Petition for a highway roof … with an open air concert?

Tonight, I switched on the TV to check the news. After the topic on the exciting Sweden elections, I heard the newsreader announce that Ringland organized an event today. Ringland is trying to get a roof on top of the Antwerp Ring. A great initiative, that gets my full support. Such a roof on top of one of Flanders most intense highways, could definitely improve the air in and around the city of Antwerp. Other cities in Europe have already taken similar initiatives, so for Antwerp the resulting open air park would definitely be a huge value-add. In the meantime, Ringland showed there are plenty of mobile alternatives to get to their open air event. Less cars, is indeed another solutions to reduce the air pollution. Again a very creative way to show that skeelers, bikes, e-bikes, … and feet (!) are great ways to move around.

So what the hell could be bothering me? I’ll tell you. Let me first introduce why I believe the roof over the Ring highway would also be great for Antwerp. It was not explicitly mentioned this time in the news, and that in itself is a signal that bothers me. The point is that the background noise levels in and around the city of Antwerp would drastically improve with such a roof. If you ever have the chance to take a walk in e.g. the Steytelinck park on an dull and rainy November or January afternoon, you would notice the massive amount of car and truck noise that seems to nail you down to the ground (sounds a bit like this and like this). Suppose the Ring road highway would get a roof, all that noise would be gone. And that would also drastically improve the health of the almost one million people living in and around the city of Antwerp. That would be worth a petition, don’t you think?

The point that bothers me, is that Ringland often adds an open air concert to their events. A little festival. Some entertainment for the crowd. Getting people together around a stage. The extra social bonding. Open air concerts are trendy, journalists love it, it gives the organization a flair of being nice and cool people. I understand that. But it also shows that sound – or the absence of sound – is not being regarded as important enough to try and make a change. Suppose one would introduce a cockfight as part of the event – I do not think that would go unnoticed, and I believe many people would be negative about the organization. Suppose they would organize a formula-I race on the highway or a second hand car trade market on one of the parking lots, chances are high people would start questioning the intent of Ringland. But an open air concert – a small festival with some mixing panel and PA – even gets the media as a positive signal. It was not even a famous band – they just covered Fleetwood Mac, so why bother to put that in the Sunday evening news on prime time?

Hence my appeal to Ringland and all other organisors of events on mobility: be also creative with the social bonding. If you really like music, go acoustic. Add street theatre and open air artists, food trucks (preferably electric), tango dancers with a little radio, and all others that do not need a PA to give a show around which it is even more easy to create a social bonding.

It can be so easy to show that sound also matters. And really, it does matter.