The grass roots activist website Change.org allows anyone with a cause to create an online petition and attempt to gain supporters for their cause. This can be at the local or even national level.
Just three days ago, petitioner Jonathan Graham created a Change.org petition with one simple purpose: to ban all motorcycles from the State of Hawaii. His issue? Noise.
Noise from excessively loud vehicles is destroying the quality of life in residential Honolulu. The culprits are a growing number of extremely noisy mopeds and motorcycles, especially Harleys. They drive through our communities in the middle of the night, waking up thousands of working families.
As of this writing, the petition has garnered 711 of the 1,000 needed digital signatures to be delivered to its intended audiences, which includes both houses of the Hawaii state legislature and Governor David Ige.
While it appears that large, specifically Harley Davidson motorcycles are the crux of Graham’s complaint, the petition also includes “mopeds” which we can only assume means both mopeds and what are actually scooters (which are often referred to as “mopeds” by people who don’t know better).
My take on this:
You’re kidding me, right?
I can understand Mr. Graham’s frustration. I really can. I used to live in a neighborhood here in Chicago where the local jackass teenagers would shoot off enormous fireworks at all hours of the night. It was incredibly frustrating, but you know what? Fireworks were already illegal. All the calls to 911 did us no good. While moving may not be an easy option for Mr. Graham, it might be the only thing that actually improves his noise situation.
I would also challenge Mr. Graham for specifics. What may seem like a “growing number” of issues in his neighborhood may not, in fact, be a state-wide trend. Also, we cannot and should not make state-wide policy on the unmeasured perceptions of any individual. Were I in the state legislature, I’d want to see some numbers.
The key section in Mr. Graham’s petition, in my opinion, is this:
The Honolulu Police also do absolutely NOTHING to control the noise. The police must be reprimanded for not doing their jobs. We need to file a class action lawsuit against the Honolulu Police for refusing to enforce Section 342F of the Hawaii Code on Noise Pollution.
What we have here is an enforcement issue. It’s ironic to think that if one policy isn’t being enforced, that another policy is the answer. Clearly more creative solutions are needed here, and I think neighborhoods need to address their local noise issues at ground level if they want to actually solve this. Calling for a state-wide ban on motorcycles is pretty much just a political temper tantrum, and I’d wager it’ll be just as effective. My question for Mr. Graham is simply, do you want public vindication and catharsis, or an actual solution to your noise issue?
This petition, even if/when it gets all 1,000 signatures, isn’t going to solve this issue. Lawmakers are not going to put the thousands of dealership employees, mechanics and other people who work in the Hawaiian powersports industry out of work. That’s political suicide.
A class action lawsuit against Harley Davidson isn’t going to solve this either, as Harley will be able to quickly show that all their motorcycles, in stock form, meet current 50 states noise regulations. They’ll also be able to show that theirs are not the only motorcycles on the road. Legally speaking, it’s also extremely difficult to prove “damages” from being woken up in the middle of the night, as annoying as that certainly is.
It’s Mr. Graham’s right to petition for whatever he likes, but it’s frankly laughable to think that even with a million citizen signatures that you could ban a particular vehicle type state-wide. The barrage of counter-suits would lock any such ban up in court until it was either thrown out by the Supreme Court, or the heat death of the universe, whichever came first. To be blunt, if school shootings can’t successfully ratchet up gun control, good luck stopping another multi-billion dollar industry from selling their wares because of neighborhood noise complaints.
The problem here is obvious to anyone with actual experience in the motorcycle or scooter world. These loud bikes are loud because the individual owners have made them loud. Just like how loud cars are loud because the owners have made them that way. Will Mr. Graham attempt to ban cars next? How about aircraft? I’m sure anyone in the approach and takeoff paths near any of Hawaii’s airports would love to sue Boeing, Cessna and Airbus. As I keep saying, good luck with that.
Certain jurisdictions in California and in the European Union have made it illegal to modify the exhaust systems of a factory-produced motorcycle. While this has its own legal pitfalls, it’s certainly a far more pragmatic policy-driven solution than trying to ban an entire vehicle type, especially when masses of law-abiding citizens will be able to easily prove that their legal motorcycles, mopeds and scooters are not part of the problem at hand.
What bothers me most about this petition isn’t the problem it’s trying to solve, but that it seeks to take away people’s freedom to choose a motorcycle, scooter or moped as their method of transport on public roads — all because of a minority of bad actors. Why not petition for actual police enforcement of noise complaints? Isn’t that the real issue here? Instead of throwing a fanciful fit on Change.org, how about organizing local neighborhood watch groups to sight and report the license plate numbers of people making these disturbances. Install speed bumps in the neighborhood so that it’s no longer an appealing traffic route for motorcycles.
Of the likely thousands of Hawaiian motorcycle owners, I’d wager the number of people causing actual nuisance is so small that it could be dealt with in very direct ways. Instead of punishing everyone, how about getting creative and addressing the local problem at the local level? Looking back through history, this is how most big change happens. It’s not top down. It’s bottom up.
What do you think? Would you sign this petition? What would you do to solve a noise issue in your neighborhood? Sound off in the comments.