Riding the open road on a Harley Davidson with the wind in your face and feeling the vibration of the engine revving out open exhaust pipes may be the ultimate motorcycling experience.
But for resident Rob Clarke, it is the ultimate nightmare, a noise intrusion into his life that he finds difficult to escape from living in Kelowna.
Whether he relaxing at his home near Glenmore Road or enjoying a cup of java and conversation at a downtown coffee cafe, the interruption from a motorcycle revving its engine as it passes by has set his frustration to a boiling point.
Clarke has become familiar with Kelowna RCMP as a constant critic in recent months about the lack of response from police to enforce civic noise bylaws or noise violations under the Motor Vehicle Act (MVA).
He has even filed an official complaint with the RCMP about their lack of action on his complaints, which is now going through the administrative process.
Clarke has also not hesitated to confront motorcycle riders directly, informing them their bikes are too loud, an effort on his part that is not often well-received.
He started an online petition last summer to push for stronger noise enforcement action that attracted more than 900 signatures, many of those from residents outside of Kelowna citing complaints about the same issue in their communities.
Typically, Clarke’s frustration is focused on Harley Davidson riders, who remove the manufactured noise mufflers in the exhaust pipes to accentuate that ultimate riding experience.
Earlier this summer, Kelowna RCMP Traffic Services Sgt. Mark Booth told a local media outlet “we have, and continue to make a concerted effort to deal with offenders as they are located.”
Booth reinforced that modifications to any vehicle, including motorbikes, that result in the removal, partial or full bypass of the muffler, or addition of a device that increases noise or produces a flame, is prohibited.
Booth said the fine for an excessively noisy vehicle could land the operator a $109 fine and two penalty points, or receive a defective motor vehicle ticket for the same amount.
RCMP can also issue inspection orders, Booth added, to force operators to fix the issue. If the repairs are not made, the registered owner will be unable to reinsure the vehicle.
But what frustrates Clarke is those policing tools, from what he has witnessed from his condo deck or around town, are not enforced.
“I have personally witnessed police cruisers two or three vehicles behind a loud Harley without a muffler without doing anything about it. My friends and neighbours have told me they’ve seen the same thing,” he said.
Kelowna RCMP Cpl. Jocelyn Noseworthy, media relations officer, said motorcycle noise complaints are addressed on a case by case basis as available resources will allow.
This past summer, Noseworthy said two specific day-long campaigns were carried out by police, a public education initiative to educate the public about contravening noise limits under the MVA, one in June and another in August.
She said the most common complaints are inconsiderate motorcyclists who leave their neighbourhood early in the morning for work.
As someone who has ridden a motorcycle herself since she was 18 years old, Noseworthy will often hear the other side of the argument as well.
“Many motorcyclists say loud pipes saves lives because it makes drivers more aware of their presence on the road,” she said.
While the city has noise bylaws, Noseworthy said the RCMP relies on the MVA as their most effective and accessible policing tool.
“We don’t have much to do with enforcing the municipal noise bylaw,” she said, noting City of Kelowna bylaw enforcement officers would assume that role.
City bylaw enforcement officers can respond to excessive motorcycle noise complaints under clauses in both the Good Neighbour and Traffic bylaws, but they don’t have the authority to stop a moving motor vehicle or motorcycle.
“The RCMP may be utilizing provisions of provincial statute, however, they can use bylaw if they choose to. As a general rule provincial statues will have more teeth than a municipal bylaw so I suspect that’s the reasoning,” said senior bylaw officer Will Scott in an email to the Capital News.
“Responsibility for enforcement of these concerns rests primarily with RCMP as they have the ability to stop vehicles observed in contravention of these sections.”