Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Noise: The Beast in the City Jungle

As I've said before, noise is the elephant in the room that people avoid talking about when it comes to living in a densely-populated city. The irritant is not traffic noise, nor the noise of kids playing, or even of neighbors talking outside, but amplified noise, be it music or speech. Since it is now possible to create incredible levels of sound with relatively inexpensive speakers, excessive noise has become a tremendous problem in urban areas.

La Presse has two stories today on the subject. The first is about efforts by police and borough administrators in Montreal's Plateau district to crack down on noisy events by levying fines. Apparently decibel levels haven't been stipulated, and Commandant Stéphane Bélanger, in charge of the NOISE project, says that nobody will be fined if the doors are shut and the level of sound is reasonable. But 3000 noise complaints have been recorded in the Plateau district over the last five months. Seems to me that it's reasonable to ask that music from bars not be heard a block over, and that care is taken in outside events not to disturb the surroundings, particularly after 11 p.m.

The second story is about residents of St. Lambert, a suburb on the south shore of the St. Lawrence who are bothered by rock shows in Parc Jean-Drapeau on an island in the middle of the river. Some activities have used an acoustic barrier to direct sound away from the residential communities, but other don't. The city of Montreal says it will study whether the noise really is excessive and if so what can be done about it.

No one has mentioned what these noise levels are doing to people's hearing. Nevertheless, the Journal of the American Medical Association just published a report showing that one in five American teenagers has suffered hearing loss, up dramatically from a study done 20 years ago.

Maybe noise is not the elephant in the room that no one talks about, but rather the trumpeting beast that nobody hears...

3 comments:

Cammie Novara said...

This article by the leading blogger on Hubpages (one of America's top 125 websites) describes a completely innovative and effective solution to the ongoing Quebec issue. He envisions the creation of a Canadian Capital District stretching from Ottawa to the West Island and to just east of Cornwall where bilingual rights are strictly protected, and which can also act as a tax-exempt Free Foreign Trade Zone to boost the area's economic development: http://hubpages.com/hub/The-Canadian-Capital-District-The-Solution-To-Finally-Achieving-English-French-Equality

Mary Soderstrom said...

This sort of idea was floated during the last referendum. Hardly likely to do any better now.

I note, not at all to my surprise, that the author apparentlly is based in Toronto.

lagatta à montréal said...

The partitionists have reared their ugly head once again. Suppose that is another type of noise pollution...

I agree about the highly-amplified sound. Some people claim this is just NIMBY whining from people in newly-gentrified areas, but this isn't about lively street life. Even the concerts at Parc de la Petite-Italie (formerly Parc Martel) are terribly over-amplified, as are some events at Parc Jarry.