Wednesday, 10 October 2012

The pros and cons of acoustic screens

A bitter, and rather one-sided debate has sprung up in the pages of Gazeta Wyborcza criticising the ubiquitous acoustic screens that routinely line the side of any new road as it is opened. These screens are a relative novelty in Poland, and have started appearing as EU funds came on stream. Designed to protect nearby houses from traffic noise, for drivers, they give the impression that you are in a never-ended gully. No scenery to gaze at.

Above: acoustic screens line the A2 around the Grodzisk Mazowiecki turn-off. Driving through built-up areas, one cannot get one's bearings, spot landmarks or notice geographical differences.

While I sympathise with people who wake up to find a motorway at the end of their garden, it would be nice to get some kind of changing visual stimulus when driving.

There are different types of screens - the transparent ones (with black bird-of-prey silhouettes applied thoughtfully to them to stop birds from flying into them), green ones (a favourite of graffiti daubers and the odd true artist), natural ones (which employ climbing plants to make them look like a wall of plant life). And there are the concrete pots, filled with earth, stacked in a triangular profile, with trees growing out of them. These I object to the least; after some years, they will look like regular earthworks, greened over with shrubbery and plants. 

Now, as I recall, the M6 runs through the very heart of Birmingham without screens. Maybe Poland has made a civilisational leapfrog in this respect; by taking away some of the fun of driving, maybe people will drive less. On the other hand, acoustic screens are starting to appear on the side of existing railway tracks. Such is the nature of progress. I'll poll this one, see what my readers think.

This time last year:
Hope in heaven

This time two years ago:
Touched by greatness

This time three years ago:
Fixed wheeling around Jeziorki

This time four years ago:
One day, this will all be asphalt

This time five years ago:


Paddy said...

I was in Wrocław the other day and really noticed with some of the new roadworks just how much these screens reduce the noise. 8 lanes of roaring city traffic on one side, a distant buzz on the other. I vote for - but the plant ones wherever possible.

Do they increase the danger of falling asleep on the road as well?!

It's an interesting topic. Frankly certain parts of the Midlands could do with being hidden to the passing world!!

AndrzejK said...

Conspiracy theorists will point out that Poland is "holier than the Pope" by adopting a lower ambient sound level for determining whether screens are required and also insisting that screens are put up when existing roads are modernised. Good question as to whether screen manufacturers lobbied to have the legislation put in place. There is also some proof that the electricity generators lobby for increased standards of insulation of building materials as the extra energy they sell when the materials are manufactured far outweigh cumulative energy savings in the future.

And lasty who designed the glass houses which serve as sound barriers on the Trasa Torunska? The cost must have been astronomical.

AndrzejK said...

There is a piece today on the TVN24 website referring to a Rzepa article on sound screens and the waste of money. Reserach shows that the low sound limits were inmosed by a PiS minister of the environment. Why does that not surprise me? Just another symptom of the statist Poland PiS wanted to recreate despite the evident failure of socialism.

Sigismundo said...

In Germany, screens on the autobahns are reaching epidemic proportions. Most of the UK-PL route thru Germany from Holland to the old East/West border is now blighted with them. When you see the astonishing volume of traffic these days (especially HGVs) it's clear they're very necessary, but it sure makes travel a lot less interesting than it used to be.

Reminds me of the final scene from a sci-fi movie, (was it Brazil or Blade Runner?), when the hero & heroine escape the urban ghetto down one of these screened roads to reach a mythical green field paradise.

whitehorsepilgrim said...

There were quite a number of these screens visible on a recent Eurostar journey from London to Brussels. You'd have thought that train passengers at least should have been able to see the view.

Living by that ribbon of blight across the hills, the A34 whose noise extends for miles across once-pristine country, I support noice barriers. As for safety, perhaps drivers look at the view too much. There are wrecks all the time on the scenic A34. Today's special was a smashed BMW that clearly had been rolled.