How best to describe the sound of those souped-up motor scooters that whiz brazenly along our busy thoroughfares?

Raucous? High-pitched? Ear-splitting? Why don’t we settle on intolerable.

Honolulu City Councilman Tommy Waters uses the term “excessive or unusual noise” in Bill 53, which if passed will require mopeds be equipped with mufflers at all times.

If a moped’s exhaust system is modified in such a way as to emit or amplify loud noise, Bill 53 would prohibit its operation on public streets and highways.

Plug your ears: A moped on Diamond Head Road. Nick Grube/Honolulu Civil Beat

Waters’ bill would amend an existing Honolulu ordinance that already makes the same requirement for other motor vehicles. It also forbids annoying fumes or smoke, which is also a problem with many mopeds.

We all know an annoying moped when we hear one. They are invariably driven by riders oblivious to the sound pollution that spews from their malevolent vehicles.

Waters, whose district includes the bustling corridors of Kapahulu and Waialae and the concrete canyons of Waikiki, knows it too. Same goes for his colleagues on the council’s transportation committee, which advanced Bill 53 on Wednesday with no opposition.

It’s unclear what obstacles might block the bill’s advancement to a full council vote and the mayor’s desk for approval. The Caldwell administration and the Honolulu Police Department have submitted no testimony thus far.

As currently drafted Bill 53 would have the City and County of Honolulu law complement a state law that restricts engine and muffler modifications made to a moped. The modifications have to be authorized by manufacturers and the engine cannot be increased by more than 2 horsepower. Otherwise, there is a $500 fine.

Another state law says that no modifications can be made to a muffler system that increases or amplifies noise above the original muffler sound level. The fine is $72.

Complaints about loud mopeds have been around forever, as have efforts to deal with the nuisance. But lawmakers have had difficulty reaching consensus on exactly what to do.

A major step forward came in 2016, when the Hawaii Legislature approved a bill (now law) that required registration, inspection and numbered plates for mopeds. That makes it easier for the police to enforce regulations.

Meantime, mopeds continue to be a low-cost way to navigate our densely populated streets. They are popular with students and tourists … but also residents who tweak their rides with after-market carburetors and mufflers to increase speed and performance — the peace of mind of everyone else be damned.

Let’s give Bill 53 our full attention.

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