Here’s to a quieter season

Published 9:02 am Friday, September 17, 2010

One of the best things about autumn is that it tends to suppress summer’s most annoying features — heat, humidity, flying insects and loud motorcycles.

The natural stuff — heat, insects — is pretty much unavoidable; indeed, it’s necessary. But cycles that are approximately as loud as a 737 jetliner? There’s no good reason for that, although there may be a few bad ones.

To be clear, it’s not motorcycles overall that are a problem, just those from a certain manufacturer that apparently specializes in noisy engines.

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These bikes, and their riders, annoy just about everybody nearby, from motorists next to them at stop lights to pedestrians and bicyclists, to people outdoors in their yards.

Undoubtedly the noise is an effective way to say, “Hey, look at me.” And, indeed, some riders argue that being very, very noisy is a safety measure, helping drivers who are quieter see motorcycles coming. The safety argument would make more sense if these riders also troubled themselves to wear helmets, but most do not.

Heck, if being noisy was such a great safety technique, wouldn’t bicyclists be sounding airhorns continuously?

Which leads to the possibility that motorcycle noise is more of a style statement than a safety measure. OK, it’s not just a possibility, it’s the main thing.

It’s a style similar to that of the person who walks through a crowd singing at the top of her voice, or a guy shouting profanity while waiting in line. Except that when people do those things, we tend to suspect they are mentally ill; their family and friends might even try to get them some therapy.

If only loud cyclists’ families and friends would do the same.

Alas, splitting ears with an engine remains far more socially acceptable than random singing or shouting, even though it’s no more pleasant to those nearby.

So we have to rely on, and thank, cold weather for bringing some sanity back to the streets.

What cold weather won’t stop, however, is butt-flinging.

Yes, butt-flinging. That’s when a smoker throws her or his smoldering cigarette butt out the car window. It goes on summer or winter.

Most cars are still equipped with ash trays, and it seems like they’d be a good place to accumulate butts until they can be dropped in the trash. So I’m not sure why smokers pitch their smoldering trash overboard.

We wouldn’t — and don’t — tolerate it when drivers toss other garbage out the car window, and those who do litter at least seem to know it’s wrong, limiting their bad behavior to the privacy of rural roads and dark nights. But butt-flingers don’t seem to worry about being seen.

So perhaps what we need is an educational campaign to remind people that just because trash is small and smelly, it’s not OK to chuck it out the car window.