12: Healthy Communities enforce rules.



My peaceful Saturday morning was interrupted recently by a noise I couldn’t readily identify. Some sort of engine, steady…loud. I thought some sort of machinery had been turned on in the parking lot of our Condo building. Being on the board, and naturally curious, I went to investigate. It wasn’t in our parking lot – it was half a block away. Someone was having carpets cleaned.

Who decided it would be a good idea to clean carpets this way – by having a noisy engine run for an hour or more outside one’s home – and annoying the whole neighbourhood?

There must be a better way.

But more importantly….why are we OK with this sort of thing? Why do we so readily accept that noise is OK?


When did we decide that it was OK to purposefully equip a vehicle so that it makes unreasonable noise? There was a time when you could get a ticket for an improperly maintained exhaust system – now people pay to be able to make that sound.

You hear them all the time, yet Brandon (and many other cities) have  pretty specific by-laws regarding such noise…

Brandon ByLaws

Except where otherwise permitted by this By-law, no person shall make, continue or cause, or allow to be made or continued, by whatever means, any noise which does, or is likely to, annoy, disturb, injure, endanger or detract from the peace, health or safety of any other person.

- the sound emanating from an improperly operated or maintained vehicle, including the squealing of tires, the operation of a vehicle with an improperly maintained or otherwise deficient exhaust system and those noises which emanate from a vehicle by reason of its state of disrepair;

- the sound resulting from the operation of an internal combustion engine, whether situated within a vehicle or otherwise, except where used in conjunction with an exhaust system and muffler which effectively prevents the emanating of loud or unusual noises;

So why are so many flouting the rules with impunity?

Why aren’t we complaining and having the by-law enforced? A citizen of Brandon recently approached both the media and city council asking that the noise bylaws be enforced. The response from the city and the police essentially was that they couldn't be bothered.

Leaf Blowers

I looked out my apartment window yesterday to discover the source of an annoying buzzing noise coming up from street level, and sure enough the guy contracted for snow removal by our Condo board was using a leaf blower to remove a mere dusting of snow from the short stretch of sidewalk that fronts the building. For a moment I honestly despaired for the future of our civilization. Then, of course I laughed, but I’m not convinced that despair wasn’t a more appropriate reaction. Could we possibly become any more lazy as a species? Worse yet, I’m sure that a simple broom and a few calories of human effort would have more efficiently cleaned the sidewalk. So the question is – could we become any more stupid as a species? It’s a troubling question.

Meanwhile, in the real world our governments are on a frantic search for ways to reduce our carbon dioxide emissions and thus somewhat delay the remodeling of the current land-mass to ocean ratio of the global geography.  It can’t be done they say, costs too much.

So when you spot the leaf blower guy out there studiously conserving his energy even at the cost of shouldering a heavy piece of equipment and enduring the noise it creates you have to be more than a tad pessimistic about the future. Not just because of the environmental implication, but because its hard to have faith in the future of a species that has become so indolent, so gadget inspired, so afraid of breaking a sweat on anything other than designated fitness routines. I have no confidence that once the grizzly bears and cougars, or even the gophers, start reclaiming their territory here on the prairies we will have the energy to fight back.

Additional thoughts....

A good article in a recent Globe seems to capture the spirit of what I'm seeking to explain.

Here are some excerpts.

Transport Canada sets maximum noise limits on all new motorcycles sold here. It’s about 86 decibels, Lowes says. That’s roughly as noisy as a lawnmower.

“That’s what you’ll get on any stock motorcycle, even if the exhaust has worn a bit,” Lowes says. “My wife can’t even hear me coming or going.”

The only way to make bikes noisier is to modify the exhaust system, Lowes says. That means switching to louder tailpipes.

“All the noise complaints are for people who replace the stock equipment with aftermarket parts that they say will theoretically make it perform better,” Lowes says. “But the aftermarket systems that actually produce improved engine performance are extremely expensive.”

Instead, owners often put on cheaper pipes that boost noise but not performance. And even the pricier pipes have limits on what they can do.

What is true for motorcylces in also true for the latest in community destrying trend - the status symbol pick-up truck. Except that with a truck there is not even a hint of an justification. It's all about "LOOK AT ME".

“People who want to have obnoxiously loud exhaust systems just want to be loud, says Bryan Lowes, a Vancouver-based motorcycle safety consultant. “They’re not doing it for safety reasons.”

The article goes on to say that there are vehicle noise by-laws in place but that Police put a low priority on enforcement.

It also dedunks the notion that louder motorcylces are safer.

If safety was a concern why do so many dress in black and drive like they are on a race track?

“Drop back so everybody can see you and don’t dress in black,” Lowes says. “That’s going to protect you more than being loud.”

The bottom line here is that we know that the excessive vehicle noise is simply another example of one person's selfish disregard for his or her community. We know that our governments seem to have failed to recognize that. And that's embarrassing.



Noise Regulations - Samples


Construction on private property must be carried out between 7:30 am and 8pm on any weekday that is not a holiday, and between 10am to 8pm on any Saturday that is not a holiday. Construction is not permitted on Sundays.

Vehicle-mounted carpet cleaning equipment must not be operated before noon or after 5pm on a Sunday or a holiday.

Leaf blowers must only be operated within 50 m of any residential premises between the hours of 8am and 6pm on any weekday or between the hours of 9am and 5pm on any Saturday.

The use of leaf blowers in the West End has been prohibited.
Only "low noise" leaf blowers may be used in the city.


Using power equipment such as chainsaws, lawn mowers, leaf blowers, tools and similar devices between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. (9 a.m. on Saturdays, Sundays and statutory holidays).


"Objectionable noise” means any sound caused by or emanating from a motor vehicle that annoys or disturbs humans or endangers the health and safety of humans and includes:


"the idling of a vehicle motor in excess of 10 minutes, except:

when such idling is recommended by the manufacturer of such vehicle and proof of such recommendation is provided by the vehicle operator upon the request of a police officer;

when such idling is necessary to the basic function of the equipment on a vehicle such as a concrete mixer on a concrete mixing truck, a lift platform, a refuse compactor or a heat exchange system; or

when the weather conditions require the vehicle to idle in order to keep in operation a heating or refrigeration system necessary for the welfare or preservation of the cargo of such vehicle;

(g) the operation of a combustion engine without an effective exhaust muffling device in proper working order; or
New York’s otherwise comprehensive look at noise ignores vehicle noise.


No person shall make or cause, or permit to be made or caused, any noise in or on a highway or other public place in the City which disturbs or tends to disturb the quiet, peace, rest, enjoyment, comfort or convenience of any person or persons in the neighbourhood or vicinity of that place;

So we have officially recognized that people don't have the right to disturb the peace so to speak, but many jurisdictions aren't doing much to enforce it.  Too many of us just put up with it.