Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Mobile noise and ozone bluetooth web 2.0 mashups?

An interesting innovation is being trialled in Paris using mobile personal sensors for recording and transmitting noise and air quality parameters using bluetooth and mobile phones. Le Montre Verte is a project in Paris run by FING whereby the cyclists and walkers will transmit pollution data to the internet using web 2.0 mashups.
Sensaris (the manufacturers of the sensors) claim that the low spatial resolution of air quality monitors is a barrier to public understanding of air pollution issues. I'm not sure I agree with this, and I think that efforts should be concentrated on control of air quality rather than measurement at smaller scales. However the noise application is very interesting and could allow for a low cost solution for validating noise maps or even creating noise maps from scratch. Of course these maps would probably not be suitable for statutory reporting but would provide useful information for those engaged in managing urban traffic noise.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Supporting Bristol's noise consultation and community engagement

An exciting opportunity to be a website community facilitator.

  • Get training
  • Learn new skills.
  • Work around other commitments
  • Build confidence
  • Add to your C.V

Do you have an interest in the environment and things that affect your local area?
Would you like to learn more about having your say on online forums?
Do you like to talk with friends about things that are happening in Bristol that affect you?

We are looking for four community facilitators, who will keep an eye on what people are saying on an online discussion forum and promote discussion. is a council website which promotes discussion about issues that affect people living in Bristol, so these views can be passed on to people making the decisions.

Past discussions have included cycling, excessive drinking, the council's budget, and recycling to name a few. Go to to see videos of some of the things we have talked about in the past.

The website currently has a focus on traffic noise pollution, as part of a project to raise awareness, highlight problems and solutions, and encourage people to tell us about quiet areas where they enjoy spending time. Find out more here

What is involved?
You will be employed for two hours per week for six months and paid £8.23 per hour through the City Jobshop. If you are claiming benefits you will need to declare this work so find out in advance if this will affect your benefits payments.

You will need to have access to a computer and internet connection at home, or be able to access the free computers at the library (which can be booked for up to two hours a day on week days) or anywhere else you know of where you can use a computer with internet. As well as work on the Internet, you will spread the word about the website by chatting to people you know and any groups you are part of, and by distributing leaflets.

For further information please contact: Makala Cheung at Knowle West Media Centre email or telephone 0117 3532895

Closing date Friday 29th May 2009

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Bristol Hum...

According to the Evening Post the Bristol Hum mystery has been solved.. It's either in your imagination, or something is causing it (no seriously).
Anyway the academic who has studied this does make an interesting point about the variable psychological response to noise of people with different expectations of noise. This may explain to some extent why people who live very close to busy roads don't appear to be bothered by the noise. However there is now good evidence that shows that even people habituated to high noise levels do have a physiological response to noise, resulting in high blood pressure and possible eventual cardio-vascular illness. This appears to happen even when people are asleep and so are not conscious of the noise.
Regardless of whether the "Bristol Hum" is a real or imagined phenomenon, there is no doubt that citizens are being exposed to noise levels from traffic which could be damaging their health.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

"A stench in the ear?"

I bought an interesting book in the "Beware the leopard" bookshop in Bristol on the weekend called "The Assaults on Our Senses" by John Barr. Published in 1970 it documents the range of urban blights, most of which are still prevalent in our cities. Of particular note is the section on "Noise on the ground". Barr places a lot of emphasis on workplace noise, which has to some extent been tackled by health and safety legislation and specific acts to control industrial noise. He quotes Schopenhauer who said that noise was "an insolent defiance by those who work with their hands of those who work with their brains"(!). Schopenhauer recommended public whipping for carters who needlessly cracked their whips!
On the subject of road traffic noise he cites an interesting timeline, beginning in a 1934 Ministry of Transport committee set up to measure and characterise noise. However progress on tackling noise stalled and it wasn't until the early sixties that the Wilson committee urged strict limits on vehicle noise. In 1968 the UK introduced roadside vehicle noise checks but these were strongly opposed by the police, who felt that traffic noise was not their primary concern.
The results of the Social Survey quoted in Barr's book reveal that 36% of londoners were annoyed by traffic noise while at home - this tallies well with the data from the EPUK Survey published yesterday which shows annoyance by 28% of respondents (from the UK as a whole). So it seems that the situation has not really improved since the publication of this book in 1970. Let's hope that DEFRA's action plans result in a real and sustained reduction in traffic noise in our towns and cities.

Monday, 18 May 2009

EPUK Road Traffic Noise Survey

An ICM poll conducted on behalf of the environmental pressure group EPUK shows that traffic noise causes annoyance for a third of people and that roughly 20% of people are woken up by traffic noise. What is even more interesting is that a vast majority of people believe that quiet places in cities should be protected. This could be enabled by the draft "template" action plans for noise that DEFRA unveiled a few weeks ago, which seem to include a substantial role for local authorities in the identification and protection of quiet areas.
The EPUK survey has been timed to coincide with the start of Noise Action Week, an annual event usually focussing on neighbourhood noise. Local authorities around the country are hosting a range of activities to raise awareness of noise and to tackle the causes of noise.
Residents in Bristol can have their say on transport noise through askbristol and can identify their favourite quiet space using