It was announced recently that the Department for Transport would be trailing noise cameras aimed at catching and fining drivers and riders with loud exhausts across four areas in England and Wales.
Understandably, many bikers were concerned, particularly those who adhere to the adage, ‘Loud Pipes Save Lives’, and believe that making a bit of noise is one of the best ways to ensure you’re seen on the road.
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But it turns out that the results of the trial aren’t quite as damning as first thought. While it was first thought that fixed penalty notices would be dropping on to doormats every time an excessively loud exhaust was detected, the reality is far more complex.
The latest trial will be run by the Atkins-Jacobs joint venture, the same group that operated a limited noise camera trial back in 2019. Interestingly, the trial proved that roadside cameras couldn’t replicate those controlled conditions; with ‘an error of 0.1m in the placement of the microphone can alter the [noise] level by up to 1.5dB’.
As such, the trial suggested that ‘any further development or trials of noise cameras should consider the use of a microphone array’, which is exactly what’s being used for the ‘Medusa’ system that’s being trialled in Paris. Medusa uses four microphones to triangulate the source of a sound, allowing it to pinpoint and track a noisy vehicle.
But even with the more sophisticated technology, it’s still complicated. While all modern vehicles are type-approved to meet noise levels at the time of being built, they’re measured in very controlled circumstances.
Microphones are carefully placed, background noise levels are reduced, and specific rules about the revs, speed, gear, acceleration, road surface and weather are all met. And. of course, type-approval rules have changed over the years, so newer bikes must meet different standards to older ones.
What does all this mean? Well, at this stage it’s still not clear. Considering the challenges of measuring a noisy vehicle, it seems unlikely the current technology will ever be used to administer on-the-spot fines. It’s much more plausible that you’ll be sent a warning to ensure your bike meets the right standard.
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