Described as the “honking capital of the world”, Mumbai’s soundscape is a cacophony of beeps. Even at red signals, impatient drivers toot their horns in anticipation of the green light. Fed up of this noise pollution, police in Mumbai decided to take action.
In November and December last year, “The Punishing Signal” was tested. Decibel meters were connected to traffic lights at several important junctions in the city. If the sound level surpassed 85dB, roughly the level of a food blender, the clock that counts down from the red to green signal is reset.
Initially, it feels almost like a catch-22 – the longer people wait for a green signal, the more likely they are to honk. But, eagle-eyed drivers could spot a sign above the lights displaying the message “Honk More Wait More”. As people observed this message, they shouted to other drivers to cease their honking as well.
As documented in a viral video shared by the Mumbai Police, this experiment provided a lot of amusement; passersby laughed and took videos whilst the cops hi-fived their efforts.
However, there was a serious point to it. The limit of 85dB was chosen because if you’re exposed to this level for prolonged periods of time, permanent hearing loss can occur. The need for Mumbaikars (the locals in Mumbai) to #HonkResponsibly is greatly needed.
“Unfortunately, many Mumbaikars indulge in reckless honking,” Mr Madhukar Pandey, Jt. Commissioner of Police (Traffic), Mumbai Police told local media. “Honking causes noise pollution, hurts the eardrums, increases heart rate, creates traffic confusion and causes stress… This small experiment is one of many attempts by Mumbai Police to create better road discipline in Mumbai.”
In TomTom’s Traffic Index 2019, which ranks urban congestion worldwide, Mumbai placed in fourth position. It was estimated that drivers lost a total of 209 hours (8 days and 17 hours), driving in rush hours in Mumbai over the year. To put that into context, in that time you could have watched 185 episodes of “Game of Thrones”, listened to “Imagine” by John Lennon 4,012 times, and (kind of ironically) planted 209 trees.
Therefore, the experiment’s tagline “feel free to honk, if you don’t mind waiting”, probably doesn’t sound too appealing to this city’s drivers. In fact, other states in India have been quite taken with this initiative as well.
As for Mumbai, Pandey confirmed that “This is an ongoing exercise that we will undertake randomly over the next couple of months until the citizens are aware about it, to avoid chaos.” For now, at least, drivers will have to turn up the volume whilst listening to John Lennon to drown out the continual drone of honks.
[H/T: The New York Times]