Modified motorcycle exhaust: dirty, noisy and illegal

Photo credit: Pepe Tapia

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

I just came across reports of a 2022 lawsuit filed in Utah by a physician group against local Harley-Davidson motorcycle dealers and the Harley-Davidson company. Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment filed the lawsuit because local dealerships were selling motorcycles with illegally-modified, aftermarket exhaust parts. The modifications removed pollution control devices and made the motorcycles noisier. 

One of the board members of the physicians group stated that “the excessive noise from motorcycles with aftermarket exhaust pipes startles me awake at night and drives me away from my garden during the day. Their noise and air pollution are an invasion of my property and a threat to my personal health that is inconsiderate, harmful and illegal.” She is right. Noise exposure raises blood pressure and pulse, and nighttime noise disrupts sleep. The New York Times reported that in Paris, one noisy motorcycle with a modified exhaust can disrupt the sleep of 10,000 people.

In January 2023, the Environmental Protection Agency announced a settlement with the dealers and Harley-Davidson. The local dealerships agreed to stop selling illegally-modified motorcycles and the Harley-Davidson company has to pay a $12 million civil penalty.

We hope groups in other states file similar lawsuits against vendors and manufacturers of illegally-modified motorcycles. Clean air and quiet air are basic human rights. The rights of motorcycle riders to pollute the air with noisy exhaust pipes stops at the public’s lungs and ears.

A quieter world will be a better and healthier world for all.

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