Although we might not realise, noise pollution is Europe’s second largest environmental health threat. A staggering one in every five Europeans is exposed to noise levels that are damaging their health.
Perhaps expected, the majority of noise comes from transport pollution, namely roads, rail and air traffic. City dwellers suffer the most, with Paris cited by the European Environment Agency as one of Europe’s noisiest. Data reveals that 5.5 million people are exposed to noise levels exceeding 55 decibels, with 432,000 residents taking tranquillisers to combat their discomfort. London and Rome are also identified as problematic cities, with 2.6 million and 1.7 million people exposed respectively.
Sustainable mobility and its minimal noise output offers a solution for the estimated 30 – 46 billion euros that society spends every year in overcoming the problem. The findings from CE Delf approximate this as 0.4% of total GDP, understandable when considering the long and short-term health risks that amalgamate, including cardiovascular, blood pressure and insomnia concerns.
Other solutions to noise pollution are being explored. The European Environmental Noise Directive offers guidance, while appropriate authorities are encouraged to join the Green City Accord and address pollution-prevention laws. In addition, local and national governments are developing Noise Plans that include sustainable mobility solutions such as low-noise asphalt and the installation of sound barriers. Paris’ Plan Brut is one such example, that also recognises the need to reduce car traffic in city centres, expand cycling networks and ban polluting vehicles.
Reducing car speeds is an effective way of reducing traffic noise. Thousands of towns and cities across Europe have implemented measures as part of EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK, a campaign that has also implemented the construction of 3,600 green areas that aid in air pollution.
Although largely invisible, noise pollution does have an impact on people’s everyday lives and welfare. Sustainable mobility options and swapping traditional transport norms for walking and cycling will create more comfortable environments for all of us to live, work and play in.
More details on the impact of EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK and those towns and cities involved can be found here.