New York City Council Targets Motorcycle Sound

The AMA wants you to think this is bad news for everyone who rides a street bike. Take a look at the information and make your own judgment.

The New York City Council is about to give final approval to a bill that the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) says discriminates against motorcyclists and imposes severe, out-of-line penalties.

The AMA also complained that the measure languished in the Council for two years and then, in a surprise move, was revived just a week before the scheduled final vote, allowing little opportunity for public comment.

“This is outrageous. This is no way to operate in a democracy,” said Imre Szauter, AMA government affairs manager. “The Committee on Public Safety considered the bill on Dec. 14, 2006, and then suddenly approves it and sends it to the full Council on Dec. 10, 2008?”

The measure, up for full City Council approval on Thursday, Dec. 18, would make it illegal for any motorcycle to be on city streets unless it has an exhaust system with a stamp that states it is approved by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. Essentially that means the bike must have a stock exhaust system.

Motorcyclists caught without an EPA-stamped exhaust system would face fines of up to $1,000 for a first offense and temporary forfeiture of the motorcycle until the fine is paid. A second offense would result in a fine of up to $2,500 and permanent forfeiture of the motorcycle.

City officials apparently believe that requiring motorcyclists to have EPA-approved exhaust systems is easier to enforce than trying to prove a motorcycle exceeds the city’s vaguely defined 80-decibel sound limit.

Szauter stressed that the AMA has long opposed excessive motorcycle sound and has funded information and public relations campaigns in support of quiet motorcycle use.

“The issue is that the New York City Council is unfairly singling out motorcyclists because motorcycles are the only vehicles covered under the bill,” he said. “If New York City officials believe they have a sound problem, then the problem should be handled through the existing noise ordinance and not through piecemeal legislation targeting specific modes of transportation.”

Szauter added that requiring motorcycles–and no other motor vehicles–to have a stock exhaust system is particularly discriminatory. When the muffler wears out or breaks on a car, the car owner can go to a local muffler shop and get an aftermarket system that costs much less than an original equipment system. The proposed New York City law wouldn’t allow a motorcyclist to do that, forcing the motorcyclist to potentially spend hundreds of dollars more for an original equipment system, assuming that system is even still available.

“If a motorcyclist can’t find a stock system, then the rider faces stiff fines and forfeiture of the machine, Szauter said. “These penalties are too severe and out of line when compared with other city laws.”

Szauter urged all New York City motorcyclists to contact their City Council members immediately and ask that they reject this discriminatory measure.

Concerned motorcyclists living outside the area, especially those who work in or frequently visit the city, should contact Speaker of City Council Christine Quinn by telephone at (212) 788-7210; by letter to City Hall, New York, NY 10007; or by e-mail by visiting

To see the measure, go to