Boorish bikers beat a Boston retreat

Boston Police Commissioner William Gross has continued the city’s policy of enforcing anti-noise laws regarding “disturbingly harsh noise produced by loud mufflers or after-market exhaust pipes on motorcycles.”
Boston Police Commissioner William Gross has continued the city’s policy of enforcing anti-noise laws regarding “disturbingly harsh noise produced by loud mufflers or after-market exhaust pipes on motorcycles.”Lane Turner/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

It’s the Boston equivalent of the dog that didn’t bark in the night — except that it doesn’t take a Sherlock Holmes to solve this mystery.

For years, I’ve written a regular column about the obnoxious snarls of noise blasting across the city from unmuffled, or straight, motorcycle pipes. For years, little or nothing was done, until Mayor Marty Walsh and Bill Evans, his first police commissioner, came on the scene.

Unlike other police commissioners I’ve known and prodded, Evans put some officers on the irksome issue. But he has now departed for academic pastures. So will William Gross, our (relatively) new commissioner, continue that noise-pollution policing?

Yes. Gross, via written statement, says that “the disturbingly harsh noise produced by loud mufflers or after-market exhaust pipes on motorcycles” is an important quality-of-life concern. Noting that the BPD had written more than 100 citations for motor-vehicle noise violations over the last year, the commish continued: “So the enforcement message about excessively loud pipes in Boston is being sent and, hopefully, those responsible for the noise continue to hear it and make the needed adjustments to tone it down.”

Those citations were about evenly split between warnings and tickets, said BPD spokesman Sergeant Detective John Boyle. Given the laws those citations relied on, at least half would have been for loud motorcycles.


Interestingly, the BPD “found it more difficult to find violations” in the last cycle-season year than in the past. “They went to areas identified as hot spots, but didn’t see the level [of violations] they had previously seen,” he said.

From my listening post high atop Beacon Hill (a.k.a. the Globe’s State House bureau), I haven’t heard the same level of biker misbehavior either. Thus it was when Monday afternoon rolled around with the kind of 80-degree weather perfect for noisemaking – ah, motorcycling — I wandered around Beacon Hill and the Back Bay, ears on high alert.

After a half-hour on the Common, I walked down Newbury Street — in times past a favorite place for loud-pipers to practice their look-at-me, please look-at-me engine-revving skills — then over to Commonwealth Ave., along Mass. Ave., back up Boylston, and through the Common again.


During several hours patrolling on shanks’ mare, I heard not one unmuffled motorcycle.

No clatter along the Common. No obnoxious noise on Newbury. No boorish blasts on Boylston. No mayhem on Mass. Ave.

To guard against the chance that I’ve gone completely deaf, I queried the hosts and hostesses at some of the sidewalk cafes. Yes, they said, things were better. “Much better,” reported an artist who regularly peddles his paintings on Newbury Street.

Now, I don’t mean to say all is perfect. That evening, I heard some cycles roaring on the VFW Parkway, and one over near the Arboretum. (If your neighborhood has a loud-pipes problem, call your district police station or 1-800-494-TIPS or even 911, says Boyle.)

Still, I think it’s safe to say Boston is no longer a city under sustained sonic assault. So thanks, BPD. I know you guys have a lot on your plate, but your enforcement effort has brought about a big change for the better.

Now, I expect some readers are saying: Well, that’s great for Boston, but in my town, the loud pipers are still revving and roaring all day and night. Then make some noise yourselves, but of the civic sort. After all, Chapter 90, Section 16 of Massachusetts state law says one can’t operate a motor vehicle on a public street “with a muffler from which the baffle plates, screens, or other original internal parts have been removed” or with “an exhaust system which has been modified in a manner which will amplify or increase the noise emitted by the exhaust.” About half of the Boston citations were based on that law (the others came under a city ordinance targeting loud motorcycle pipes). Almost every state has a similar statute.


If your local police chief says it’s just not a priority, point out that the Boston police, busy as they are, have gotten this done.

Or better yet, hand him (or her) this column.

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