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Cruise control: city mulls move to curb street noise levels

Sunday cruise nights on Portage Avenue are a Winnipeg tradition, but cavalcades of convertibles and muscle cars rolling down the street can come with a noisy byproduct.

Next week, the city's executive policy committee will discuss some changes — including noise cameras that capture licence plate data of particularly loud vehicles — aimed at keeping the volume down.

The recommendation, which would require provincial approval, comes on the heels of complaints from area residents about the Sunday night noise levels, says Coun. Cindy Gilroy (Daniel McIntyre).

Rick and Sherry Busser watch cruise night from the back of their pickup truck on a Sunday night. (John Woods / Free Press files)

Rick and Sherry Busser watch cruise night from the back of their pickup truck on a Sunday night. (John Woods / Free Press files)

"Most residents don't mind the cruise nights themselves," she said Thursday. "It's the revving and the screeching" and the modified mufflers.

"The intent isn't to stop cruise nights. It's to have rules and regulations in place, and to enforce them."

As part of a noise analysis, sensors were installed at Erin Street and Portage Avenue, where decibel levels were collected at three-second intervals Aug. 6 to 12, 2019. A total of 169,786 readings were taken; most fell in the zero to 75 decibel range, while about 20 per cent were higher.

About 0.1 per cent of readings fell between 90 and 95 dB, roughly the range between a blender (88 dB) and a Boeing 737 approaching the tarmac (97 dB).

A report submitted to the City of Winnipeg in December said there were noise spikes during certain points, including Sunday cruises. However, "loud noises are clearly not limited" to that event.

"The intent isn't to stop cruise nights. It's to have rules and regulations in place, and to enforce them." – Coun. Cindy Gilroy (Daniel McIntyre)

"The use of automated 24-hour enforcement equipment, specifically noise cameras... when noise spikes are detected is a potential tool that could be investigated further for use within Winnipeg," the report reads, adding current enforcement of noise control by the Winnipeg Police Service during cruise nights is "limited."

Current noise control regulations don't state maximum decibel levels for vehicles; neither does the provincial Highway Traffic Act. However, the act states no person in control or in charge of a motor vehicle should start, drive, turn or stop it in a way that causes unnecessary noise from the engine, exhaust system, or brake system. It's also illegal to modify a muffler to create unnecessary noise.

Edmonton city council deployed four noise monitors in 2018 as part of a pilot project to measure vehicular noise above 85 dB. It also put up four LCD monitors that displayed vehicle noise, but took those down after motorists began revving in front of them.

Coun. Cindy Gilroy (Daniel McIntyre) says the intent isn't to stop cruise nights and that most residents don't mind the cruise nights themselves. The revving of engines, tire screeching and modified mufflers are the source of the noise complaints. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Free Press files)

Coun. Cindy Gilroy (Daniel McIntyre) says the intent isn't to stop cruise nights and that most residents don't mind the cruise nights themselves. The revving of engines, tire screeching and modified mufflers are the source of the noise complaints. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Free Press files)

"They wanted to see how high it could go," said Edmonton Coun. Ben Henderson, a longtime advocate for quieter roads.

In 2019, the Alberta capital launched a noise enforcement pilot program, assigning peace officers to issue tickets to drivers who exceed 85 dB, along with $155 fines. Council is still waiting on a report on that program.

Winnipeg cruise enthusiast Bob Chubala, a former chairman of the Manitoba Association of Automobile Clubs, said noise controls might make sense in residential areas, but Portage Avenue is part of Highway 1, where semis and buses regularly pass.

"It's a main corridor. What do you expect?" Chubala said of the issue.

"There's probably a city councillor in the Wolseley area looking to make some noise," he said, ironically. "But until there's a standard (decibel level) set for the province of Manitoba, this will go nowhere.

"We understand people's concerns... but they also have to understand a bus is gonna be a lot louder than a '67 Camaro."

Gilroy said the proposed noise control would target all vehicles, not just the ones cruising on Sundays.

A provincial spokesperson said any device using photo enforcement combined with noise infractions would require legislative amendments.

ben.waldman@freepress.mb.ca

Ben Waldman

Ben Waldman
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Ben Waldman covers a little bit of everything for the Free Press.

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Updated on Thursday, January 16, 2020 at 9:13 PM CST: Updates photo

January 17, 2020 at 9:04 AM: Corrects spelling of Camaro

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