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MMA Legislative Alert - Boston Noise Ordinance

Published on 7/1/2009



In an age where Motorcyclists are focusing more on controlling noise levels as a group and noise from other vehicles such as cars with “Ash Can” mufflers are drowning us out, on June 3rd, the City of Boston passed an ordinance aimed as a step of eliminating motorcycles from City Streets.  The Massachusetts Motorcycle Association (MMA - became aware of the ordinance after it was fast-tracked in proceedings in City Hall.  Discussions with Boston Residents including Motorcycle Enthusiasts indicated that the news of this ordinance passing was a surprise across the board.


This first salvo was fired in a “public hearing” which was attended by a few very outspoken critics of Motorcycles.  There was no representation from any Motorcyclist or Motorcycle Organization who could represent the case being presented against motorcyclists.  Video of the proceeding can be found here:


The details of the specific docket (#0658) can be found here:


This specific ordinance requires that a Motorcycle Exhaust must carry an EPA stamp which is visible to a parking or police officer who can issue a citation if they don’t see the EPA stamp – violation is subject to a $300 fine.  Citations can be issued whether the vehicle is in operation or parked on a street in the City of Boston.


The MMA has a number of concerns with this ordinance, beginning with the fact that Motorcycle Organizations including the Motorcycle Industry Council, the Massachusetts Motorcycle Association, and others, were not contacted for comment nor consulted for information concerning the proposal.  Specifically with regard to the ordinance itself, the specific “federal” reference being cited in the video is an EPA requirement for Motorcycle Manufacturers concerning compliance of a newly manufactured motorcycle, the requirements for which expire following an “Acoustical Adjustment Period” of one year at the maximum or 3,730 miles – whichever comes first.

This ordinance makes no reference to existing Massachusetts General law governing Motorcycle Sound Emissions (MGL Chapter 90, Sections 7S, 7T, 7U, and 16), nor existing Boston City Ordinances governing noise:


Massachusetts General Law already specifies maximum noise levels for Motorcycles and specifically how to test them.  The Boston Noise Ordinance doesn’t even require that a Motorcycle be running.  A motorcycle, which is an energy and cost efficient method of commuting, and reduces the burden of parking spaces in a city such as Boston, could theoretically be parked on the street and have the owner find a $300 citation on their vehicle upon their return.


Further, motorcyclists who violate this ordinance now face a hefty $300 fine versus the current $30-$50.   As this ordinance only mentions motorcycles, we believe this to be blatant discrimination against Motorcycles in the City.


The MMA first learned of this action on June 10th, via a web link which followed the committee hearing.  In the days since learning of this, the MMA has been in contact with several Motorcyclists’ Rights Organizations, independent Activists, and the MMA’s General Counsel.  The MMA has expended significant effort and resources performing due diligence researching the specifics of the laws and regulations governing this situation.   Concurrent with this review, the MMA learned that an independently funded group of activists has chosen to file suit against the City of Boston.


The MMA is committed to fighting this ordinance as has it fought similar warrants in several towns this year alone.  Based on the various actions already being taken, the MMA believes that a United Front is warranted rather than several groups of Motorcyclists acting independently and in an uncoordinated fashion.  As such, we’ve chosen to closely monitor the currently announced law suit rather than burden the MMA Membership with the financial cost of a likely multi-year legal engagement which could be in conflict with existing action.  Should the need arise, the MMA stands ready to take whatever action is necessary to protect the rights of Massachusetts Motorcyclists, including, but not limited to reviewing and supporting the action, intervening if needed and or taking independent action at the appropriate time.


We will provide periodic updates as further information becomes available.  In the interim, for more information, see, or contact or