Right to Quiet Society Noiseletter
Spring 2012, page 5

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Streets get 'ears' to tackle noise

In an attempt to tackle neighbourhood noise nuisance, a Dutch town in the southern province of North Brabant has installed advanced sound technology on its streets, according to a report in today's freesheet daily de Pers. Other cities throughout the Netherlands have already expressed interest in the system, as more and more people feel a growing sense of powerlessness in the face of increased noise pollution.

The devices have been hung up at various locations throughout the town. One is installed high on a lamppost opposite a pub, for example. “If the meter peaks above a certain level, a text message gets sent to the pub owner across the road. He’s given ten minutes to adjust the noise volume, otherwise a message is automatically sent to the police,” Loek van Laarhoven, the physicist-designer of the system who has won two awards for his cutting-edge sound technology, explained to de Pers.

The “intelligent sound meters” not only carry out a technical registration of sounds, but also have special bass metres which measure the penetrating lower tones and take psychosocial effects of noise pollution into account. The 24-hour economy has had a huge effect on street life. “We generate more noise than we used to,” says Van Laarhoven. “People are going out later and later, and more often.

Things only start livening up after midnight.” Girls are louder than boys, Van Laarhoven discovered during his research. “And adults in their 30s and 40s make a lot of noise. They want to prove they’re not over the hill.”

Before the system was installed, residents were asked to fill in a survey on neighbourhood noise. The results were then fed into the system so that it knows which sounds particularly aggravate the residents on each street. “The meter understands how the average resident in a street experiences sound,” says Van Laarhoven. Every street has “other ears”. Because the advanced microphones listen like “people who are suffering from stress”, they can help the local authorities understand residents’ complaints better. Eventually, the sound system will be able to draw a ‘sound map’ for the whole town.

The director of the engineering bureau that invested in the development of the system, Reinier Vinken, expects the pilot in Oss will be a commercial success. Already, councillors from Amsterdam, Eindhoven and other major cities have been to Oss to see it in action and Schiphol has also shown interest, says Vinken.

(jn/hs) Radio Netherlands Worldwide

‘Enticement noise’ from commercial premises violates by-law

The City of Vancouver has a little-known but valuable License By-law, No. 4450, Section 25.5, prohibiting businesses from broadcasting their music into the public soundscape using externally mounted speakers. According to correspondence from City Manager Penny Ballem, this By-law is being enforced.

At the time of the 2010 Winter Olympics, Pacific Centre capitalized on the opportunity to mount no less than six speakers over their front entrance at the intersection of Howe and West Georgia Street to broadcast their choice of music into our common soundscape. These were still grinding out music long after the end of the Olympics. On March 30, 2010, a complaint was made to the appropriate business licensing inspector, and the speakers were silenced until both Decembers of 2010 and 2011, when they resumed broadcasting music at us, using Christmas as an excuse.

These objectionable speakers have recently fallen silent again following a complaint made on January 23, 2012. Obviously, the Pacific Centre needs more than one reminder to obey the law and keep its brand of music to itself.

Buskers on the Granville Mall and elsewhere have been using amplifiers to broadcast their noise ever farther, seemingly worsening since the slack enforcement experienced during the Olympics. As reported in 24 Hours Vancouver on January 26, 2012, rapper Marc Stokes was finally cited by police for his blatant disregard of the city's Noise By-law against this amplified noise assault. However, many others are still allowed to continue amplifying their noise on public property.

Comments about the current general lack of enforcement of city bylaws against amplified music in Vancouver can be emailed to mayorandcouncil@vancouver.ca, whereupon the Office of the City Clerk will forward the comments not only to the Mayor and Council, but also to the appropriate city departments.

Enforcement of the prohibition against businesses mounting speakers outside and using them to force their choice of music on the public can be obtained by contacting the inspector for the appropriate area, whose email address, phone number and office hours are found on the map here or by calling 604-873-7000 (or 311 within Vancouver itself).

By an anonymous RtoQ Member

Brouhaha over holy noise in the Holy Land

In The Globe and Mail article “A holy racket: Reviving the age-old battle to dominate Israel’s air space” (Dec. 24, 2011), Gil Yaron reported about “a bid to pull the plug on loudspeakers used by houses of worship [that] has reignited a bitter struggle to dominate the Holy Land’s soundscape...” At issue is a proposal by Knesset member Anastasia Michaeli to ban the use of loudspeakers to broadcast the sounds of worship into public space. She received death threats for it.

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