One of the remarkable observations of COVID-19 lockdowns was just how much quieter our neighbourhoods became without all the cars.
We could hear the children playing in the streets, and the birds chirping in the trees.
What also became more noticeable in that quieter background was that a significant number of cars, motor bikes and trucks were actually very noisy.
And that these same vehicle were also often driving at higher speeds.
As the data came in from around the world it emerged that drivers were taking advantage of the sparsely trafficked streets to speed, and to crash. There were even more street racing offences recorded.
It turns out there is a link: speed, noisy exhausts and putting lives at risk on the road are all passengers in the same wrecked car.
And now authorities are seeking to put the brakes on—by making cars quieter. A hoon in a quiet car is apparently less of a hoon.
New York State—which endured an epidemic of street racing during COVID—has figured it can fix the problem of speeding by enforcing the quiet.
It has recently massively increased the fine for loud exhaust from US$150 to US$1000, the biggest in the US by 50 per cent.
Car mufflers and exhaust systems must not exceed 60 decibels.
And in a critically important move, car dealers and motor vehicle workshops caught installing excessively loud exhaust systems or mufflers to vehicles can have their licence revoked.
New York City is also considering following Paris in installing noise cameras around the city— devices that detect a noisy exhaust and then photograph the number plate and issue an infringement notice.
All Australian motor vehicles are required to meet noise emission standards, yet clearly many are far from it.
Presumably, these vehicles have been modified to make them deliberately non-compliant.
State governments are clearly aware of the problems of excessive noise, especially on health, with good evidence now available that vehicle noise is associated with health and social problems such as high blood pressure, and poorer reading comprehension and attention in children.
And now we have the link between vehicle noise, speed and risky behaviours that are especially concerning for people riding bikes.
State environmental authorities and police say they welcome reports of noisy vehicles along with registration and make and model details.
Large trucks however are responsibility of the Federal Government.
This article was made possible by the support of Bicycle Network's members who enable us to make bike riding better in Australia.