November 22, 2009

Roundabouts of the world

Filed under: Photography by Branko Collin @ 1:50 pm

A rotonde is a roundabout in Dutch, so when Tijs van den Boomen and Peter Jonker set out to create a website about roundabouts and the often ugly art that is in their centres, they of course called it (The Flemish say rondpunt.) has pictures, videos and stories about roundabouts from all over the world, but you can hardly blame them for paying extra attention to the Netherlands. The website is clunky at times—rather than showing you a whole story at once you get little Javascript arrows with which to scroll, even if there is nothing to scroll towards—but if you click the big Collectie button, you get a nice big site map listed by country, province and so on.

Trendbeheer unearthed a quote from the site about a Doesburg roundabout that exemplifies the wrongness of moral rights (a part of copyright):

“I thank God that [the centre piece] is not art,” alderman Fred Jansen told De Gelderlander. “If it had been, we would not have been allowed to touch it for sixty years. Everybody thought it was garbage, citizens, entrepreneurs and visitors.”

(Photo of a roundabout in Venray by Google Streetview, immortalised because this is presumably the location where the Streetview car made an infraction that caused a police car to stop it two blocks further)

Tags: , , ,

January 30, 2009

Renovate a bridge, win half a million euro

Filed under: Architecture,Automobiles by Branko Collin @ 10:56 am

Building bridges well is one thing, but how to maintain them? Rijkswaterstaat, the governmental entity concerned with building and maintaining roads and such, has offered a grand prize of 500,000 euro for the person coming up with the best scheme to renovate a bridge. Rijkswaterstaat isn’t satisfied with its own procedures. They especially don’t like the way their current methods hinder traffic.

According to the rules, anybody can participate, although if you read on you’ll discover that with anybody they mean anybody who is registered at a Dutch chamber of commerce. Another rule states that you must speak sufficient English and Dutch to be able to explain your plan. The ten best ideas will net their creators up to 100,000 euro to further develop their plans, and only one winner will get the grand prize of half a mil.

The deadline for the first round is April 10.

Link: Z24 (Dutch). Photo of the bridge to IJburg, Amsterdam by me.

Tags: , , , ,

August 23, 2008

The man who disliked traffic signs

Filed under: Bicycles,Design by Branko Collin @ 8:48 am

Earlier this year, at age 62, traffic engineer Hans Monderman died of cancer. The Wilson Quarterly profiles the man behind Shared Space, the counter-intuitive idea that dissolving the artificial segregation of pedestrians, cyclists and drivers can make traffic safer.

And Monderman certainly changed the landscape in the provincial city of Drachten, with the project that, in 2001, made his name. At the town center, in a crowded ­four-­way intersection called the Lawei­plein, Monderman removed not only the traffic lights but virtually every other traffic control. Instead of a space cluttered with poles, lights, “traffic islands,” and restrictive arrows, Monderman installed a radical kind of roundabout (a “squareabout,” in his words, because it really seemed more a town square than a traditional roundabout), marked only by a raised circle of grass in the middle, several fountains, and some very discreet indicators of the direction of traffic, which were required by ­law.

As I watched the intricate social ballet that occurred as cars and bikes slowed to enter the circle (pedestrians were meant to cross at crosswalks placed a bit before the intersection), Monderman performed a favorite trick. He walked, backward and with eyes closed, into the Laweiplein. The traffic made its way around him. No one honked, he wasn’t struck. Instead of a binary, mechanistic process—stop, go—the movement of traffic and pedestrians in the circle felt human and ­organic.

What I assume to be Monderman’s own Youtube videos are still up. In them, he explains what Shared Space is:

Via BoingBoing. Photo by Jerry Michalski, some rights reserved. (See also my adventures with traffic wardens, and this bit about letting people choose their own paths.)

Tags: , , ,