The roar of a motorcycle and the backfire off suped-up car exhausts are sounds commonly heard through Calgary’s Beltline neighbourhood in the summer months.
While the sounds many be familiar, the Beltline Neighbourhoods Association (BNA) says they’re not necessarily welcomed.
“It’s not a new issue down here, but it’s absolutely gotten many times worse,” BNA president Peter Oliver told Global News.
“Most people in the Beltline — residents and businesses — are fed up.”
Others, like Neil Runcie, who frequents the area for its restaurants and coffee shops, said overall traffic safety in the community is a concern, and the vehicle noise is an added disruption.
“I notice it with the loud vehicles and the bikes,” Runcie said. “It’s ridiculous.”
But for others like Caitlin McIntyre, who spent several years living in Vancouver, the noise is just part of being in a downtown neighbourhood.
“It’s nowhere near as bad as it was in Vancouver,” she said. “I don’t really think it’s that bad.
“It’s a city, people have to live with it.”
According to Oliver, the revving of engines day and night is a subject of frequent conversation within the BNA and several area community associations in an effort to get the issue addressed.
Oliver said the BNA is also advocating that a section of 17 Avenue be cordoned off for “car-free” weekends as a potential solution.
The City of Calgary has a provision in its traffic bylaw that limits vehicle noise to 96 decibels, but Oliver said it rarely gets enforced.
“The solutions are actually really quite easy,” Oliver said.
“It’s enforcement and getting the Calgary Police Service to do their job to enforce bylaws that exist.”
However, both the CPS and City of Calgary told Global News it isn’t a simple solution.
According to CPS, there are “complexities” when enforcing traffic noise complaints, and the service is “working diligently” with the city to address the community’s concerns.
Enforcement of excessive vehicle noise in Calgary is a shared responsibility between city bylaw officers and CPS, but is dependent on whether the vehicle is on public or private property.
City of Calgary data shows there have only been 21 complaints made to 311 about stationary vehicle noise in the Beltline area in 2022 for car alarms, idling and the loading and unloading of trucks during “prohibited hours.”
According to the City of Calgary, peace officers investigate vehicle noise complaints around stationary vehicles on private or commercial property, involving things like stereos, revving and car alarms. Loud noise from an exhaust or acceleration of a moving vehicle on city streets is within the the jurisdiction of CPS.
Ward 7 councillor Terry Wong said his office regularly gets many complaints about vehicle noise, but also cited the challenges facing enforcement.
“The problem we hear from both bylaw and Calgary police is that you can’t really pinpoint the noise accurately and then put a ticket on and then go to court and justify the ticket,” Wong said.
“Nine times out of 10, the person is going to go to court and say, ‘Yeah, but it was the car beside me.’”
The City of Red Deer updated its bylaw for traffic noise and equipped police with sound detectors to crack down on excessively loud vehicles and bikes. The City of Edmonton is also exploring its options for similar enforcement.
According to the City of Calgary, administration is monitoring municipalities, including Edmonton and Red Deer, to see if there is success in reducing vehicle noise.
City officials said administration is also looking at municipalities “testing automated noise-detection technology” to determine if any of those options could be applied in Calgary.
“There’s always going to be the vehicle enthusiasts who want to rev their engines and get the sound out there,” Wong said. “There’s also motorcyclists who feel they need the noise for their own riding safety.
“We need to understand their needs and counterbalance that with the issues that a lot of residents feel.”
While a “magic bullet” solution may be a ways away, Wong said it’s important for Calgarians to understand that although noise is part of living in an urban environment, the issue also comes down to respect for others.
“When people are trying to put their kids to bed, and certainly early in the morning when they’re trying to get a bit of shut-eye,” Wong said.
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