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How motorcycles are killing New Hope

Go to cutesy New Hope and you’ll see why it’s a tourist magnet: adorable shops, open-air pubs, small-town coziness. What you hear is another story.

Like the swallows returning to Capistrano, each spring the bikers come back to New Hope, revving their engines at full torque as they swarm up and down Main Street, leaving a trail of fumes, ear-splitting rumbling and increasingly peeved passersby that is threatening the town’s rep as a tourist mecca. “They have contests,” says Jim Lyons, a local semi-retired antiques dealer who has led the charge to get the cycles silenced. “I’ve seen them line up, trying to go as loud as they can to see who can set off the first car alarm.”

Mayor Larry Keller admits the noise has become a political hot potato, but contends that most bikers are courteous and — more importantly — that they spend money. “Bikers are part of the culture here,” he says. “They have as much of a constitutional right to come to New Hope as you or I do. That has always been my opinion.”

The town equips police officers with  decibel meters to ticket offenders who violate local noise ordinances, says Glen Stephan, head of the local chamber of commerce. But to critics who want the bikes banned, Stephan — who himself owns two — says, “You can’t discriminate against an entire group.”

That doesn’t mean you’ve got to lay out the welcome mat. Lyons brought a petition with hundreds of signatures before the borough council,  demanding relief, and says policing does seem on the uptick. Still, he doesn’t see any long-term solution. “I think it’s all a macho thing, to tell you the truth,” he says. “One guy’s always gotta be louder. It’s like who has the biggest … bike.”