rueter, director of Noise Free America, a nonprofit devoted to the idea of a less noisy nation.

So demand action. Or as a more diplomatic Evans puts it: “I’d stress to them to really push their police officers and their chief to address the situation.”

And if the response is a stall or dodge like the claim that it’s difficult to quickly distinguish a legal exhaust system from an illegal one? You could recommend — or even give — to your local police the handy-dandy new “Guide to Modified Exhaust Systems: A Reference for Law Enforcement Officers and Motor Vehicle Inspectors,” put together by Rueter’s group. It’s chockablock with pictures and advice on relatively easy ways to tell compliant from noncompliant exhaust systems.


Let’s spread Boston’s ear-pleasing progress on noise pollution out from the Hub of the Universe.

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