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Singing road strikes wrong chord with Dutch villagers (www.reuters.com)
62 points by gscott 9 months ago | hide | past | web | 43 comments | favorite

Lancaster, California has a musical road - like the Dutch road, there were complaints about the noise from residents; it was torn up and a new one built out in the desert.

In both cases, it was mistuned [1] because of a miscommunication about whether the dimensions for the spacing of rumble strip grooves included the width of the groove itself.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ef93WmlEho0

When I was a kid, my dad was the mayor of our town. This story reminded me of his time in office.

For example, they did a venture with a contractor using a new paving technique, in an attempt to lower future costs for street paving. When it didn't work, there was a clause protecting the city and the work was repaired at no / little cost. Of course the local newspaper raked the city over the coals for the burden of long construction times, completely ignoring that local government had attempted to do something innovative and cost-saving for its citizens.

In another case, the downtown area had become destitute, especially as the main shopping area shifted to the outskirts of town. In an effort to revitalize, the city put up new decorative lamp posts, flower baskets, and did an attractive concrete stamping on new sidewalks. Once again, everybody complained about government waste, when really the city was trying to do what it could to make it a more attractive community and encourage more businesses to reopen / stay downtown.

My point is, while perhaps the singing road didn't have its desired outcome, I give them credit for trying to do something novel.

> Once again, everybody complained about government waste, when really the city was trying to do what it could to make it a more attractive community and encourage more businesses to reopen / stay downtown.

Having grown up in an area with no sense of style or flourish, I can appreciate the sentiment behind that. Every time I go to Japan or most of the west coast I'm blown away by how much effort goes into making the community look...nice.

However, all too often, a city's attempt to do this involves a contractor or supplier charging obscene amounts of money for the end result. Hence the accusations of waste.

Case in point: Sandy Springs, GA recently paid $99,333 for the city's new logo. The result is the caliber of work I'd expect from a Fiverr task.

That reminds me of an infamous episode from my hometown's history: the surprise 'Welcome' sign installed by the county's Art Commission. It was widely panned and ended up being taken down after two months. Looking back at it now, the sign was indeed somewhat tacky, but the perception that the county had done this without seeking local input is what really drove the vitriol.

[0]: https://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Saying-Goodbye-to-Castro... [1]: https://www.eastbaytimes.com/2011/07/22/castro-valley-canoe-...

Wow, crazy story! “Let’s secretly decide to put up this eyesore, spend $100k of taxpayer money on it, then when people don’t like it, try to re-educate them and convince them to like it.” Classic case of government waste and arrogance.

If they painted the "smile" a different color I think it would be less garish

I understand exactly what you are saying. In the community where I reside now, I'm the one foaming at the mouth mad at the city for the things they do. Frequently, citizens get exactly what they want, for example in elections. In the case of my childhood home, most people really didn't care about the empty buildings, they didn't care about the row of derelict taverns. They struggled to see a better way forward. So regardless of what the city did, someone was unhappy.

I don’t know—maybe it’s an unpopular opinion but I’ve always believed in judging a policy or action by its results rather than by the intentions behind it. Did the revitalization project work? To a taxpayer, waste is waste, no matter what good intentions you had.

The program itself was a trivial cost, as it essentially fell into "regular maintenance" anyway. The difference was whether they did boring sidewalks and lights or more visually appealing ones. And yes, for a time it really did help that downtown area. And again, in the case of the streets - even free wasn't good enough for some people.

Often, what constitutes "waste" is really a matter of spin. During that time, the city was chastised as "anti-growth." Well, guess what, that's because a group of land developers wanted to build thousands of houses, but didn't want to set aside land for schools, fire departments, and other amenities that all the people living in those houses would need. Point being, you can't please all the people all of the time.

Imagine if your workplace also functioned like that. Punishing you for every second spent on a project that didn't pan out to a working product. It might be fine in a sweatshop, but you won't get any innovation that way.

Surely the result of that is that the Government should never try anything new, because it might not work - and even worse, that they should spend large sums of money removing all possible risk from everything they do have to do, to the point that doing the job twice over would be cheaper/take less time/etc, because that looks better than failing once?

The noise level was well within legal norms, but the provincial authorities wisely choose to remove the 'singing road' after speaking with the local residents affected by the noise.

Ostensibly, the musical effect was a secondary objective; the primary purpose of this experiment was to test the durability of the specific type of rumble strips used¹.

1: http://www.lc.nl/friesland/Gedeputeerde-Zingende-weg-zou-tot...

Long ago I once saw an ad for a kind of swag: ribbons that attached to balloons. There were ridges impressed onto the ribbon so that you could draw your thumbnail down it and it would play a sound using the balloon as the diaphragm. The ad was for a company that would put your recording onto the ribbons, your jingle or slogan or whatever.

Tom Scott drives along a Californian singing road:


I wonder if something similar could be employed to produce a noise canceling effect on jake brakes?

Obviously you wouldn't be able to get it spot on because of speed vs engine RPM but you could at least tune it for the popular combinations.

Noise cancellation is all about phase and you have no way of knowing what the revs are on the jake brake (which is essentially an engine running as a compressor so it reduces speed rather than that it adds speed).

So while it may help in isolated cases it is going to amplify the noise for the remainder.

I can't believe the level of disfunctionality a local authority must attain to even contemplate such an infrastructure. I realize not everyone in local government can be a genius, but the collective IQ/EQ of this must be substantially south of 100. Then again, I know a local mayor that had cobblestones placed on a 30 meter stretch of road, officially to revive a picturesque and photogenic atmosphere near the village church, unofficially because it was right in front of the house of his political opponent which he hoped would be driven insane by the noise.

I can imagine this. It's like my hometown, but in Europe.

This is exactly the kind of poorly thought out, money wasting boondoggle projects you get when government is a gravy train not held accountable by it's source of funding.

Right now my hometown is engaged in all manner of hand wringing over a pet cemetery. They also put in more bike trail where a rail line was and spent millions of dollars tearing down rail bridge and building a more visually pleasing bike bridge. They must be expecting some fat cyclists since apparently just converting the rail bridge wasn't appropriate. The police are thoroughly overpaid and overstaffed and all run side businesses on taxpayer time.

It sucks that you have to under-fund and under-staff local government and services in order to get them to be well behaved (which to me means do their jobs without screwing around and wasting too many resources on non-mission critical crap) but I guess that's just how it is. If you just keep naively feeding the monster (e.g. "oh, you've squandered all your money on new cop cars and your building is falling down, well we'll give you the money this time but please pinky promise you don't do this again") it will grow big enough that you can't control it.

Edit: I know my last paragraph won't be popular here because it conflicts greatly with the politics of the typical HN reader but I'd appreciate it if you'd actually try and refute something I said.

There's something similar in New Mexico.


Importantly, it's outside of town and there are no houses very close.

I am told that if you back up on it, you hear "Paul is dead".

The (Dutch) text under the video linked in another comment states that some people actually do drive the wrong way over it (when there is no other traffic, I hope).

Would have been nice if the reporter let us listen to the road without them talking over it.

It's interesting how you still observe the doppler effect even though the road isn't moving.

I think this explanation makes sense?

The source of the noise at any given moment is where the tire is (or has just caused) the strip to vibrate. That point is moving away from the observer about as fast as the car is moving away from the observer

So, the doppler effect is present since the point of friction is moving to a different point on the road, even if the road is stationary.

Agreed on everything you said.

I'll add one thing: normally you hear Doppler effect with a nearly constant sound (emergency sirens.) Here the pitches are changing, but because our minds instantly recognize the 8-step Western scale we can pick out the frequency shift even though the frequency changes between the different notes may be the larger change.

I think your explanation is correct, apart from that i do not think it is the tire that causes the strip to vibrate as much as it is the strip that causes the tire to vibrate.

If it is the tire that makes the noise, it is no surprise that there is a Doppler shift.

I don't think the tire is vibrating at an audible frequency. The tire colliding with the road creates a burst of air, and since these 'bursts' are moving you have a doppler effect.

In theory you could create the same effect by setting off fireworks.

> If it is the tire that makes the noise, it is no surprise that there is a Doppler shift.

Unless you're slipping, the point of contact between the tire and the road is always standing still with respect to you

Someone pitch this experiment to the slowmo guys

> It's interesting how you still observe the doppler effect even though the road isn't moving

Relativity. Christian Doppler's equation for the change in frequency of a wave, for subsonic velocities, is approximated by three variables: the velocity of the receiver relative to the source, the velocity of waves in the medium and the emitted frequency [1]. The first term is symmetric between a source approaching the receiver and a receiver approaching a source.

(The actual equation measures the velocity of the source and the receiver relative to the medium. Here, too, the symmetry between a source moving towards a receiver, the latter un-moving relative to the medium, and a receiver moving towards a source, the latter un-moving relative to the medium, is preserved.)

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doppler_effect

I thought the car was vibrating to create the sound, not the road itself

...If you have more than one car running on the road, it's just a cacophony isn't it

Wow, that seems very loud indeed.


A completely useless video which doesn't even play the full song for us to listen to. Why are news companies so braindead?


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