Return of MotoGP to Indianapolis Sparks Speedway Noise Ordinance

To some, nothing is more thrilling than the sound of a motorcycle engine revving.

But the people of Speedway, Indiana fear that such sounds might linger long into the night with the return of motorcycle racing to Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

During its meeting of July 28, 2008, the Speedway Town Council considered the passage of a special ordinance banning "unnecessary noises made by certain motor vehicles." The ordinance came in response to the return of motorcycle racing to Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

On September 14, 2008, IMS will host the 2008 Indianapolis motorcycle Grand Prix, its first major motorcycle race since opening in 1909. And while motorcycle fans are understandably excited, the people of Speedway are leery of unwanted noise pollution that will accompny their revelry.

Perhaps fearing scenes from The Wild One, the Town Council's special ordinance is specifically aimed at motorcycles revving their engines noisily, and will give police the power to impose fines on anyone they determine to be causing a nuisance by exhibiting excessive noise with thier bikes.

According to Noise Off, motorcycles with straight-pipe exhaust systems produce far more noise other types of exhaust systems. The decibels from these pipes exceed EPA requirements for manufacturers.

The manager of a Harley-Davidson retailer in the Boston area estimated that 60 percent of riders or more have their factors tailpipes replaced with after-market versions. Harley-Davidson once tried to trademark the sound of its V-twin engine, with one executive likening it to the "voice of god."

Industry trade groups, including SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association) and MIC (Motorcycle Industry Council) have opposed noise ordinances in American cities and towns.

Although the citizens' and politicians' concerns are quite evident (even the most perfunctory browse through Youtube will turn up aural assaults from many European MotoGP rounds) the wording of the ordinance seems contradictory to the spirit of the event. Bouncing your sports bike off the rev limiter or doing long and noisy burnouts are an integral part of the weekend's entertainment, and an important factor in keeping the atmosphere going at a MotoGP weekend.

"Unnecessary" noises, like so many other adjectives, is very much in the eye, or the ear, of the beholder.

UPDATE: On August 8, 2008, the Speedway Town Council withdrew the ordinance. A second ordinance, which was also dropped, forbade the parking of motorcycle trailers on Speedway streets two days before qualifying through the day of the actual race.

During the inaugural Indianapolis Red Bull GP, Alex de Angelis became the first rider to exceed 200 miles per hour along the front straightaway. 

The attorneys at the law firm of Keller & Keller are experts in Indiana motorcycle accidents.

James R. Keller
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