Expect to see a few more Beaufort police officers downtown Sunday keeping an ear out for motorcyclists with mufflers that violate the city's noise ordinance.
The city manager and city council members have received several complaints about motorcycle noise downtown and asked the police to monitor it, said Beaufort Police Chief Matt Clancy, who added that he'll customarily send more officers to a specific area if there are complaints.
Most of the complaints are about noise on Sundays, a peak day for motorcycle traffic, said Mayor Billy Keyserling, a former biker himself.
The city's noise ordinance prohibits "loud and irritating noise" that is "plainly audible from a distance of 50 feet from its source."
The problem isn't the motorcycles; it's the mufflers, Keyserling said.
Mufflers reduce the transmission and volume of sound waves by using interior partitions or baffles. Manufacturers sell mufflers with and without baffles, and some riders remove baffles for safety reasons, according to Riley Lewis, vice president of the Beaufort chapter of Star Touring and Riding, an international group that promotes motorcycles.
"I understand about the noise being too loud," he said. "But I'd rather be heard before I'm seen (by anyone driving a car.)"
Motorcycle noises can resonate between the tall buildings along Bay Street, said Hall Sumner, chairman of Main Street Beaufort, USA. He and DeWitt Helm said the noise ruins the Beaufort experience for residents and visitors.
"I think it's nuisance and an abomination," said Helm, president of the Point Neighborhood Association. "Just absolutely out of character with the kind of community and neighborhood Beaufort has the reputation for being."
Frankie Nelson, a Beaufort-area member of ABATE, a motorcycle rights group, doesn't know of any motorcycle rider who uses a loud muffler to be a nuisance or disobedient.
"It's a safety factor and bikers need all the safety factors they can get," she said. "It's an added noise that helps those negligent drivers be more aware that there is a motorcycle in traffic."
Clancy said listening for noise ordinance violations from vehicles, whether it be a loud car stereo or a muffler, is part of routine police patrol.
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