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This article first appeared in Complete Colorado.
Ten minutes before midnight on June 10, I was awakened by a blast of engine noise coming from the Sixth Avenue Freeway in Lakewood. It was deafening even though we live at least a half mile from the freeway.
This was not normal vehicle noise. It was created deliberately by those who have altered their motorcycles and trucks to create the loudest disturbance possible.
This happens on many nights in Lakewood, particularly but not exclusively on the weekends. The Sixth Avenue Freeway is the site of the most common offenses, but the problem extends throughout the city. Some vehicle owners, especially motorcyclists, seem to love roaring as loud as possible through Lakewood’s residential neighborhoods during the wee hours.
This conduct is flagrantly illegal. Yet the offenders have been emboldened by the city’s apparent refusal to enforce either state or local anti-noise laws. More on that subject below.
This situation is neither new nor unreported: In 2017, for example, Ramey Johnson (my then-city councilwoman) and I repeatedly brought it to the attention of the police and city authorities. I made multiple suggestions for handling the problem, including, at a minimum, informing drivers about the noise ordinances on the electronic signs located above the freeway.
The city authorities blew us off.
Economists use the term “market failure” to refer to social problems the free market can’t cure. But as I pointed out in an earlier column, “government failure” is at least as common. Government failure occurs when officials don’t or can’t address a problem effectively. This is usually due to a lack of knowledge or to official focus on other political priorities—often bad ones.
In Lakewood, it’s apparently because of bad political priorities. Our city is now in the grip of “progressives.” As I mentioned in my articles on Colorado’s retail bag law, “progressive” priorities are not about solving real problems. Rather, they center on degrading well-run First World locales into Third World hell-holes.
In Lakewood, the most visible indication of “progressive” priorities is the city’s apparent desire to crowd as many people (preferably renters) into quarters as cramped and as close to the street as possible. But there are other indications as well. One is the propaganda machine “progressives” always set up with taxpayer money once they take control. Lakewood’s official rag (“Looking at Lakewood”) and the city website are now littered with the idols in the lefty pantheon—er, pandaemicon. If you enter “sustainability” or “diversity” on the site, you get page after page of hits. Enter the word “freedom,” and you get less than a single page.
Another element in the First-to-Third World degradation project is enacting piles of pesky laws and regulations to torment responsible people—while permitting (or, preferably, subsidizing) irresponsible behavior. Such as blasting an unmuffled engine at 2 am.
The conduct of the coddled Lakewood racers is, well, screamingly illegal. Colorado Revised Statutes § 42-4-225 reads in part as follows:
“Mufflers—prevention of noise
“(1) Every motor vehicle . . . shall at all times be equipped with an adequate muffler in constant operation and properly maintained to prevent any excessive or unusual noise, and no such muffler or exhaust system shall be equipped with a cut-off, bypass, or similar device. No person shall modify the exhaust system of a motor vehicle in a manner which will amplify or increase the noise emitted by the motor of such vehicle above that emitted by the muffler originally installed on the vehicle . . . .”
The Lakewood noise control ordinance, Municipal Code Section 9.52.020, recites that: “at certain levels, noise is detrimental to public health, comfort, convenience, safety and welfare of the citizens of the city. This chapter is enacted to protect, preserve and promote the health, welfare, peace and quiet of the citizens of Lakewood through the reduction, prohibition and regulation of noise. . . ”
Section 9.52.040 of the Code adds that “No person shall knowingly make or continue, or cause to be made or continued, any unreasonable noise within the city.” The law proceeds to specify (Section 9.52.050) that “The following acts . . . are declared to cause unreasonable noises . . .:” One of those “following acts” is defined in Section 9.52.090:
“No person shall discharge into the open air the exhaust of any . . . motor vehicle . . . which is not equipped with an adequate muffler in constant operation and properly maintained to prevent any unreasonable noise, and no such muffler or exhaust system shall be modified or used with a cutoff, bypass or similar device.”
And again, Section 9.52.100:
“Defect in vehicle or load
“It is unlawful for any person to operate, or cause or permit to be operated or used, any automobile, truck, motorcycle or other motor vehicle so out of repair, so loaded or in such a manner as to cause any unreasonable noise.”
“§ 10.57.080 Mufflers—Prevention of noise
“It is unlawful for any person to operate, or for the owner to cause or knowingly permit the operation of, any vehicle . . . within this municipality, which is not equipped with an adequate muffler in constant operation and properly maintained to prevent any unnecessary noise, and no such muffler or exhaust system shall be modified or used with a cutoff, bypass or similar device. No person shall modify the exhaust system of a motor vehicle in a manner which will amplify or increase the noise emitted by the motor of such vehicle above that emitted by a muffler of the type originally installed on the vehicle . . . . .”
“§10.57.020 Lights, tires and other required equipment
“A. It is unlawful for any person to drive or move or for the owner to cause or knowingly permit to be driven or moved on any street or highway within this municipality any vehicle . . . which does not contain those parts or is not at all times equipped with such . . . mufflers. . . kept in proper condition and adjustment as required [by state law] . . . .”
There are still more sections of the same kind, but you get the picture. The Lakewood officials who zealously promote “progressive” delusions are failing to enforce the standards that make any city livable.
What finally happened that night
After the freeway noise blew me awake, I tried to console myself with the thought that the racers might kill themselves or each other. But then I realized that they might kill innocent people also.
I really wanted to get some sleep, so I closed the window, which had been slightly ajar. That didn’t work.
Then I called the Lakewood police on two non-emergency numbers. On one number I got no answer. On the other I became entangled in a phone tree that referred me to an internet site.
I went to bed with some ordinary earplugs, but they proved insufficient to screen out the noise—especially the screeching.
Eventually I found a pair that would dampen a freight train. This enabled me to return to sleep.
But should any of those steps be necessary?