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Leuven deploys technology to tackle night noise

13 September 2021

City of Leuven will use smart noise meters and an app for residents to map nighttime noise in the coming months. Afterwards, it will test different nudging techniques to reduce or prevent the noise. The research takes place in the Naamsestraat. The insights gained can then be used in other streets and neighborhoods that suffer from night noise.

Stad Leuven

"Leuven is traditionally a real nightlife city. That's nice of course, but it also brings with it night-time noise and that is, to say the least, disruptive for those who have to show up to work the next day refreshed and alert," says alderman for student affairs and ICT Thomas Van Oppens. "As Innovation Capital of Europe, in the coming months we will be experimenting with innovative techniques to tackle night-time noise, and this in close cooperation with local residents."

Night noise is a problem especially in the so-called transit streets. These are the streets that people use before and after going out. The research will take place in the Naamsestraat.

The city will proceed in two phases. "First, we map out the problem as best as possible. For this purpose, there are currently seven noise meters hanging between the Heilige Geestcollege and arts center STUK. Some restaurants have also had a noise meter installed on their facade. These devices do not record conversations - this is prohibited by law - but they do analyze all nocturnal sounds: what is the volume, how high or low does it sound, how long does it last, does it come from traffic, people or music ... ? In addition, we have asked the residents of the Naamsestraat to let us know via an app when they experience night noise," explains alderman Van Oppens. "By the way, we are still looking for additional residents who want to participate in this. The more residents participate, the more reliable the results."

There is also a meter in the city park to compare the noise measurements with a quiet zone. By combining the results of the noise analysis with residents' reports, the system "learns" which sounds are perceived as disturbing.

In a second phase, running from January 2022 to December 2022, the city will test various nudging techniques. Nudges are psychological techniques that often unconsciously and in a simple way encourage people to change their behavior. These try to address the problem as soon as it occurs. For example, when one of the noise meters catches nighttime noise, public lighting can be dimmed or a message can be projected on the ground. Think, "Please keep it quiet in this neighborhood" or "This is where people sleep. "We can even have the lights turn on in some houses. That makes noise makers aware that they are waking someone up," Alderman explains.

"We will also look into the effect of weather conditions or events on night noise. In this way, we will be able to predict better and better when the risk of night-time noise is high, and then we can have the police patrol more or deploy extra stewards," Van Oppens added.

"Because we will first monitor only the noise, and then monitor the noise and intervene, we will be able to determine very well which actions are effective and which are not. Does it help to project a message or to adjust the lighting? Or should we have the police patrol more? So far, it's been guesswork, but with this research we're going to know what really works. And the lessons we learn from this project, we can apply to other streets the suffer from night noise. That - just like a good night's sleep - is incredibly valuable," concludes Van Oppens.

Source: Stad Leuven
Translated by Leuven MindGate

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