Monday, 20 July 2009

Bristol's Noise Priority Locations

DEFRA has released maps showing the areas identified as "priority locations" to be investigated due to problems from road noise. The maps use the DEFRA mapping produced under the requirements of the European directive on environmental noise to identify only those areas where the noise is above 76dB. The relevant table in the "supporting data" document shows that approximately 600 people in 300 dwellings fall within these locations.
The Bristol map highlights some areas which intuitively feel correct - the M32 North and South of Junction 2 for example. Other locations are more surprising, for example Blackboy Hill and the South end of Winterstoke Road. Information on the noise mapping approach and input data used for noise mapping in Bristol has not been made available so it is not possible to see why the levels are so high in these areas. There are some very small locations, for example the junction of Wells Road with Airport Road. It's instructive to contrast this approach with that used for Local Air Quality Management (LAQM) where the Local Authority creates a map showing where the air quality objectives are not being met - this is called the Air Quality Management Area. The approach adopted for traffic noise management in the UK is more centralised than that used for LAQM.
DEFRA lists the potential measures which could be applied to these priority locations as follows:
  • Facade insulation
  • Noise barriers
  • Reduction at source (traffic management, resurfacing, road design)
It remains to be seen how these specific priority locations in Bristol will be tackled. The consultation on action plans for all 23 "Agglomerations" has just opened, although the actual action plans are not yet published, only a generic template for the action plans.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Save our Sounds and Audioboo

Two interesting website I have come across in the past few days.The first is Save Our Sounds from the BBC World Service. Its been set up to record and preserve audio records of our changing environment. I've had a go at uploading an MP3 recording of an audiotrail that I made and posted on this blog last year. It seemed to work well, though the site is really only set up for static recordings, not audiotrails. This approach enables digital engagement on noise issues by allowing people to easily build up an audio impression of an area through field recordings. It supplements the Bristolstreets map of quiet places and can convey a more accurate impression of the soundscape of an area than descriptive text alone. There's some really interesting sound clips on there, and it makes you aware that all too often the interesting and enjoyable sounds are being lost - drowned in traffic noise.

An enhancement on this is Audioboo - an offshoot of Vimeo. It enables field recordings by iPhone which can then be uploaded to the site with photos and geotagging information. Very swish - if you've got an iPhone...