Soundscapes (The Sequel)

A ride around the major and minor roads between Reading and Windsor, mindful of yesterday’s musings about the sounds that are around us.

Quite possibly, we’re not that conscious of our aural world because to be so is not that enjoyable. Good grief, we have made ourselves a noisy environment.

Stop and stand by some traffic lights on a busy road and just listen: the discordant racket is appalling. This hit me while waiting at the lights in Sonning; why anyone would want to pay top-dollar to live there defeats me. I guess money doesn’t buy sense.

Listening out to the background noise riding around today, and the M4 pollutes with far more than just exhaust fumes: it’s audible for miles. The wind was an south-westerly today so Heathrow’s flight paths are all directly over London (like that’s a good idea); nevertheless light aircraft coming in to White Waltham aren’t exactly stealthy, and there was a smattering of helicopters making a din too.

Of course we – as a society – could act to mitigate all this. Roads surfaces can be quieter; roads – especially motorways and similar trunk roads – could be tree-lined; airports could be built so their approaches are over the sea and so on. You could require motor manufacturers to fit narrower tyres – low profile wide tyres kick up far more noise. (The argument that they’re safer is, of course, rubbish – they enable cars to go faster and faster isn’t safer.) None of this will happen.
That none of this will happen is a reflection of how our society values the quality of the lives of its citizens. These are choices being made by human beings.

Because of those choices, that we seem to be able, at least to some extent, to blank out the soundscapes of our lives is probably a good thing. That said, it does mean we tolerate what we should not have to tolerate.