Brussels test radars to measure traffic noise

The Brussels region is stepping up the fight against noise pollution. Environment Minister Alain Maron (Ecolo) presented a pilot project testing two noise radars on Tuesday. The aim is to provide Brussels residents with a pleasant and healthy noise environment.

In 2019, the Brussels Region approved the plan. The plan’s objective is to reduce the health impact of noise pollution and to mitigate excessive traffic noise, as, for example, caused by motorcycles and scooters.

Quiet Brussels plan

In July last year, a call for tenders for a noise radar was launched. Two suppliers responded, and the Brussels Region has now decided to test two prototype noise radars for a month to measure the noise and impact of vehicles accurately.

They work the same way as conventional radars or speed cameras but measure the vehicle’s sound instead of speed. Besides several microphones, it also has cameras that scan vehicles’ number plates and measure their speed.

Motorbikes and trucks in sight

The prototype noise radar was hung by Brussels Environment on Avenue Louis Bertrand, in a quiet neighborhood near Josaphat Park in Schaerbeek. The second model will be installed on a busy regional thoroughfare this summer. More noise radars may be added if the devices and results prove reliable.

“Thanks to a collaboration with the Vehicle Registration Service, Brussels Environment will thus have a noise level linked to a number plate and the technical characteristics of the vehicle,” says Catherine Lecointre, noise expert at Brussels Environment. “All these data, systematically anonymized, will then be analyzed.”

Motorbikes and trucks, in particular, account for a large proportion of vehicle noise, although they make up a relatively small part of the total vehicle fleet. For example, less than 1% of the vehicles measured are motorbikes, representing more than a quarter of the noise generated by cars. In terms of noise produced, a motorbike makes as much noise as 2,5 cars, while a truck produces as much noise as 5,5 cars.

Similar noise radars have already been installed in several French cities and departments to measure the noise of motorbikes in particular. But the British started establishing the first noise radars in late 2018 or early 2019. In addition, in some Austrian regions, such as Tyrol, motorcycles with a registered standing sound emission of more than 95 dB (A) are banned from using the road.

Traffic primary source of noise nuisance

Vehicle noise pollution is still a misunderstood public health problem and an annoyance, the Brussels Region judges. For example, it can cause hearing problems, cardiovascular diseases, migraines, and insomnia.

According to a study by Brussels University ULB, 70% of the Brussels population is exposed to noise levels higher than those recommended by the World Health Organization for road traffic.

Road traffic is the primary source of noise pollution in the Brussels Capital Region. Due to noise pollution, for example, each resident loses an average of eight healthy months of life. This costs the Brussels community half a billion euros a year.


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