But nearby sous chef saves the day by engaging crowd in playful revenge prank. That the car owner found his or her car in one piece and minus deliberate scratches or slashed tires shows the compassion and self-control most people are able to exercise. Kudos to the chef for coming up with a clever way for people to vent. We can only hope that the car owner was publicly shamed as he or she came to retrieve their automobile.
over noisy leaf-blowers. Yes, it not just a U.S. problem, leaf blowers are fraying nerves in London, too. The Telegraph writes that May, “[f]amed for his loud rock anthems,  has used his blog to criticise Kensington And Chelsea Borough Council for dismissing his road sweeper and replacing him with six people armed with noisy leaf-blowers.” We understand May’s frustration at dealing with ear-splitting noise, especially when he found, in the end, that “the state of the road was worse after the men had attempted to clear it.” May laments “the awful noise of the blowers, dust and leaves being blown into my garden, and petrol fumes,” adding that |they are creating a horrible intrusion into our lives.”
The Telegraph notes that May isn’t the only celebrity who hates leaf blowers, writing:
In May, actor Tom Conti appeared on a television show to moan about the racket from the machines, insisting they were ruining his peace and quiet.
He said: “It’s very, very loud and unnecessary. If these people can’t stand the sight of a leaf then it’s not a leaf-blower they need, it’s a psychiatrist.”
East Hampton Airport Noise Restrictions Blocked. The East Hampton Star reports that a federal appeals court barred East Hampton Town from enforcing three 2015 laws aimed at addressing excessive aircraft noise at East Hampton Airport. The court found that the town failed to comply with procedural requirements of the Airport Noise and Capacity Act when it enacted the noise laws. The town’s attorney stated that, “[a]lthough today’s court decision places the solution to the aviation noise problem firmly at the feet of Congress and the F.A.A., the town will continue to explore every available option so that the residents of the East End won’t continue to be inflicted by an unrelenting din from the skies above.”
Hell is other people, with leaf blowers. David Dudley, The Atlantic City Lab, writes about “[t]he tragedy of the leaf blower,” a tool of doom that creates air and noise pollution with abandon yet is sadly beloved in the U.S. Dudley explains that “[t]he crude little two-stroke engines used by most commercial backpack-style blowers are pollution bombs,” with a third of the gasoline spewing out, unburned, “in an aerosol mixed with oil in the exhaust.” That aerosol mixes with the “fine-particulate crap” the blower stirs up, and blowers can exceed 100 decibels for the operator, with the sound carrying hundreds of feet away, disturbing everyone in its wake. It’s an informative piece, but the best part is in the first paragraph where Dudley shares the story of an ex-neighbor from hell who is known around his block as: “The Asshole With the Leaf Blower.” It’s a fun and informative read, so click the link to read the whole piece.
In his post, Dudley notes an article published days earlier by Adrian Higgins, the Washington Post’s Gardening columnist, titled: “We know you love your leaf blower, but it’s ruining the neighborhood.” In it Higgins focuses on noise pollution created by leaf blowers, noting the odd phenomenon that noise is less irritating to its creator than to its recipient. Higgins reaches out to Erica Walker, a doctoral student at Harvard University’s Chan School of Public Health, who explains that the reason for this is that “[r]ecipients of nuisance noise have no power over it.” Walker, we are told, “spent a year recording noise levels at 400 locations” across Boston, where she found that the leaf blower was a major contributor to the aural assault inflicted on Bostonians throughout the city.
Why focus on leaf blowers? Because the leaf blower is an effective distributor of unwanted sound. Higgins writes:
In a recent paper written with Jamie Banks, of an organization named Quiet Communities in Lincoln, Mass., Walker measured the sound from a commercial-grade gasoline blower at various distances. Even from 800 feet away, the noise was above the 55-decibel threshold at which sound is considered harmful by the World Health Organization, she said. Another problem is that the machines emit a low-frequency sound that is not measured conventionally but which travels long distances and penetrates building walls.
Higgins states that most cities don’t specifically address leaf blowers in their noise ordinances, but even if they did effective enforcement of those ordinances is lacking. Walker tells Higgins that there are two fallacies that fuel the ineffectiveness: one is the “mind-set that if you live in an urban environment, you put up with noise,” and the other is that noise is simply an annoyance. Walker disagrees:
Cities don’t have to be cacophonous, she said, and noise isn’t just an irritant; it harms one’s health. Studies have shown that tens of millions of Americans are at risk of hypertension and heart disease from the effects of noise.
HIggins asks Walker what has to be done to make the world quieter. She responds that “we need a fundamental shift in how we regard noise so that society sees it on the same plane as the environmental imperatives of recycling and reducing air pollution.”
We couldn’t agree more. Click the link to Higgins’ article to read the entire thing. It is well worth your time.
Turns Out, Not Much. Yuki Noguchi reports on co-worker noise for the NPR, presenting a couple of individual accounts of co-workers behaving badly. As you are no doubt aware, the problem is universal, with “[s]ounds, particularly those made by other humans, rank[ing] as the No. 1 distraction in the workplace.” As we have reported before, noise in the workplace has been made worse by the misguided “popularity” of open offices. They are popular with the corporate executives who impose them on an increasingly demoralized workforce, seen as a rational money-saving move because lower real estate costs are easier to quantify than decreased employee morale and productivity. And worker morale and productivity do suffer, as Noguchi notes that the “University of California’s Center for the Built Environment has a study showing workers are happier when they are in enclosed offices and less likely to take sick days.”
So, what can be done? “There are solutions,” says workplace design expert Alan Hedge. So what are those solutions? Because the “trend toward open offices and hard office furniture makes noise distraction worse,” Hedge suggests that “adding carpet, drapes and upholstery can help.” He also recommends removing cubicle walls entirely, as they “provide the illusion of sound privacy, but actually make people less aware of the noises they create.” Or you could try the advice given in this Business Insider article: How to tell a noisy coworker to shut up without making them hate you. A quick scan reveals the piece should be titled, “Things that sound like solutions but aren’t because no one will ever do this.”
Finally, there is also another option: bring back offices and let people have a quiet space to do their work. Just a suggestion.
Introducing Orosound Tilde earphones. So, you may be asking yourself, “what are Orosound Tilde earphones and why do I care?” Well, the Tilde earphones are “designed to control distracting ambient noise levels, help you focus on the sounds you want, and connect via Bluetooth to phones and wireless audio devices.” And that means what? Essentially, Tilde earphones are portable noise cancellation devices that allow wearers to adjust the level of ambient noise immediately around themselves, with attached earbuds through which the wearer can listen to music or take phone calls.
The device is “designed specifically to help workers ‘listen to the sounds that matter and tune out the rest.’” As the promotional literature explains, “84 percent of people complain about workplace noise levels and 80 percent say ‘they struggle to concentrate because of background noise.’” That is, Tilde’s reason for being is to address growing worker displeasure over distracting noise that intereferes with them doing their work–a situation that has been exacerbated, no doubt, by the seemingly universal adoption of open plan work spaces. If the earphones work as described, Tilde should be a hit. Certainly the developers are well on their way to start making and selling the first run, as they are on the mark to satisfy their Kickstarter fundraising goal.
If only one could have a Kickstarter campaign for a workplace design with walls and ceilings and doors and no need for personal noise cancellation earphones.
New Bill Seeks to Make it Easier to Catch Developers Breaking Noise Rules. DNAinfo reports that “[a] new City Council bill is putting pressure on developers behind noisy construction sites by making information about their mitigation plans more accessible to neighbors.” Long and short, the new bill “would require the Department of Environmental Protection to post noise mitigation plans for construction sites on its website, and would require developers to post the plans on construction fences in clear view.” Ok, that could help, but we couldn’t help noticing that the bill text doesn’t include penalties for violation (although that must surely be provided elsewhere).
Construction in the city is endless. Every handful of dirt seems to have a construction crew attempting to put highrise on it. Anyone living near one of these sites knows that their quality of life takes a hit. Recently Community Board 1 in Manhattan held a construction forum to address common complaints. Click this link to read the responses to these complaints from representatives of the Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Transportation, and the Department of Buildings.
As another California city mulls ban on blowers of all types. No doubt some people may wonder why others dedicate time and energy fighting something that seems fairly innocuous, at best, and merely annoying, at worst. But leaf blowers are not just an annoyance. Quiet Communities, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting our health, environment, and quality of life from the excessive use of industrial outdoor maintenance equipment, has documented the substantial health hazard leaf blowers pose to the health of the operator, those in the vicinity of the activity, and even our pets, too.
So hearing that Ojai, California is considering banning all blowers, both gas-powered and battery-powered, is encouraging. And yes, there will be push back, but in the end the only reason not to ban leaf blowers is that the alternatives are more expensive. A fact that is only true if you only consider the additional labor cost and ignore the savings to health and wellbeing.
Brussels collective demands less siren noise. It’s difficult to complain about a source of noise when it has social utility, like siren noise. Sirens are obviously necessary to clear the road of obstructions when an ambulance is racing someone in distress to the hospital or a fire truck is speeding to a fire. But there are times when sirens are employed unnecessarily. This writer has experienced the sleep-ending scream of a siren after midnight on a weekday and before 6:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning, times when the major road nearby is not jammed with traffic.
So we were happy to hear that Stop Sirènes, a Brussels collective that “is urging police and other emergency services in the Brussels-Capital Region to be more “sparing” in their use of sirens,” made some headway. Asserting that “sirens are too often used unnecessarily,” the collective took its plea to the region’s environment minister who has ordered a study into siren use.
While New York City has been more receptive to addressing noise complaints, unnecessary siren use remains a problem. For those of you who live in New York City, please consider signing this sensible Change.org petition directed to Mayor Diblasio: Lower the volume of Ambulance sirens in New York City. Thank you.
A look at Switzerland’s and Germany’s strict noise laws for Sundays and holidays. How just how strict are these noise laws? How does “no lawn-mowing, no drilling, hammering, sawing, or even heavy trucks on the roads” sound? Like music to our ears! Except, of course, no loud music either. According to The Wayfarer, it is “also advisable to keep the noise down (and we mean way down) between 8 p.m. and 7 a.m. to avoid complaints/fines,” adding that noise complaints are “such a big deal in these cultures that there are attorneys specializing in noise law.”
Good to know our cultural norms haven’t taken over everywhere. What we wouldn’t give to see Switzerland’s and Germany’s approach to noise adopted in the U.S.