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News / City Life

Loud-ass motorcycles in NYC are driving us completely bonkers

Loud-ass motorcycles in NYC are driving us completely bonkers
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Andrew Davidoff

Written by Rob LeDonne

It can happen anywhere, even on the bucolic streets of gentrified Williamsburg or the cobblestoned arteries of the ungodly overpriced Meatpacking District. All of a sudden, they charge down the street like a team of greasy horses: motorcycles. Thundering out of the blue and disrupting the peace of everyone in their nefarious paths, they fly by as if to say, “We have arrived, everyone snap to attention and take note!”

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Whether in a pack or cruising solo, motorcycles emit sound that echoes through the streets with fury and arrogance, much like the jackhammering from a construction project of that future high-rise you won’t be able to afford.

Even better, they seem to always strike at the exact wrong times. Trying to put your baby to sleep? Vroom, there’s one outside! Taking a leisurely walk down the block? Vroom, there’s one right behind you! Just about to tell your girlfriend that you want to take a break? Vroom, one sneaks up behind you, and you put the break off for another year.

Recently, a friend mentioned that motorcycle’s intense noise doubles as a safety precaution. This could be true, but I’m skeptical since I know how most motorcyclists like to ride: weaving in and out of traffic at high speeds and acting as if stop signs were invisible. If safety were indeed paramount, motorcyclists everywhere would trade in their noisy machines for that incredible invention known as an enclosed automobile.

Of course, a motorcycle’s sound is only the cherry on top of a macho sundae. There’s also the throat-constricting exhaust. Oh, and the fact that they sometimes almost frighten pedestrians to death. That’s why, whenever a motorcycle disrupts my day, I’m proud to give it a salute in the form of a raised middle finger—and then I plug my ears, of course.



Mara M

I suffer from brain injury which includes sensory overload.  There are people in NYC with brain injuries, on the autism spectrum and people who suffer with other disabilities that make them extremely sensitive to noise and which literally makes them violently ill (literally and figuratively).  This is not about an attitude or wanting to infringe upon anyone's right to enjoy whatever they enjoy but I wish bikers would consider that the extreme noise from some of these bikes that have been tweaked for optimal noise performance is making people very very sick, some to the extent of having to go to the er to get meds to deaden their systems enough to be able to cope.  Lately they are roaring down the street all hours of the day and night, it's beginning to feel like a hostage situation.  The city is a hotbed for noise it comes with the territory, but bikes should not be modified to make even more noise, baseline is annoying enough, but it's BEARABLE.  Some of us due to this condition can become violent especially when brain injury is also involved.  The rest of the world should not have to be held hostage to an adrenaline junkie's shenanigans.  Do you...enjoy, but please be considerate of others.  If you get a rise out of being a speed demon go right ahead, enjoy life! Do so in safety and good health, but the noise does not have to send some of us spinning into a seizure.  I won't talk about my friend whose brains were splattered all over 2nd Avenue while riding a bike, but please whatever your choices, be considerate, the noise is really not that important to the adrenaline rush.  I'm near certain of it. Thank you.

Susan J

I have been riding a motorcycle since I'm 16.  I am a woman, 5'1 and weigh 100 nothing pounds.  I am courteous of cars and pedestrians.  LOUD PIPES are there for a reason.  NOT to be one ever accused me of being macho or wanting to be. It's to avoid having cars plow into you.  It's to let others know you are coming.  Motorcycle riders get hit every single day from inattentive drivers and thanks to technology, that threat is only getting worse.

And some motorcycles, like the ones I ride (Harley Davidsons) are naturally loud.  My pipes have always been stock and regulation.  They break no laws.  I don't do anything to make them louder. If I could do it legally, I WOULD.  I have almost been killed by drivers countless times and if you walk in front of my motorcycle because YOU CAN'T HEAR ME, we are both going to get really hurt.  The noise let's you know I'm coming so if you're walking and texting (a MUCH bigger problem in NYC than motorcycles), we both don't go down. 

My motorcycle pipes will never kill you.  Walking and texting or driving and texting might.  Pick a different battle. This one is stupid.

Becky S

I ride a loud motorcycle. I do not speed or weave through moving traffic. I have loud pipes so cars can hear me and my intended actions, and it has saved me from being merged into/run over more times than I can count. I'm sorry it offends you, but I have just as much a right to my loud bike as you do to complain about it. Sorry to hear about your extreme startle response, too, might wanna get that checked out.

Holland E

You're obviously upset because you can't even man up to your girlfriend. 

First, very few bikes are that obnoxiously loud. 

Second, "most" motorcycles do not weave in and out of traffic nor disobey traffic signs. You just notice those idiots more.

There is a reason the obnoxious, loud, hooligans call themselves 1%ers. Because back in the 30's they represented about 1% of the motorcycle riding population, today, that # would be closer to .1%.

Horses aren't greasy, that's just your hair products.

A properly trained rider wearing safety gear is safer than someone in an automobile.

if you're going to write articles, at least do some research. Otherwise your idiocy affects people who may make the assumption that you may know what you're talking about because "they read it online".

Steve M

Motorcycles aren't naturally loud.  Their owners make them loud intentionally by installing freer-flowing exhaust pipes and less restrictive air cleaners. New motorcycles have to pass the same EPA standards as other motor vehicles. 

I've said it for decades: this is a law enforcement problem. NYPD isn't interested in writing noise violations and bikers know it. Existing city noise laws towards motorcycles are quite draconian... like $900 for a first offense.  Furthermore, cops aren't required to use special equipment to make the ticket stick.  The current standard is "audible at 200 or more feet by a person of normal hearing". How hard is that?

To make matters worse, annual DOT motorcycle inspections are done by the same motorcycle shops where these showboaters buy their illegal pipes. This should be changed.  Motorcycles, and cars too for matter because there are an increasing number of obnoxiously loud cars on the street now too, should be inspected by state inspectors at state inspection stations. 

Chris S

Ivi, well put. Also, there are too many sub-factions of "rider" in the greater NY area to write such a generalized piece. I think this topic is valid, but could have been a little more specific.


Penalize them by increasing motorcycles insurance for noise pollution by tripling the insurance.

Ivi S

I can understand the emotional response the author has to bikers since he probably doesn't know any or has no experience with them first hand Lots of bikers are disrespectful with their bikes, and how they drive, but so are people who have loud sound systems in their cars. Drive down the BQE on any given day and you can find people in cars weaving in and out of lanes with no regard for safety The practicality of owning a bike is what makes people ride them, being able to move in and out beating traffic makes a bike appealing. I would recommend doing a bit of research and maybe a riding course. Riding might help you relax a bit. Try not to go "bonkers" about things so quickly 🙏