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How Traffic Noise Captured Our Cities and How to Regain Our Cities

How Traffic Noise Captured Our Cities and How to Regain Our Cities

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Published by henk wolfert
traffic noise, solutions
traffic noise, solutions

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Published by: henk wolfert on Mar 21, 2013
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How traffic noise captured our cities and how to regain our cities
Henk Wolfert
DCMR EPA, Schiedam, The Netherlands, Email: henk.wolfert@dcmr.nl 
The first round of Noise Mapping, according to theEnvironmental Noise Directive 2002/49/EC, showed thatroad traffic noise is the most dominant noise source. Thiswas also found in the Noise Questionnaire set out byWorking Group Noise EUROCITIES (WGN) in 2008.Approximately 70 million of the European citizens, living inagglomerations as meant in the Environmental NoiseDirective are exposed to noise levels higher than 55 dB L
 resulting in annoyance and other health effects. It is expectedthat these numbers will increase to 180
220 million people.According to these findings and expectations WGN decidedto start the battle against road traffic noise as one of their main priorities. Therefore, numerous actions were alreadyundertaken such as requests to the European Commission tostrengthen the Emission Limit Values of vehicles, lorries,motorized two and three wheelers and tires. Besides thecrusade against noisy vehicles, WGN also provided the citieswith information on Best Practices in order to tackle thenoise. This paper will give insight in the causes of transport,the unwanted effects and how to reduce or mitigate this bygood urban planning.
figure 1: traffic growth (source: pocket book 2012 EU)
In these eras of urbanization and re-urbanization a high percentage of people is living in urban areas and their numbers will increase in the decades to come. Currentlyalmost seventy percent of the people are living in cities.Their share will grow to eighty percent in 2050 [1] whichmeans that in 2050 the same amount of people is living incities as now in the whole world, namely around 9 billion people. Increase of urban mobility can be expected.
Determinants of car use
From [2] we know that there are a lot of factors influencingcar mobility. Most important to be mentioned here are:
Globalisation, single market EU
Urbanisation and densification
Prosperity and increased free time
Life style and other social factors
Spatial spread of work, living and leisure
Last decades the number of vehicles grew, see figure 1. Thered line represents the freight transport and the green linerepresents passenger transport. The blue line represents theGDP ref. the year 2000. Not only passenger cars grew butalso lorries and vans. Regarding the vans it should bementioned that the environmental performance of these sortis rather poor. This for economic reasons. Entrepreneurs andhauliers can buy transport volume for a low prices. Asknown from numerous articles and reports, noise of cars,vans and lorries has not or hardly decreased the last decades.Compared to the first Emission Limit Values (ELV) inEuropean legislation [3] it appeared that ELV lowered but,unfortunately the real noise emitted by the vehicles not or  just a little, see figures 2 and 3. Reasons are multiple, likehigher performance, wider and stiffer tires but also the testmethod that has changes last years.
figure 2: noise emitted by cars over the yearsfigure 3: noise emitted by lorries over the years
Other development that took place are enhancing andexpanding infrastructure all over Europe and this still isgoing on. From [4,5,6] and private observations it is knownthat more roads lead to more traffic. The financial downturn
could be considered as a phenomena that could decrease theamount of traffic. For freight transport the dip can be seenfrom figure 1. The economic crisis really has affected thetransportation of goods in EU27. The purchase of new carsshowed some drop but in general, on the long term, the car fleet in EU27 is expected to grow [7].In spite of a temporary lapse, due to the financial crisis, itmight be expected that the car fleet and the mileage isgrowing next decades. This because the noise emitted byindividual vehicles seems not go down. Recently theEuropean parliament voted in favour of a weak proposal onmotor vehicle noise [8] which implies hardly any reduction.This proposal should be approved by the European Councilas well but when it comes to legislation, no decline of noisemay be expected.
Dilemmas and solutions
European cities are confronted with some difficulties. Thenoise burden in cities may be expected to grow. Reasons aredescribed above. Local measures do have limited effect,especially in the inner city. Most effective measure that can be applied is quiet road surface. Noise emission from carswill not decrease probably. Source approach seems to befailed. Because end of pipe measures do not result insufficient effects other measures are needed which are far more drastically. The announcement of the EuropeanCommission in [8] regarding the action on curbing 50% of conventional fuelled vehicles by 2030 and 100% by 2050from urban areas could offer the solution. This means thatonly electric or hybrid motorised vehicles are allowed toenter the city. Noise from ring ways could be mitigated byspeed reduction and noise barriers in combination with quietroad surfaces when and where needed. In the time being (37years) governments and society must work along variousstrands. A number of effective noise measures that can beimplemented in the field of urban planning or re-planningare:a.
Improvement of public transport by making it morecomfortable and accessible. Interconnections should be enhanced and guaranteed. Citizens should have a public transport (tram, subway, bus) stop within 5
minutes’ walk 
or bike trip from their homes.Inbound travellers, from outside the city, should
dispose over parking places at cities’
boundaries(platforms) from where the trip can be continued bymeans of public transport. Public Transport stopsand station should be more comfortable, offeringshelter, shadow or warmth and some goods such ascoffee and news papers. Moreover, it should givetravel information. b.
Parking fees and parking places in cities, especiallythe inner city should be scarce and expensive;discouraging car use and -driving. An alternativethat could be considered is to give free access and parking to electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles.c.
In order to stimulate and attract more electric andhybrid cars municipalities could install charging poles near parking places which are for free or set parking places only destined for e-vehicles.d.
When extending the cities with new districts theissues mentioned under a and b should be taken intoaccount. Building car free or at least car restrictedneighbourhoods.e.
The same applies for districts that are under urbanrenewal. When renewing these districts it isimportant to improve public transport, to providecitizens with sufficient facilities like shops, schools,et cetera.f.
Simultaneously people should work on (re-)socialisation regarding car-use. By means of education in families, social networks and schoolsespecially youngsters can be affected to chose for  public transport or other modes such as walking and biking. From [9] it is known that youngsters are lesscar addicted than adults and from [10] can be learntthat youngsters that grew up in car-free or not car-addicted families are more in favour of publictransport trips.g.
When applying quiet road surfaces in urban areas itshould be combined with lower speeds (maximum40 km/hr) in order to avoid dominating tires noise.h.
Pedestrian zones could be set in city centres whichcould be in force during twenty four hours or justduring the sensitive periods of the day.i.
 Near sensitive buildings such as schools, nursinghomes, hospitals, et cetera and sensitive areas suchas designated quiet urban areas low speeds roads or even car-free roads could be set by themunicipality. An alternative could be that thoseroads are only allowed for low-noise vehicles likeelectric and hybrid cars. j.
By designating shared spaces in urban areas car drivers will be more carefully and attentive whichleads to lower and constant speeds. This sharedspaces could be seen as priority areas for morevulnerable road-users like pedestrian and bikers.k.
In order to avoid noisy and dirty public transportthe competent authorities should demand for publictransport that is clean, energy friendly and quietmeaning electric or hybrid fuelled public transportfor use in urban areas.l.
The same should apply for service vehicles likedust (garbage) carts, cleaning vehicles, et cetera.m.
Municipalities could consider to implement the plans proposed by the European Commissionearlier and not to wait until 2030 or 2050 but to usea stricter time frame. E.g. 2025 and 2035.n.
Introducing clean, carbon free and noiseless citylogistics which is already in place in manyEuropean cities for good deliveries at night.

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