Some Improvement at the Five Boro Bike Tour

Anecdotally, yesterday’s Five Boro Bike Tour appears to have been less bothersome than in recent years. “Less volume this year,” reported D., who bikes the event and took the above photo. “I didn’t hear one peep from the bike ride today!” emailed a resident on Murray. “Apparently they solved much of the noise problem,” commented James.

But S. begged to differ: “That depends on where you live., I suppose. Inside my apartment on Duane, the announcements started at 7:10 a.m. and the prerecorded music at 7:30. Many of the neighbors in my building were just as angry as in the past. I will say levels were a bit lower than last year and things started about 20 minutes later. At about 8:15, I went to talk to them. I asked sound guy if he could lower it a bit and his response was same as last year: ‘We have a permit.’ But then someone working the event asked if she could help me. I said that I live four blocks south and it was too loud inside my apartment. She apologized and said she’d been trying to get them to lower it but they kept raising it back up. While I was standing there, she told the sound guy to lower it and he did. It made a huge difference in terms of the prerecorded music. However, the announcements were still just as loud (separate track on the sound board, I’m guessing). So I’d say it was better than last year but still unnecessarily loud. Auxiliary cops agreed it too loud.”

Because I’m out of town, I couldn’t investigate where the speakers had been set up. “I think they ended at Reade or Chambers,” said S. “When I was out, I noted the speaker set up on the southeast corner of Duane/Church, northeast corner of Thomas/Church, etc.”

Enter a long-time bike advocate bearing a sound meter…. Here’s his report from the start of the event.

Between 7:38 and 8:14 a.m. yesterday, Sunday May 7, I made several sound measurements in the vicinity of the starting area for the Five Boro Bike Tour. All measurements were made on the dBA scale using the Leq feature on my Quest Integrating Sound Level Meter that integrates sound levels over a period. This averaging feature ensures that any anomalous bursts of sound aren’t accorded undue weight in the overall reading.

Outdoor measurements, SW corner Franklin/Church, approximately 7:40 a.m.
This location was cater-corner from the stage, making it a relatively high-volume area. During music-only segments, instantaneous sound levels varied from 82 to 86 dBA (A-weighted decibels, the standard metric.) When the P.A. was active, i.e., during announcements, sound levels reached and slightly exceeded 90 dBA. Figure below shows a 90.5 dBA reading averaged over a 40-second period.

Indoor measurements, Duane Street, approximately 7:55 a.m.
I next measured sound levels 3-4 feet from
behind a closed, north-facing window on the
sixth floor of a Duane Street building. This location is roughly four blocks from the Franklin/Church stage. Sound levels averaged approximately 47 dBA, again using averaged Leq ratings. The occupant of this apartment later reported that shortly after I left, the sounds audible through the window increased in volume. For reference, the NYC noise code limits the noise level from “a single circulating device” (i.e., air conditioner) to 42 decibels, “as measured three feet from the noise source at an open door or window of a nearby residence.” (Emphasis added.) It is noteworthy that the measured noise level from behind the apartment’s closed window was 5 dBA greater than the allowed maximum behind an open window. (Note that a 5 dBA exceedance equates to a roughly 40% increase in perceived noise.)

Outdoor measurements, SW corner Duane/Church, approximately 8:15 a.m.
This location was four blocks south of the main stage. Only music (no announcements through the p.a.) was played during this measurement, which averaged 76.6 dBA over a full minute.

According to the NYPD’s permit for amplified sound (see below, boldface mine), this is still unacceptable: It’s too early, and it’s too close to residential buildings. I went online looking for info about decibel limits; the guide I found for the NYC noise code doesn’t get into noise related to events, and the noise code itself is too long for me to parse. (Plus, I’m on vacation about to get a different kind of noise from my husband.) If anyone out there wants to poke around online, please do. And by all means weigh in on your own experience yesterday.

The police commissioner shall not issue any permit for the use of a sound device or apparatus: In any location within five hundred feet of a school, courthouse or church, during the hours of school, court or worship, respectively, or within five hundred feet of any hospital or similar institution; in any location where the commissioner, upon investigation, shall determine that the conditions of vehicular or pedestrian traffic or both are such that the use of such a device or apparatus will constitute a threat to the safety of pedestrians or vehicular operators; in any location where the commissioner, upon investigation, shall determine that conditions of overcrowding or of street repair or other physical conditions are such that the use of a sound device or apparatus will deprive the public of the right to the safe, comfortable, convenient and peaceful enjoyment of any public street, park or place for street, park or other public purposes, or will constitute a threat to the safety of pedestrians or vehicle operators; in or on any vehicle or other device while it is in transit; between the hours of 10 p.m. and 9 a.m.; or between the hours of 8 p.m. or sunset, whichever is later, and 9 a.m. on weekdays and between the hours of 8 p.m. or sunset, whichever is later, and 10 a.m. on weekends and public holidays, in any location within fifty feet of any building that is lawfully occupied for residential use. The distance of fifty feet shall be measured in a straight line from the point on the exterior wall of such building nearest to any point in the location for which the permit is sought.

UPDATE 5/9: Another reader says the noise was still unbearable: “They had the national anthem going full blast around 7:25 a.m. (which I could understand—no problem—it’s only a few minutes), but I kept on hearing really loud sounds from the speakers, so I went downstairs to look for myself. There were speakers (starting from Duane & Church) every block with speakers at the corners and at the half block mark (double the amount per block) from Thomas past Worth street. Besides the disco/pop music blasting, the announcement volume was pumped up along with pumped up messages from their sponsors (it was announced exactly like that—’now a message from our sponsors’). And every few minutes the volume was pumped up from very loud to max volume.”



  1. See Noise Code § 24-218 General prohibitions. (a) No person shall make, continue or cause or permit to be made or continued any unreasonable noise [as defined in 24-218 (b)]

    • If you live in “the city that never sleeps” get used to it or move out. Christ, events like this go on every weekend. Deal with it.

      • Really, Joe? Could you list the events “like this” that go on every weekend that have the same loud music/noise and snarl traffic? Please be very detailed with EVERY weekend in a calendar year of the events that are just “like” the bike tour. Thanks. Appreciate it.

  2. I agree with Joe. It isn’t like we live by Central Park. Which truly
    has events every weekend.