Right to Quiet Society Noiseletter
Fall 2011 – page 6

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An encouraging improvement

A few years ago the City of Vancouver (CoV) introduced the 3-1-1 service to streamline the handling of questions and complaints. Wisely, they did this quietly without any promotion. Vancouver residents now have a very convenient and efficient means of obtaining information and/or action on just about any issue for which the CoV has jurisdiction. Every complaint is given a case number, and this includes noise complaints. In fact, the NOISE HOTLINE is now listed as 3-1-1.

When I recently tried it again concerning a residential garden machine on a Sunday afternoon, I was impressed. Sandy, the operator who took my call, was courteous, sympathetic and very helpful, providing useful information, including links with limits for construction noise and mechanical noise (please see below), though she admitted that there was a “grey area“ for the latter.

Construction noise is completely prohibited on Sundays and holidays, of course. She also asked if I had an iPhone, as it’s now possible to get quite accurate decibel readings with one. Obviously, providing a number with a complaint strengthens the case for action. In view of the lack of enforcement officers, the CoV sends an offending party a letter noting that unnamed nearby residents have complained. When I held the phone outside my front door, Sandy agreed that my case was justified. A letter will be sent to the address I provided.

Mechanical Noise: Further information Construction Noise: Further information

By Karl Raab

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Why do people pay music in public through a phone?

By Alex Hudson, BBC News

For many, teenagers playing tinny music to each other on public transport on their mobile phones can be intensely irritating. Why do they do it? With mobile phones in many a teenager's pocket, the rise of sodcasting - best described as playing music through a phone in public - has created a noisy problem for a lot of commuters. "All you can hear is 'dush, dush, dush, dush'. It's irritating. So many times I end up with a headache," says Tracey King, who has signed up to the Shhh! Scheme set up by bus company Arriva Yorkshire to stop the noise on their services.

As mayor of London, Ken Livingstone called for the "absolute prohibition on playing music from a mobile system" as far back as in 2006. Young people can now have their zip cards - which allow them free travel in the capital - revoked for "anti-social behaviour", which includes playing loud music. The issue has even been discussed in the House of Lords. In 2006, the Piped Music and Showing of Television Programmes Bill was presented to Parliament, calling for "the wearing of headphones by persons listening to music in the public areas of hospitals and on public transport" to be made compulsory, although it never made it into law.

What is sodcasting?
* Sodcasting is described by The Urban Dictionary as "The act of playing music through the speaker on a mobile phone, usually on public transport. Commonly practised by young people wearing polyester, branded sportswear with dubious musical taste."

* The term is believed to have been first used by Pascale Wyse in the Guardian in his series Wyse Words, a list of words that do not exist but should. He stated that sodcasters were terrified of not being noticed, so they sprayed their audio wee around the place like tomcats.

So why do people do it? Is it just an act of youthful rebel-lion? "I don't think it is intrinsically anti-social. What I would say is that it is a fascinating human phenomenon of marking social territory," says Dr Harry Witchel, author of You Are What You Hear. "With young people, usually loud mu-sic corresponds very strongly to owning the space. They are creating a social environment which is suitable for them and their social peers. But for those not in this group - a 50-year-old woman for example - instead of confi-dence, she'll feel weakness and maybe even impotence as there's nothing that she can do about it."

So, if this phenomenon is here to stay, what can be done by those who want a little bit of peace and quiet on their journey? "Legislation is not the answer, and nor is citizen power, as anyone who has ever approached a sodcaster to ask them to stop will know all too well," wrote Julian Treasure, chairman of the Sound Agency, on his blog. "I believe the heart of the solution is in teaching listening skills in schools. If we teach our children how to listen properly to the world - and especially to each other - they will understand the consequences of their own sound and be far more responsible in making it."

Excerpted from BBC News Magazine online

Sound Warning

A billboard in Benghazi, the defacto capital of the Libyan rebels, warns fighters not to fire their guns in the streets. Officials are cracking down on the practice - often done in celebration - saying it wastes precious ammunition and terrifies families, especially babies. The billboard depicts a frightened baby clutching its hands over its ears.


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