Your Views: Let’s do something about noise pollution

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Your Views: Let’s do something about noise pollution
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To the editor:

I can hear it, the primal thrum, followed by the cringe-inducing strain of shifting gears. The exhaust system backfires making popping, firecracker sounds that can be heard from blocks away, loud. These vehicles with illegally altered exhaust systems rip and roar through Old Town and surrounding areas with impunity. Day-in, dayout, some days worse than others.

I shudder at the thought of what additional torment the summer months will usher in. It’s close to coming on a year now. Last year, Memorial Day weekend was unusually peaceful – if the pandemic had any upside it was that it spared us “rolling thunder.”

How nice, I thought. Then in late summer, drivers with their ferociously loud cars and motorcycles rolled into Old Town like it was their prize to claim. People didn’t really want to talk about it. It started with denial, which later morphed into hope that this nuisance might just go away.

But why would these showboaters leave when, for all intents and purposes, we’ve rolled out the welcome mat here in the state of Virginia? As of March 2021, the General Assembly codified tolerance for this renegade behavior into law, making it illegal for the police to pull these cars over for their dirty, ear-splitting exhaust systems. Thank you, Virginia Democrats!

All that effort on the lawbreakers’ behalf, and they didn’t even need to bother. The police hadn’t made any meaningful effort to issue citations during all the noise-violated months preceding. There was already a law enforcement vacuum with predictable results.

Well, at least public officials and police have agreed on one thing, these offenders get a free pass here in Virginia. But breaking news has it that they are doing things differently in West Chester, Pennsylvania.

In West Chester, they’ve got these nice features like al fresco dining and shopping in their downtown that they aim to protect. We have them too, but, as a case in point, on a recent Friday evening, around 10, my husband and I witnessed three men on motorcycles who had pulled off to the side of the road.

All three revved their engines, trying to outdo each other. One had a sound system blaring heavy metal. Right across the street was what should have been a lovely off-King Street outdoor dining experience. Something enviable had suddenly, sadly, been rendered pitiable. The diners were a captive audience, waiting for a check that couldn’t come soon enough.

The mayor and City Council in West Chester are closely coordinating with the police to reclaim the peace. They’ve called it “Operation Quiet-Down-Town.” Plain clothes police and those in marked patrol cars will team up to actively cite people for noise pollution.

They have also correctly identified the altered exhaust vehicles as a point-source air pollution problem. Please take note of this, “Ecocity” Alexandria! This concerted effort will be broadcast with electronic signage to alert potential offenders that these violations will be enforced. I sure like the sound of that – a serious, targeted effort marshaling local government resources to achieve the greater public good.

Meanwhile, it’s nearing 3 a.m. and a distant roar on the horizon can be heard as fleets of muscle cars and bikes speed home after a pleasurable night of trolling around the town.

But here the only acceptable noise discussion centers on cicadas.

-Lori Farnsworth, Alexandria

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