China – Under The Hood: Sounds of Hangzhou – Tweet, beep, toot, honk, screech

Shanghai banned the honking of the horn in its commercial districts last month. Apparently, even police sirens are banned in all but emergencies… I hear that car owners are now paying to have their horns tuned with music or a human-voiced warning instead of a honk. Will noisy Hangzhou follow suit?

I seriously doubt such a ban would ever be effective here in The Pond where the taxi, bus, police and (the worst of them all) ‘official’ car drivers are a law on to their own.  Here they honk at everyone who’s in their way, and who they think is in their way, and who they are passing, and who they think is trying to pass them.  Every bicycle needs a honk in case the driver can’t see them. Every pedestrian, most definitely, because they’re not looking at anything except their feet as they float out in front of a car!

The constant cacophony of horn noise is such that everybody tunes it out in order to function, so the horns are pointless.  Nobody is listening to the horns.  But honking them is a habit the Chinese driver / rider can’t break.

Okay, now here comes a legitimate reason to honk the horn, an emergency, perhaps someone walking right out in front of a car. What does the Hangzhou driver do? He flicks his headlights. Just how stupid is that? If the pedestrian can’t hear your horn, he sure as hell can’t hear your headlights. Of course he can’t see your headlights, because he’s not looking at you. Plus, it’s daytime.

On the subject of street noise…. Wonder if Hangzhou’s apparatchik is actively measuring the city’s decibel levels. Would be interesting to see a reading.

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