Escape from the city noise: Limerick's Hush City approach
Edited on17 November 2020
Noise isn't new - around 600 BC roasters and tinsmiths were banned in Sybaris, Greece because of their noise. Fast forward to our time and you find that noise pollution is an issue that still needs to be tackled with. Limerick shows us how.
Research over the last decade has shown that prolonged exposure to high levels of traffic noise can have an adverse impact on our health. It can increase the risk of sleep disturbance, heart attack and stroke, amongst other ill effects.
As a result, it is important that city dwellers have access to quiet and tranquil areas, which offer respite from the hustle and bustle of city life. This need is recognised in the Environmental Noise Directive, which allows for Quiet Areas in Cities to be designated and protected, so that they can continue to provide oases of calm in the hectic city environment.
However, designating these areas is not a simple matter: the areas that city authorities identify as potential “quiet areas” are not always the areas that residents use and enjoy the most. Added to this, the natural world can be a loud place e.g. birdsong, flowing water and the sound of the wind in the trees. But these sounds have a restorative quality unlike the sound of planes, trains and automobiles.
To overcome these issues, the Hush City approach was developed by Dr. Antonella Radicchi of the Berlin Technical University. A key element of the approach is the free Hush City Smart phone App, which allows members of the public to record information on areas in their cities where they find peace and tranquillity. This information is then available to policy makers and other app users. It can therefore perform the dual function of inputting into policy and showing other people where they can find peace and quiet in the city.
At the start of 2020, to coincide with its year as a European Green Leaf City, Limerick City and County Council invited the public to begin using the Hush City App to help the Council identify, enhance and protect the peaceful areas that Limerick people value the most.
Another element of Dr. Radicchi’s approach is the Soundwalk, where participants are guided on a walk through different areas of the city and invited to pay attention to the soundscape and how it affects them. This can be a powerful way of drawing attention to how we are impacted by our noise environment.
Limerick’s planned Soundwalk during 2020 had to be postponed due to Covid-19. However, as soon as it is safe to do so it will go ahead, along with a training event for policy makers on how the Hush City App and Soundwalk can be used for the identification, evaluation and planning of quiet areas.
The Hush City approach is a wonderful resource which has the potential to meaningfully influence urban development policy and planning and to make a real difference to the quality of urban life.
To use the Hush City app simply download it for either IOS or Android at: http://www.opensourcesoundscapes.org/hush-city/
More info on the Sound and the Healthy City, Radicchi et al. 2018 (Cities & Health) : https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/23748834.2020.1821980
Article was written by Sinead McDonnel from our partner city, Limerick
Submitted by Viktoria Soos on