Motorcycles should be noisy to alert car drivers to their presence.

The noise from motorbikes is annoying, but we have to tolerate the noise on safety grounds. You may be interested to know that the Velocette motorcycle company of Plumstead, South London, invented a very quiet prop-driven motorbike for the police force. The bikes came out in the late fifties, and early sixties, they were known as 'grey ghosts’, because they were painted in light grey colours. The bikes were extremely quiet on the road. The bikes had a short life because the riders complained that motorists never heard them coming, and on that basis the bikes were dangerous. There were many police riders being injured. This reinforces the safety point that motorbikes must be heard coming to be safe.

Asked on 26 October 2013 by LD, Shere, Surrey.

Answered by Honest John
I remember those grey Velocette 'noddy bikes'. In fact my mate, Phil Proome, got knocked over by a civilian version of one outside Sports Motors on Orpington High Street. He hadn't looked properly, of course. But if the motorbike had been noisier, he would have. I still remember the sparks from the leg shields as the unfortunate biker skidded on his side down the High Street. Many thanks for reminding me of that. This video of driving in Bangkok clearly illustrates the value of motorcycle exhausts in making drivers aware of their presence:
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