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Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Publisher’s Notebook

• Malibu Should Clip Choppers Then Plug Pipes •

BY ANNE SOBLE

The other members of the Malibu City Council should follow the lead of their colleagues who want to see support adopted for the Los Angeles Residential Helicopter Noise Relief Act of 2013, which would direct the Federal Aviation Administration to establish regulations to reduce helicopter noise in residential areas of the county.
The noise from low flying helicopters for traffic reports, sightseeing, filming and celebrity surveillance has, according to the agenda item report, “caused an unacceptable intrusion on the quality of life for local residents due to the high decibel noise caused by these aircraft.”
After the council members vote to give the chopper curbs a thumbs up at next Monday night’s meeting, they should progress to an issue that most Pacific Coast Highway and local canyon route residents would vociferously declare to be much more serious by many decibels and greater frequency—motorcycle noise.
At a minimum, the council should urge the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to put its muscle behind enforcement of the state Motorcycle Anti-Tampering Act that went into effect on Jan. 1. This will require some deputies to forsake their ingrained motorcycle culture inclinations, but Malibu residents are under constant noise assault that needs to be abated.
MATA enables deputies who have pulled over riders for violating other traffic laws, such as speeding, illegal U-turns, etc., to do noise checks on errant machines. A motorcyclist cannot be red-lighted solely to see whether the bike in question complies with the law based on Environmental Protection Agency code requirements.
Signed into law by former California governor and fellow biker Arnold Schwarzenegger in September 2010, MATA added constraints to 27-year-old federal regulation that was rarely enforced. The noise provision that all new bikes and aftermarket parts, including the exhaust system, must have a sound emissions stamp from the EPA did not go into effect until this year.
A first violation might result in a fine of $50 to $100—but it’s dismissible with proof of correction. A second offense raises the fine up to $250 with no provision for dismissal with proof of correction so bikers won’t keep reinstalling their stock exhaust every time they get caught.
Some bike owners who install loud aftermarket exhaust systems vociferously claim that “loud pipes save lives.” They contend that these systems help to protect riders from motorists who are not paying attention, but the relative silence of bicycling in the same context of safety takes the wind out of their argument. 
Just as important, there is more than enough valid science to substantiate that exposure to noise pollution can be distracting, as well as physically and psychologically harmful to all concerned.
Much of the state and federal traffic data appears to substantiate that motorcyclists are the responsible party in accidents with enclosed vehicles. The statistics for nearly three-fourths of two-vehicle motorcycle crashes involving passenger vehicles indicates the bike was the strike vehicle.
For their part, motorcyclists should be expected to respect the right of Malibuites to a peaceful environment. Even with the law’s legal constraints, MATA could promote second thoughts about illegal modification of exhaust systems in a misguided search for image or attention.
Riding “quiet” can be win-win for everyone.

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