Surveys have shown that one of the greatest threats to the quality of life, both in urban and rural areas, is the presence of high volumes of road traffic and the adoption of lifestyles that are highly car-dependent. Road traffic generates air and noise pollution, poses direct threats to health and contributes to the stress of urban living. In densely populated urban areas, noise levels are far above the desired limits. At the same time, the population’s subjective noise sensitivity is rising. Noise pollution is one of the environmental problems that affects the population of the European Union most directly. According to an OECD study, out of the 826 million people living in OECD member countries, almost 50% are exposed to traffic noise levels of over 55 dB and some 16% to traffic noise levels of over 65dB. The project contributes to the implementation of Decision No 1411/2001/EC – “Community Framework for co-operation to promote sustainable urban development" and the to the Directive 2002/49/EC on the "assessment and management of environmental noise".
The following strategies were used to increase citizens awareness in terms of traffic-related noise and air pollution in the city of Graz:
- Environmental protection for one’s personal benefit: encourage people to walk or use the bicycle for short daily trips to improve their personal health fitness.
- Emotional approach: include children as multiplicators for noise campaigns and as consultants.
- Training of professional bus and taxi drivers in the urban environment.
- Development of a mobile "noise-laboratory" for interactive awareness-raising.
The GOAL (Gesund Ohne Auto und Lärm - Healthy without Car and Noise) project has managed to thematically connect the areas of health, mobility and environment in an effective and efficient way. An innovative approach in connecting environmental issues and personal well-being and fitness has been successful in motivating people to achieve the project aims, namely the reduction of noise and emissions, and ultimately a better quality of life. An extensive action plan relating to the topics of environment, health, mobility and noise was established.
The project was subdivided into Working Packages – WPS (incl. attractive public transport, awareness campaign on noise, training of professional drivers in a low-noise driving style, action programme for companies, health check etc.). All WP's had one objective in common: increasing well-being by changing the mobility behaviour – away from the excessive use of passenger vehicles to the promotion of going on foot and riding the bicycle. Transfer of motion to everyday mobility and Environmental protection as protection of people's self-interest were the slogans. The WP's addressed all the social strata in different ways.
A lot of experience and findings have been gained through the GOAL project. New approaches and ideas were implemented for the first time. They have demonstrated that it is possible to attenuate problems relating to traffic and noise by using so-called soft skills and raising the awareness of specific target groups – even though the extent may be restricted. Many achievements of the project will continue or be advanced in the future. The project can be seen as a step in the right direction towards a sustainable city development.
A few of the results are presented here below. 861 000 car km covered by car were saved by projects implemented in the course of GOAL. This means 120 tons of CO2, 0.47 tons of NOx and 0.39 tons of VOC were saved. Due to the experience made in the noise abatement pilot study in the Brucknerstraße, a typical residential area in Graz, it was planned to change the speed limit from 50 kph to 30 kph for another 40 major roads in the half year following the end of the project. The residents' satisfaction in the same residential area relating to the noise situation was increased by 30%. Objectively the noise was reduced by 2 dB(A) for appr. 2000 inhabitants in this area. An mobile awareness-noise-laboratory was set-up in a city bus. This was a valuable tool for raising awareness about the noise problem amongst the general public. The bus was equipped with several computers providing information on theoretical and practical know-how for noise abatement. In addition, a noise simulation programme that is available on CD and on the internet encourages people to simulate the noise situation on roads. The laboratory bus was used in several public events on prominent sites. In order to raise awareness and change mobility habits, the project team initiated mobility action programs for companies and organisations. Health check services were provided in co-operation with an insurance company and citizens were instructed to improve their physical conditions by changing their mobility habits and documenting their daily walking routes. After a period of 3 months the medical checks were repeated and compared with the first results. A similar programme was organised for patients with cardiovascular risk.
During the project period, the topics of mobility and noise have been studied particularly intensively in schools and kindergartens. The teachers as well as the children will act as multipliers even in future. The awareness program reached 600 pupils and 300 children in kindergartens. The number of non-motorised trips of pupils to school increased by 20%. The speed control that was set up in the neighbourhood of schools was successful since 30% of the drivers reduced speed to the legal limit. The project trained 14 local agenda managers (so called LAMAs) for participative planning purposes and empowerment processes in selected residential areas. The idea was to entrust them with supporting people living in the housing estates in handling their problems. A programme was developed and a survey of living conditions and habits was made. In the three selected housing estates, with approx. 11 000 inhabitants belonging to different social groups, significant improvements in the living environment were achieved by establising structures in which decisions were taken in a collaborative manner. A new LAMA Course was to be offered in early 2004. Furthermore, a Housing Estate Club in line with Agenda 21, which is to enable the mutual exchange of experience between the individual housing estates, was planned to be established. The programme “Attractive public transport” was carried out in co-operation with the media and 10 animators at public transport stops. The inhabitants of Graz were motivated to join in easy and fun exercises while waiting for the tram and bus. Due to these activities, the subjective impression of the time waiting for the public transport customers was shortened. On 29 different sites the speed of motorised traffic was controlled. A feedback system for the drivers was set up and the results evaluated. The improvement in terms of speed reduction and consequently noise reduction was considerable and well illustrated in the pilot site “Brucknerstraße”. After an installation of a 30 km/h speed limit, both the behaviour of car drivers and the feedback of the resident population were documented. 350 taxi drivers and 210 bus drivers were introduced to driving in a low noise style. This “silent driver” programme forms an integral part of the training programme for the Transport Association of Graz and Radio Taxi 878. 20-25 new drivers are instructed every month. 210 bus and tram drivers were also trained in a way minimising noise and the programme has been fully integrated in the training of professional drivers.
The project was presented at international seminars, at the TV and radio stations and a project video was produced. The project team organised seminars for families (347 participants), journalists, personal of the City administration, politicians, companies, police, doctors specialised in cooupational medicine and the educational worker’s council. According to a follow-up report carried out by the LIFE external monitoring team in 2005, the beneficiary, together with project partner Graz Transport Services, (Grazer Verkehrsbetriebe) is collaborating on another LIFE project, which was launched in 2004, to reduce airborne pollution in the cities of Graz, Klagenfurt and Bozen. This involves measures to cut traffic and the installation of pollution monitoring instruments on public buses. It will be accompanied by PR activities aimed at making the public more aware of urban pollution from traffic. The new project (LIFE04 ENV/AT/000006) is based on the results and methods employed in the earlier GOAL project.