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1816Re: [carfree_cities] Noise

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  • J.H. Crawford
    Nov 2, 2000
      Mike Lacey replied:

      >> Modern trams are
      >> mostly much noiser than necessary--listen to a 1935 PCC streetcar
      >> in good working order, especially the slightly later "all electric"
      >> version that had no compressed air system at all. Noise is a major
      >> issue, and we shouldn't forget about it just to save some money--
      >> we're going to be living with the noise "forever."

      >Would you allow that there is good noise and bad noise?

      It's a matter of definition. To me, "noise" is any sound that
      I find irritating. Not everybody agrees what constitutes noise,
      and different sounds can be noise or not at different times
      and places. One of the nicest things about Venice is its acoustic
      environment. It isn't silent in Venice, but the sounds are not
      what we're used to: bells tolling the hour, the clatter of
      footsteps, porters whistling as they work, gondoliers singing
      to their customers, chattering tourists, the clink of tableware
      at an outdoor restaurant. In some places and at some times, you'll
      hear muted diesel engines in boats, which I'd call noise, although
      it doesn't especially bother me.

      A friend spent a night walking through Venice and tells of walking
      into the Piazza San Marco at about 4 in the morning and hearing
      someone playing the harmonica. Then someone else with a harmonica
      in a different key walked into the plaza and started working
      out a harmony with the other player. Where else in the world
      could that happen?

      >The resonant
      >ringing of cathedral bells or the moan of a lonely foghorn are man-
      >made and yet, to my ear beautiful.

      Try living next to a fog horn in Maine. You'd grow to hate it.
      But I agree--if the foghorn is distant and doesn't blow all
      of the time, it can be an addition, not a liability. Personally,
      I love having a clock ringing the hours, if it's not too loud.

      >Maybe the same could be said of
      >the whirring of a PCC streetcar or the rattle of an old SF cable car.

      The clatter of the controllers on a PCC car don't bother me at
      all. The screeching of wheels going around a tight curve bothers
      me always--the noise can damage hearing in some places. People
      in SF were bothered by the increased noise that the cable car shivs
      made after the reconstruction of the system in the 1980s, although
      I expect that the problems have long since been fixed.

      In short, sound is one of the most imporant variables in the
      local environment, one that we would do well to pay more attention
      to in designing cities. Same goes for smells.


      J.H. Crawford Carfree Cities
      postmaster@... Carfree.com
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