‘I don’t sleep’: West London residents call for a brake on road racing noise

To get the equivalent of a full night’s sleep these days, Theresa Stuart has to break her sleep into pieces throughout the night.

The 70-year-old resident of the London borough of Orchard Park, near Wonderland and Sarnia Roads, does not suffer from insomnia. What’s keeping them busy – and raising concerns at City Hall – is the nighttime noise of drivers using streets like their own personal racetrack.

“It sounds like the Indianapolis 500,” Stuart told CBC News. “That’s especially annoying because they have the loudest silencers.”

Stuart, who uses a cane and is recovering from a back injury, says the noise is unbearable. Sometimes the sounds come from custom builds; at other times it’s the “pace rocket” style racing bikes that keep them going.

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“I’m not sleeping,” she said. “When these cats race, I hear it at 1 a.m., 2 a.m., 3 a.m. Some mornings at three o’clock I’m like, ‘OK, you win.’ I get up now, tinker around, and as soon as regular traffic starts, I sleep in the morning or afternoon. My sleep is cut off now.”

Stuart isn’t the only one who loses sleep at night over revving engines, screeching tires and deafening exhaust blasts. Complaints surfaced on social media throughout the summer. Complaints have also landed in the e-mail inboxes of the city councillors.

In a Twitter post on Monday, Stuart’s neighbor Carol Dyck said street racing was “out of control” in London, particularly in the city’s north-west.

Last summer, Ward 7 City Council and Deputy Mayor Josh Morgan reported on the issue in response to complaints about street racing on Facebook. Morgan’s community borders Stuart, who lives in community 6.

At the time, Morgan said he raised the issue with London Police, who told him police had brought extended silencer enforcement training to all officers.

Morgan also shared the following statistics on enforcement numbers provided to him by the London Police Service.

They include:

  • A two-week blitz in autumn 2020 targeting noisy vehicles resulted in the imposition of 535 noisy vehicle/improper muffler-related charges.
  • In the spring of 2021, in response to racing and loud mufflers, police launched an awareness and enforcement campaign, issuing more than 250 indictments in 12 days.

In a text exchange with CBC News about the issue on Friday, Morgan said the number of complaints he’s received appears to have decreased this summer from last. Morgan also said noisy street racing is not an issue, limited to London’s west and north-west boroughs.

CBC News asked London Police for updated statistics or comments on the subject of street racing in London. Spokesperson Sandasha Bough directed CBC to file a request for access to information.

Police won’t be chasing racing bikes, city council says

count. Steve Lehman, whose Ward 8 is south of Morgans, has also raised the issue with London Police.

“I certainly listen to Oxford racing,” Lehman said. He said police have stepped up enforcement efforts. Like Morgan, he says he received more complaints about races from voters last summer than he did this year. Lehman said police told him street racing motorcycles can quickly reach speeds where it becomes unsafe for officers to chase them.

“They’re here, and then they’re gone,” Lehman said of the noisy road wheels.

Lehman also witnessed a motorcycle collision near the university gates on Richmond Street last summer. That fall killed the 24-year-old driver. The driver was in a group of other drivers when the accident happened, Lehman said.

“They’re going to take off because the police can’t do high-speed chases across the city, and [the motorcycle] Drivers know that,” said Lehman. “So that’s the challenge on the police frontline that I’ve personally heard.”

Lehman said he expects a budget request from the police force for 52 more officers to come to the council this fall. He plans to ask how much of that will go to traffic officials. Lehman said councilors cannot direct police in their day-to-day enforcement actions.

Stuart hopes a solution can be found. She has lived in her home since the mid-1980s and says street racing noise has only become a problem in recent years.

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