Residents in disharmony with singing Dutch road

AMSTERDAM • The road was paved with good intentions and it had seemed a good idea at the time.

Instead of putting "rumble strips" on a road in a small Dutch village to warn drivers who veered onto the shoulder, officials installed musical strips instead.

Workers painted a stretch of road near the village of Jelsum recently to "play" music from the regional anthem when tyres rumbled along the raised strips.

But residents soon begged authorities to remove the strips.

Ms Sietske Poepjes, vice-governor of Friesland province, said officials had chosen Jelsum for the experiment partly because it was in the provincial capital Leeuwarden - which has been named as a 2018 European capital of culture - and partly because the road, the N357, was long, straight and had a new surface.

"This was not a novelty thing," she added. "This was a necessity for the maintenance of the road.

"Sometimes people are distracted on the road and we know people go on the shoulder."

Road crews painted about 150m of the road with the strips.

Ms Poepjes said music from "a popular part" of the regional anthem, De Alde Friezen or The Old Frisians, from the 19th century, had been painted on.

The project cost €80,000 (S$130,000).

Signs told drivers: "You are approaching a singing road."

When drivers hit 60kmh, the regional anthem rang loud and clear.

But villagers began complaining that they could not sleep.

"The Frisian national anthem is fine, but not 24 hours a day," resident Sijtze Jansma, who lives about 200m from the road, told news website RTL.

"I'm going nuts. You can't sit outside and you can't sleep at night."

Residents are accustomed to noise because the village is home to an air base where fighter jets regularly take off and land.

Resident Alie Tiemersma told local daily, The Leeuwarder Courant, "I would rather have the planes than this. At least they stop at 5pm".

Another resident, Ms Margriet de Ruiter, told the newspaper the noise from the road was "psychological torture".

Ms Poepjes said residents had complained that a lot of drivers were deliberately veering onto the shoulder to start the anthem.

"Enthusiastic young people were driving way too fast," she added.

So, less than two days after the strips were laid down, province officials had them scraped off.

But Ms Poepjes said officials have not totally given up.

"We're not going to drop the idea completely. If we do it again, we will do it with a complete understanding of the neighbourhood and make sure nobody is bothered by it.

"It just wasn't a good idea in the end," she added.

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 16, 2018, with the headline 'Residents in disharmony with singing Dutch road'. Print Edition | Subscribe