‘People are fed up’: sensor to spot loud drivers splits opinion in Keighley

Fell Lane may look like a quiet residential street – and during the daylight hours it is – but at night, it turns into a racetrack for those who want to push their car to the limit.

As a result, the road, which stretches from Keighley town centre to the Yorkshire Moors, has been labelled one of the noisiest in the UK by the Department for Transport (DfT), making it the perfect place to run a £300,000 trial of cutting-edge noise cameras.

The technology brings together video cameras and noise detectors to help identify road users who break the law by revving their engines unnecessarily or by using illegal exhausts.

The cameras will spend two weeks in Keighley before being moved to similarly loud streets in south Gloucestershire, Great Yarmouth and Birmingham. While they are being used only to collect data at this stage, the DfT said the cameras could be used by local police to fine the drivers of cars that exceed the legal noise limit of 72 decibels.

Robbie Moore, the Conservative MP for Keighley, said he had lobbied the government to have the cameras tested in his constituency, where modified cars were “a complete and utter nuisance”.

“Constituents have been quite rightly fed up with the disruption these drivers have been causing to our area, especially at night,” he said.

But on Fell Lane on Thursday, residents said they had not realised noise was considered a big enough problem to require the new technology.

Grace Turton lives at the bottom of Fell Lane and has never really been bothered by the noise. “It’s not too bad … the odd time, but it doesn’t really matter,” she added.

The noise camera will next be trialled in south Gloucestershire, Great Yarmouth and Birmingham. Photograph: Gary Calton/The Observer

Her neighbours felt similarly. “We were surprised it went up,” said Janet Thornber, who has lived on Fell Lane, opposite the new camera, with her husband, David, since 1975. The couple said they were close with their neighbours and did not know that anyone had even complained.

Road noise is known to contribute to health problems such as heart attacks, strokes and dementia, and can cause sleep disturbance costing up to £10bn a year to the UK economy, the DfT said.

But the Thornbers said they were not losing sleep and were not especially affected by the noisy road. “Double glazing helps,” said Janet.

John Durkin, the landlord of the Three Horses pub on Fell Lane, believes the noise is not coming from boy racers in souped-up Corsas at all, but instead from people testing expensive cars from the high-end dealership nearby.

“It’s the ‘tk tk tk’ noise from the throttle when they floor it,” he said.

Mohammad Ali Yunis, who runs Bradford Modified Club, agreed. “How do you differentiate between a Lamborghini that comes from the showroom and a boy racer with a loud exhaust system that he’s put on there?”

He was disappointed to hear about the Fell Lane trial and felt it was unfairly targeting the modified car community, who are mostly ordinary law-abiding people.

“I’m not going to let it put me down because it’s my passion. There are a lot of things that have already come into place that are making it harder for us enthusiasts – I won’t put myself into the category of boy racer, because I feel a lot more responsible than that.”

He said: “It’s something that calms me down in stressful situations. I can always resort back to my car and go for a drive, and it’s more of a place of safety. So I think that’s what people don’t understand.”

At the Three Horses, Durkin thought speed cameras would be a better option. He said: “It’s a family pub and we do worry about kids being so close to the road.”

Yunis, who works in the area’s youth services, agreed. “I’d be over the moon [if speed cameras were installed in residential areas].”

He understood that noise could be a genuine problem though – and he had experienced it himself – but he was frustrated that people were turning to technology to solve a problem that a simple conversation may fix.

“Talking to people and being like: ‘Look mate, no disrespect, I like your car, but 11 o’clock at night, revving your engine, driving up and down, it’s not really on because my son’s trying to sleep.’ Nine times out of 10 they’ll respect you.”

He added: “There are always ways to go about it.”

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Robyn Vinter North of England correspondent