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It’s Official . . . Loud Bikes Save Lives

If the NHTSA has its way, quiet motorcycles will be banned!  To be more specific, electric vehicles of all types, including two wheelers, are frequently so quiet that they pose a safety risk to pedestrians at low speeds.  Here is how the NHTSA puts it:

Whether or not a vehicle can be easily detected by the sound it makes is a product of vehicle type, vehicle speed, and ambient sound level. Quieter vehicles, such as EVs and HVs, can reduce pedestrians’ ability to assess the state of nearby traffic and, as a result, can have an impact on pedestrian safety. EVs and HVs may pose a safety problem for pedestrians, in particular pedestrians who are blind or visually impaired and who therefore rely on auditory cues from vehicles to navigate. For these pedestrians, the primary safety issue arises when an HV or EV operates quietly using its electric motor for propulsion at low speeds. This is also the case when other auditory cues, such as the noise from the vehicle’s tires and wind resistance, are less noticeable.

The irony of the government attempting to mandate more noise from motorcycles is hard to overlook, but the low speed menace of electric vehicles is real. You can read the NHTSA’s full analysis by opening this PDF.  You can also listen to a sampling of recordings suggested by the NHTSA for use on electric vehicles when traveling at low speeds here.  As usual, the Europeans are way out in front of us on this issue, as evidenced by the video below.

44 Comments

  1. Greedy says:

    Reading this you would think it is the pedestrians responsibility to avoid the vehicle and not the other way around. Hit a pedestrian with any vehicle and get a lesson medical costs and liability insurance. None of this would be a problem if people would just hang up and drive.

  2. Al says:

    In our area, if you don’t want to get hit by a bicycle you have to get off the sidewalk. Sometimes I just want to push a stick into the wheel of those damn bicycle dispatch riders.

  3. Scotty T says:

    WoooooHooooo! I’ve been wanting to put straight pipes on the Harley!! And Race mufflers on the GT500!! Anything I can do to save a life I’m all for!!

  4. Les says:

    We already have this issue with those other silent vehicles. Push bikes! And think of the danger of roller skates – with 8 silent wheels it’s practically genocide on wheels.

    No, but seriously, we should also consider deaf people and add strobe lights to the roof of cars and bikes so that they pollute sight as well as sound.

    Some people are both blind and deaf and for these there is only one solution. SMELL-O-RAMA. All ‘lectric vehicles should emit a noxious fume for everyone’s safety.

    I’m canadian, so it’s not my money being spent on this study. Lol usa.

  5. dino says:

    We won’t need to add noise to quiet vehicles as soon as the Government plants those lcator chips in our heads…

    Until that happens, lets all get safe! I am pulling the mufflers off my cycle, cars, lawn mowers, etc…

    YEAH! SAFETY!!! V-ROOOOM!

  6. Norm G. says:

    re: “Whether or not a vehicle can be easily detected by the sound it makes is a product of vehicle type, vehicle speed, and ambient sound level. Quieter vehicles, such as EVs and HVs, can reduce pedestrians (EC’s) ability to assess the state of nearby traffic and, as a result, can have an impact on pedestrian (EC’s) safety.”

    pretty sure this paragraph was contained in a early lockheed white paper on STEALTH. where you see the word “pedestrians” substitute the term “enemy combatants”. LOL

  7. MeckHornet says:

    Please to let me know where I can download Harley Davidson audio file for my Dynojet Audio Commander X equipped Zero XU.
    I prefer CVO twin cam 110 engine with straight pipes for maximum road authority.

  8. sliphorn says:

    potato potato potato O-N-I-O-N potato potato potato O-N-I-O-N…………

  9. Phil says:

    hahahaha I love this web site! I check in daily. Very informative. Thanks for the laughs and the education about current events and bike related issues. For those of you who don’t understand “toung-in-cheek” find another site to visit;)

  10. John says:

    Man, I have GOT to start a motorcycle sound file download site now!

    Did I say that outloud?

  11. Gary says:

    All my motorcycles and cars have stock exhausts, and are very quiet. I compensate for it by making engine noises with my lips as a drive along. Harley Lip Pharts are an especially effective way of warning pedestrians.

  12. kirk66 says:

    Ummm, the stupidity of Government and the NTSB continues to baffle and mystify. I understand that blind people need a heads up, but motorized cars are making up for the noise that electric cars don’t. Unless you have a pack ride of 20 or 30 electric bikes and scoots running the road it’s kind of pointless.

  13. Z1 says:

    “It’s Official . . . Loud Bikes Save Lives”…no, not really. You need to change your headline. What the study actually said was that totally silent vehicles are a danger to pedestrians. It did NOT advocate loud pipes on bikes. By your reasoning, you might as well have a headline that says “It’s Official . . . NHTSA says Not Wearing Helmets Saves Lives”

    • Dirck Edge says:

      The headline was stated tongue-in-cheek.

      • dino says:

        Apparently Z-1 doesn’t appreciate sarcasm.. (as Bill Murray would say, “NOBODY gets me..”)

        Happy new year Dirck! Thanks for getting rid of the Captcha’s!!!

  14. Hair says:

    I guess that it’s time to apply for a patent for the ol playing card in the spokes noise maker.

  15. Superhawk says:

    Ha… whatever… just leave us all alone and let us do what we want. Quiet exhaust or loud and we are good. If you ride an electric, better have a very good horn.

    If you live where there are alot of electrics, then look both ways… TWICE!

    Cheers

  16. Jim says:

    My wife and I visited China in 2010 and were surprised frequently by fast-approaching electric scooters. In Guilin, street-light levels were very low, and the scooter riders usually ran with no headlights, possibly to save their batteries. You couldn’t hear them coming, or see them, either. Worse, the riders seemed to regard pedestrians not as obstacles to be avoided but as apex markers. Scary!

    • HotDog says:

      Even Darwin could not have speculated that the evolution of a machine (electric motorcycles) would lead to the extiction of a sub order of human apes (Deafus Homo Erectus Blindus Slowus).

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “the riders seemed to regard pedestrians not as obstacles to be avoided but as apex markers.”

      FISTPUMP…!!!

  17. CrazySwiss says:

    1. It does not say Loud vehicles save lives. It says super silent vehicles may pose a threat to the vision-impaired pedestrians (eg: idiots who watch their smartphones instead of the walkway)

    2. Have you ever been in Hong Kong, Tokyo or Calcutta? The amount of noise will deafen you with the millions of audio advertisements from trains, to buses to taxis etc. The grass is always greener on the other side. People over there, actually love the silence of European villages.

    3. Again, a topic which is twisted to an angle to suit the agenda. Not unique in America. Almost all countries are guilty of this wonder practice.

  18. Ricardo says:

    I was in China last year for work, and there are 1000’s of electric scooters running around the busy streets, it is a threat snce you can not hear them coming. But I also think is a matter of educatng pedestrians and motorcyclists to respect the roads and the right of way of each at intersections, just as it is with a car…

  19. Eric says:

    LOL -I can see Harley Davidson coming out with a copy-righted MP3 of their ‘famous’ engine sound, and selling it to the electric bike manufacturers. Of course, there will have to be a sound byte every 30 seconds from Willie G himself, stating that this is an officially licensed product of the Harley Davidson Corporation, and that violators of the copy-right will be prosecuted.. :-)

  20. Chris says:

    Maybe delivery riders on electric scoots should have a taped human voice doing that beloved two cycle song–Bring … bring-bring-bring.

  21. Dave Kent says:

    Brilliant! EV battery technology has only recently advanced to the point that barely makes them practical in limited situations, and the government’s already thinking of things to hang on them to reduce their efficiency and increase their expense. We need to find real work for bureaucrats, instead of paying them to dream up asinine ways to minimize the benefits of every innovation brought to the table by real people.

    • dino says:

      Hey now, that’s not fair! The government is just trying to make sure that NOBODY has to take responsibility for their own actions (by paying attention to their surroundings near traffic!).

      You are welcome! (By the way, we need to raise your taxes to fund a study on what kind of noise vehicles should make, how loud they should be, under what circumstances, etc..)

  22. Jay says:

    WHat about bicycles? I nearly get killed by a bicycle at least three times a year.

  23. MGNorge says:

    Perhaps that’s where we’ll be headed with this, each vehicle, or its operator will seek a sound that identifies it. Of course all future electric Harleys would have to go, “Potato, potato, potato”. (What a scream that would be! All would wear full coverage helmets no doubt. “Bill, is that you?”) Mazdas might take on the sound of their rotary engine? Minivans might all take on the sound of a giant Barcelona World Cup audience screaming and yelling after a score? Why be plain Jane when you could choose a sound with higher aspirations? :)

  24. GearDrivenCam says:

    “It’s official…Loud bikes save lives”. While that statement could possibly be true, you certainly can’t draw that conclusion based on that article. Particularly an article focusing on EVs. It would be like saying, the more fuel I put in my tank, the faster my motorcycle will go or the more power it will have. The reality is, as long as there is enough fuel in your tank it won’t make a difference beyond that point how full your tank is. Similarly, I get the sense here that the NHTSA is advocating for EVs to produce enough noise to be “heard” (at certain speeds – I believe below 18 mph). Noise any louder than that will likely produce no meaningful difference in safety. Then again, I’m curious to know where the NHTSA is basing these claims – show me the research evidence NHTSA.

    • Dave says:

      My question is how many lives are being lost by pedestrians getting hit by silent scooters or bicycles.

      Even so, the fix is to remind people not to walk out into a street without looking for vehicles and reminding riders that is their core responsibility to not hit objects with their vehicles.

      • GearDrivenCam says:

        Hey Dave,

        I agree completely. A couple of years ago the same concern over a “lack of noise” with electric cars was being bantered about and suggestions for noise producing devices for these cars were already been debated. I asked the same question. “How about bicycles? They don’t make any noise. How many pedestrians are getting run over by cyclists?” I still haven’t been given a satisfactory answer to this.

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “Then again, I’m curious to know where the NHTSA is basing these claims – show me the research evidence NHTSA.”

      might have something to do with our emergency vehicles (police, ambulance, fire, etc.) being equipped with sirens. proof and precedent that audible warnings can afford detection beyond visual range.

      • Dave says:

        Sure, but those serve the purpose of identifying them as a rescue or police vehicle and enacting emergency traffic laws (ie. clear the lane for emergency vehicle traffic). If people are getting hit by vehicles because they can’t hear them coming then they’re just not paying enough attention in a potentially dangerous situation.

  25. Lone Amigo says:

    BTW, if you have ever been in Toledo, Spain at night, the sound of 50 cc 2stroke pizza delivery bikes with full GP expansion chambers is absolutely amazing. Those kids sliding their bikes on wet cobblestones will delight any Old School GP fan!

  26. Lone Amigo says:

    At least it isn’t saying “Potato, potato, potato…”

  27. Dave G says:

    Another government agency ready to put the blame on a piece of equipment operated by humans. Put the blame where it belongs. On the vehicle operator. Do they think the operators of these quiet vehicles are any better or worse then the operators of fueled vehicles. And now the government validates the dumb ass loud Harley guys who think loud pipes save lives..What a joke.