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Monday, December 30, 2013

Royal Enfield's loud valves might indeed save lives

Loud Valves Save Lives t-shirt.
"Loud Valves Save Lives" is the old joke about Royal Enfields. The clatter of out-of-adjustment valves is amusing if considered as a safety device akin to the supposed "loud pipes save lives" slogan common in Harley-Davidson circles.

I recently had reason to think it might be so.

My wife and I were walking in our neighborhood when I noticed a bit of litter in the bicycle lane adjacent to the sidewalk. I leaned over to pick it up and nearly had my head taken off by a rider on an electric bicycle.

The rider came "out of nowhere" over the hump of a bridge, and moving the "wrong way" against traffic. I was watching the other direction.

Even so, if it had been moving no faster than a bicycle I would have seen it before I entered the bike lane; but it was much faster and, of course, it was almost completely silent.

I've always dismissed the "loud pipes save lives" argument as wishful thinking. Drivers behind the motorcycle (and thus no threat)  will hear it but those ahead likely won't hear my exhaust note before they run into me.

What I had never considered was that pedestrians too depend in part on their hearing to sense danger.

As silent electric cars, electric bicycles and now even electric motorcycles become more common, those of us who occasionally walk may miss the noise provided by internal combustion.

1 comment:

  1. There is no empirical evidence that loud pipes save lives...but at least once it prevented me from changing lanes when a bike was in my blind spot. Having driven an electric motorcycle the lack of noise is very disconcerting when you are in traffic. Same as having a Prius sneak up on you. I think we use noise cues that we are not even aware of as we navigate the sidewalks and streets. We may have to adapt as a species.

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