Environ Health. 2015 Feb 28;14:18. doi: 10.1186/s12940-015-0006-y.
BACKGROUND: The urban soundscape, which represents the totality of noise in the urban setting, is formed from a wide range of sources. One of the most ubiquitous and least studied of these is street-level (i.e., sidewalk) noise. Mainly associated with vehicular traffic, street level noise is hard to ignore and hard to escape. It is also potentially dangerous, as excessive noise from any source is an important risk factor for adverse health effects. This study was conducted to better characterize the urban soundscape and the role of street level noise on overall personal noise exposure in an urban setting.
METHODS: Street-level noise measures were obtained at 99 street sites located throughout New York City (NYC), along with data on time, location, and sources of environmental noise. The relationship between street-level noise measures and potential predictors of noise was analyzed using linear and logistic regression models, and geospatial modeling was used to evaluate spatial trends in noise. Daily durations of street-level activities (time spent standing, sitting, walking and running on streets) were estimated via survey from a sample of NYC community members recruited at NYC street fairs. Street-level noise measurements were then combined with daily exposure durations for each member of the sample to estimate exposure to street noise, as well as exposure to other sources of noise.
RESULTS: The mean street noise level was 73.4 dBA, with substantial spatial variation (range 55.8-95.0 dBA). Density of vehicular (road) traffic was significantly associated with excessive street level noise levels. Exposure duration data for street-level noise and other common sources of noise were collected from 1894 NYC community members. Based on individual street-level exposure estimates, and in consideration of all other sources of noise exposure in an urban population, we estimated that street noise exposure contributes approximately 4% to an average individual’s annual noise dose.
CONCLUSIONS: Street-level noise exposure is a potentially important source of overall noise exposure, and the reduction of environmental sources of excessive street- level noise should be a priority for public health and urban planning.