Monday, 29 June 2009

Noise Management and Consultation

A brief presentation to Community Facilitators for the Citizenscape project.

Friday, 19 June 2009

Quality of Life in Cities

The European Environment Agency recently published its report: "Ensuring quality of life in Europe's towns and cities". As you might expect, there is quite a lot of focus on noise in this report. I have summarised and extracted the relevant section below, but please also refer to the online report.

Noise. an underestimated problem

European cities have become increasingly 'noisy'; not necessarily because the noisy places have become noisier, but rather because there are fewer quiet places left. People are affected by noise from traffic, leisure activities and the general neighbourhood at all hours of the day and night. Detailed data on noise in Europe are scanty; however, a general picture is given below.

Road traffic is the dominant source of exposure in major urban areas. The EU Thematic Strategy on the urban environment reports that exposure to continuous road traffic noise affected: . 160 million people in the EU.15 (40 % of the population) at an 'averaged' level above 55 dB(A) . associated with significant annoyance; . 80 million people (20 % of the population) were exposed to continuous road traffic noise above 65 dB(A) . associated with cardiovascular effects.

In 2002 the European Commission introduced the Environmental Noise Directive relating to the assessment and management of environmental noise. Exposure data are not currently available for all Member states. Data obtained in 2008 from a questionnaire sent out by the EUROCITIES Working Group on Noise to the network's cities show that about 57 % of the inhabitants of responding European cities are living in areas with noise levels above 55 dB, and approximately 9 % experience noise levels of above 65 dB (Figure 2.16). Extrapolations of these percentages all over Europe would suggest that more than 210 million people in Europe are exposed to levels above 55 dB and 38 million to levels above 65 dB.

Due to progressive growth in traffic levels and the general urbanisation of Europe the situation will worsen; particularly if measures at local, national and European levels are not put in place. As an example: the Randstad (area including Rotterdam, Amsterdam, The Hague and Utrecht) in the Netherlands is one of the most urbanised areas in Europe with consequent noise pollution across the whole area despite noise abatement measures previously implemented. Given this, one might assume that noise quality in other European cities is superior, which is not the case. Data show that noise is a serious problem in Europe. Persistent high levels of noise are associated with learning difficulties, loss of memory, inability to concentrate as well as irreversible damage to health, such as heart attacks and strokes. In the Netherlands, between 20 and 150 people every year suffer from heart attacks brought on by traffic noise. In Norway, the 'cost' of one extremely annoyed person has been estimated to be approximately EUR 1 600 per year. Due to the linearity, the 'cost' of a moderately annoyed person thus equals EUR 800 per year.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Road traffic noise perception map - update

The traffic noise perception map has recently been updated to combine the three years data from 2006 - 2008. This should give more reliable results as the sample size is larger. The approach used was similar to that used in previous years. The data was taken from the results of the 2006, 2007 and 2008 Quality of Life survey in Bristol. The results from the noise question were coded such that a value of 100 was given to each response that road traffic was a “Serious Problem” and a value of 50 was given to a response where noise was considered a “Problem – but not serious”. This data was then summarised to average out the ratings for each postcode and then the postcodes were mapped using a GIS package. The values of the noise ratings then form a surface, similar to a map of terrain. The values reported from the survey are overlaid on a base map of the city.

The map is similar to the 2006 version in that it shows hotspots around the M5 in Avonmouth, the inner ring road and the M32 corridor. The Parson Street Gyratory and Brunel Way are highlighted and Bath Road also seems to be a problem.

It is interesting that the summary data seems to show that the proportion of people reporting road traffic noise as a problem fell significantly in 2008 from the 2006 and 2007 levels.