Instead of putting rumble strips on a road in a small Dutch village to warn drivers who veered onto the hard shoulder officials installed musical strips.
Workers painted the stretch of road near the village, Jelsum, to “play” music from the regional anthem when tyres rumbled along the raised strips, but within days the local residence were begging the authorities to remove them
Sietske Poepjes, vice-governor of Friesland province, said they picked 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, is long, straight and has a new surface.
“This was not a novelty thing,” Poepjes, says. “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. We wanted to see how the paint was keeping up.”
In addition, she says, “Since we’re the cultural capital, we said, ‘Let’s make a cultural event of it.’”
Poepjes says music from “a popular part” of the regional anthem, “De Alde Frieze” or “The Old Frisians”, from the 19th century, had been painted on. The project cost €80,000 (£70,000).
The coastal province of Friesland, while part of the Netherlands, has its own language. “We don’t speak Dutch; we speak Friezen,” or Frisian, Poepjes says. “So that’s why we gained the title of cultural capital in 2018, and we wanted to highlight that.”
Signs told drivers, “You are approaching a singing road.” When drivers hit 60km per hour (37mph), the regional anthem rang loud and clear.
“If you go too slow, it’s the same thing like if you play a normal record: brr-brr-brr,” Poepjes says, imitating a slowed-down record.
And if a driver drove on the shoulder backward?
“You’d get the same thing if you play a Madonna record backward,” she says, laughing.
“It’s basically vinyl on the road,” Poepjes explains. “It’s like grooves on the record, but with literally grooves on the road. It’s a very basic concept.”
But soon, villagers began complaining that they could not sleep.
“The Frisian national anthem is fine, but not 24 hours a day,” Sijtze Jansma, who lives about 600 feet from the road, told the news website RTL. “I’m going nuts. You can’t sit outside and you can’t sleep at night.”
Yet another, Margriet de Ruiter, told the newspaper that the noise from the road was “psychological torture”.
Poepjes says she visited the village to hear complaints because officials wanted to be in sync with villagers on the project. What she heard, she says, was that “it’s working – but, please, not here”.
Basically, she says, “They hated it.”
Poepjes says residents 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 says.
Referring to the complaints from residents, she adds: “I can completely relate. They could hear the anthem over and over when they were sitting in their garden; it has been wonderful weather.”
So, less than two days after the strips were laid down, province officials had them scraped off overnight.