‘I’m not sleeping’: West Londoners shut down noise from street racing

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 Orchard Park neighborhood of London, Ont., near Wonderland and Sarnia roads, does not suffer from insomnia. What’s keeping her awake – and raising concerns with City Hall – is the nighttime noise of drivers using the streets as their own personal race track.

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

Stuart, who uses a cane and is recovering from a back injury, says the noises are unbearable. Sometimes they come from custom cars; other times, “crotch rocket” style race bikes hold it in place.

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“I’m not sleeping,” she said. “When these cats are racing, I hear it at one in the morning, two in the morning, three in the morning. Some mornings at three, I say, ‘OK, you won.’ I will get up now, walk around, then once regular traffic starts I will sleep in the morning or afternoon My sleep is now cut off.

Stuart isn’t the only one losing sleep over revving engines, screeching tires and deafening muffler noises at night. Complaints poured in on social media all summer. Complaints have also landed in the mailboxes of municipal councillors.

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

Last summer, District 7 County. and Deputy Mayor Josh Morgan posted about the issue on Facebook in response to complaints about street racing. Morgan’s neighborhood is adjacent to Stuart, who lives in Ward 6.

At the time, Morgan said he raised the matter with the London Police Service and was told the force had offered all officers extensive training in the application of silencers.

Morgan also shared the following statistics on application numbers provided to him by the police department.

They understand:

  • A two-week fall 2020 blitz targeting noisy vehicles resulted in 535 charges related to a noisy vehicle or improper muffler.
  • In the spring of 2021, police launched an education and enforcement campaign in response to loud runs and mufflers and issued over 250 charges in 12 days.

In a text exchange with CBC News about the issue on Friday, Morgan said the number of complaints he received appeared to be down this summer compared to last summer. Morgan also said loud street racing is not a problem limited to West and North West London.

CBC News has asked the police service for any updated statistics or commentary on the issue of street racing in London. Spokesperson Sandasha Bough asked CBC to file a freedom of information request.

Police won’t chase racing bikes, adviser says

Com. Steve Lehman, whose Ward 8 is just south of Morgan, also raised the matter with London police.

“I hear races on Oxford for sure,” Lehman said. He said the police had stepped up their crackdown. Like Morgan, he says he received more racing complaints from his constituents last summer than this year. Lehman said police told him that street racing motorcycles can quickly reach speeds where it becomes dangerous for officers to chase them.

“There they are, then they’re gone,” Lehman said of the loud street bikes.

Lehman also witnessed a motorcycle collision last summer near the University gates on Richmond Street. This accident killed the 24-year-old pilot. The pilot was among a group of other pilots when the crash happened, Lehman said.

“They’ll leave because the police can’t have high-speed chases across town, and [the motorcycle] runners know it. So that’s the challenge on the police front that I’ve heard personally.”

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

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

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