By Michael Platt, Calgary Sun
Don’t let the size of their beanie-shaped motorcycle helmets fool you. Underneath those tiny brain-protectors some very clever minds are at work — minds supposedly too sharp for Calgary’s bumbling bylaw department. At least that’s the excuse from the inventor of Noise Snare, one summer and a single ticket later.
Less than a year after Mark Nesdoly’s high-tech solution to the scourge of loud motorcycle pipes fell flat, the Edmonton inventor of Noise Snare says the experiment failed because Calgary’s bylaw department did it wrong. “What I told them from the beginning is in order for this thing to work, it has to be unmanned,” said Nesdoly, an electrical engineer by training.
Over the span of last summer, while responding to more than 300 complaints about loud vehicles, Calgary bylaw officers managed to write but one measly ticket using Noise Snare — hardly the impact Calgarians were hoping for or expecting. The combination decibel-meter/camera was touted as the sonic solution to years of Harley-sized headaches, caused by unmuffled motorcycles and uncaring owners ripping around neighbourhoods and down pedes-trian strolls like 17 Ave. S.W.
Instead, Noise Snare failed to deter, or make a dent in the din. If their bikes weren’t so loud it’s certain you would have heard the straight-pipe pilots laughing all the way down the street. Nesdoly, though, hopes the fight isn’t over. He says testing of the device in Edmonton showed motorcyclists are way too cautious and/or paranoid when they see a car or van parked on the side of the road.
Years of police speed traps and photo radar, combined with the hyper-awareness of the average rider, means you can’t park a vehicle at the edge of the road and expect a motorcyclist pass by without suspicion. “When I was testing it, so many times I could hear somebody coming from blocks away and I’d think I’ve got this one for sure,” said Nesdoly. “But no matter what I tried — pretending I was
changing a tire, or reading a newspaper — as soon as they saw the van, they’d slow down and put-put by, giving me the evil eye. They’d pass and then speed up again.”
Nesdoly said he made this clear to Calgary’s bylaw department when they expressed interest in running a pilot test of the $112,500 Noise Snare last summer, explaining he’d only had success with the device when it was hidden at the roadside, unmanned. But they refused to listen. “Even though it is meant to operate autonomously, they insisted on having somebody with it, to verify it was working and for court purposes,” said Nesdoly. “I told them, if you’re going to sit with it, don’t expect many tickets — and that’s what they saw take place.”
Nesdoly is hoping the city officials give it another go, hope-fully as the unmanned din detector it was intended to be. But with the retirement of long-serving bylaw boss Bill Bruce, it’s not clear if the new regime is as open to new ideas — or whether their failure to actually write more than a single ticket in 2012 will keep Noise Snare in the box, in shame. “I’m waiting to hear back from them — I’ve been told they’re waiting for the go-ahead from the new director,” said Nesdoly.
For Ald. John Mar, there’s only one answer. “I don’t want one of them out there — I want ten,” said Mar. As the alderman for the Beltline, where the loudest vehicles tend to flock, Mar has been council’s most vocal proponent of doing something to muffle the most obnoxious machines — including cars and trucks who break the 96-dB limit. The Ward-8 councillor says he plans to talk to bylaw officials about getting Noise Snare back on the street, as well as asking the inventor for advice on making the machine successful. “Not only am I keen to see it used in the proper manner, I’m keen to see the program expanded,” said Mar.