Cheers to Andrew for pointing me towards this map of the Brighton underground, by local artist Sean Sims, which is as witty and it is imaginative. Have a look at the bottom right-hand corner where you find the station for Beachy Head (terminus), a reference to its popularity for suicide, or towards the top where you will find that Crystal Palace is closed, a nod towards a bit of football team rivalry. Nice to see that Nick Cave has his own station too. It is a very good map, but not as good as this.
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I really like Kim Ji-Hwan and Jin Sol’s reinvention of the subway map. Taking an obvious cue from Harry Beck the pair have re-imagined transit maps for Tokyo, Osaka and Seoul (left). They offer both the “circuit diagrams” we are accustomed to, while also presenting a more geographic representation of the city. Geography and geometry in harmony.
Here’s a bright idea. A lazer-powered light that projects a cycle lane on to the road behind the bike. Light Lane (left), by designers Alex Tee and Evan Gant, turns every street into a temporary cycle lane- and helps with visability too. It’s currently under development, not even at the prototype stage – so don’t expect it to see it in Halfords anytime soon.
The feature-length documentary Who Killed the Electric Car? was one of the surprise hits of Sundance Film Festival in 2006. It told the story of a stalled attempt by General Motors to introduce “battery electric vehicles” to California in the early 1990s. By the end of it you were convinced that an evil cabal of automobile manufacturers, oil companies and the Californian government had deliberately destroyed the potential of the of the electric car.
Thankfully, the dream of cleaner, quieter and greener electric vehicles is not quite so dead. As was in evidence last week with the announcement by the Australian Government that it was to fund a $1billion network of recharging stations right across that continent by 2012. The news followed the announcement that Paris is to invent in an ambitious electric car rental scheme, similar to its popular Velib bike rentals, while Angela Merkle was ordering hundreds of eclectric vehicles to run in Berlin.
The story behind all these welcome announcements is that Britain is already well ahead in the race. Westminster Council has already built 14 recharging stations and many more have already opened across the capital (with as many as 80 ordered before the end of the financial year). Cities like Glasgow, Sheffield and Bristol are not far behind. The leading manufacturer for the charging stations, Elektromotive of Brighton, moreover, says its orderbook is full and the future for electric cars remains very bright, despite the onset of recession.
A little of something beautiful for Friday: This advert for the Madrid Metro (sorry I am too hamfisted to embed the video, but you can catch it over on the excellent SuperSpacial blog). It’s one of the most beautiful adverts I’ve seen a long time and a great use of computer modelling. The city as seen from a glass ceiling (via).
Forgive the self-linkage, but Guardian Technology (also picked up in The Hindu) has published my feature about the revival of the airship. It is pegged around the news that Zeppelins are being built again in Germany, funded by money laid-down by the original Count von Zeppelin. I also look at the latest generation of “hybrid airships”, (like the Skycat above right) that float the possibility of a less environmentally harmful form of passenger flight.
Here’s a snippet:
“What is it about airships that continues to capture the imagination? By rights, the lumbering airborne relics of a century past should be no more than museum curiosities, consigned like gas lamps to the sentimental roll-call of redundant technology. But like sacked television contestants, it’s hard to keep an idea as audacious as the airship down. With the cost of oil at record highs, and airline chiefs warning of the end of cheap flights, the idea of the airship is being seriously floated once more.
The appeal is of the airship is easy to grasp. Environmentalists like George Monbiot cite their frugal use of fuel when compared to other forms of flight. They are also quiet and fly at low altitude, at around 4,000ft compared with 35,000ft, further lessening their environmental impact. Although they are relatively slow, typically travelling at 125 mph – as quick as a high-speed train, but still needing about 43 hours to cross the Atlantic – most need no runway and could be deployed without need for further airport expansion.”
Far more likely to get off the ground than a solar-powered plane would be a photo-voltic zeppelin and, somewhat surprisingly, at least two companies already have designs in this area. The image above left is of the Strato-cruiser, a beautiful reimagining of the Zeppelin by Tino Schaedler, a London-based German set designer and thinker. It’s a wonderful flight of fancy designed to incorporate a gourmet restaurant, swimming pool and resident DJs and so on.
A less attractive, although far more prosaic redesign of the airship comes in the form of the US Aeroscraft, above right, a 400-ton hybrid airship, of which we are promised the first prototype later this summer. Powered by an electric motor, the airship has green credentials of its own. According to EcoGeek, such airships “do not require any energy to keep them aloft … Depending on their size, a modern airship could be significantly more energy efficient than even a Greyhound bus.” While Treehugger reckons that compared to a passenger jet of similar carrying capacity “it should require only half the fuel to operate.”
There’s more to this than meets the eye. According to Airship World that the Zeppelin is returning to the US after a gap of 70 years. The Zeppelin NT, the fourth to be sold by the German company, will be shipped to California later this year. Airships have been floated beforein recent years, but mostly as cargo vessels. This next-generation of dreamliners could have enough space for 1,000 people to sit comfortably on a lower deck, while an upstairs there could be tennis courts and movie theaters, well at least for those in first-class, that is.
AirJelly is a remote-controlled helium balloon that was shown off at the Hanover Messe last week. The video above demonstrates the radical way it moves around the air, what’s even more impressive is that the AirJelly uses nothing more powerful than a pair of lithium-ion-polymer batteries to make flight. Designed by German company Festo, it has a sub-aquatic partner, the AquaJelly (see below) that can move around underwater equally gracefully. The pair of prototypes are part of a new generation of autonomous vehicles, which include the AquaRay and its airborne sibling, the AirRay.
Templehof International Airport, site of the Berlin airlift and arguably the most classically beautiful airport (despite its dark origins) in the world is set to close this October. I for one will be a little sad as, although UK flights haven’t flown there for some time, it was one of the places i used to fly into when i started travelling to Berlin. Although tainted by the Nazis, and used to be a Zeppelin station, Templehof always for me spoke of the 50s. It was also small, under-commercialised and fantastically located, just south of Kreuzberg. It also didnt’ have the usual style gates that stick out like spokes, just one sweeping curve that opened onto the runway, in the way you imagine airports to be in your dreams
While studying journalism at the old London College of Printing, my senior tutor, Chris Horrie, warned me about writing stories involving buses. In doing so, you were likely to invite criticism from a certain section of your readers who might complain about your article even if there was nothing incorrect about it. And so it proved. My story in the Guardian last week looking at the next generation of London buses provoked cache of
abuse letters and emails from disgruntled readers who felt i had ignored innovations on their local route.
Which is fair enough and proves that people actually read your articles. But I was amused by Mr Ian Brierley of Brighton who wrote to ask me if I have ever visited there (Ian I live in Hove) and Mr John Illingworth of Bradford who accused me of being a “metropolitan” journalist (John, I haven’t lived in the capital for years and was raised in Huddersfield, just down the road from you). Space, gentlemen, is the reason why your admirable bus networks didn’t get a mention and the fact that something better and more advanced is available elsewhere. But it’s good to see that you give a fig about the humble bus.
Following and earlier post on this site, The Guardian has today published a more in-depth look at at how real-time passenger information and positioning technology are combining to improve public transport in both London and Helsinki.
London is implementing a system similar to Helsinki, although it is not sharing the real-time passenger information with its customers. I conclude: “What most bus passengers want is a system that shares real-time information with them. Not just at the bus stop, but on our phones, iPods, laptops and websites. They don’t want to go to the bus stop to find they have to wait 15 minutes – they want to find out how far away the bus is before they step outside. Now the controllers know where the bus is, soon the passengers will want to know too. How long will they have to wait?”
It can be bloody cold in Helsinki in January. The last thing you want to do is hang around too long for a bus or tram. Soon you won’t have to, Because Helsinki City Transport is currently fitting *its entire fleet* with Linux servers. Not only will each bus or tram become a travelling wireless hotspot, but you will be able to see exactly where in the city your next bus actually is.
Meaning that you only step into the bitter cold the minute before it arrives. (its in beta but you can see the effects of the live trial)Moreover, using Near Field Communication embedded in the bus and tram stops that allow you to boot the whole caboodle on your Nokia, without going online or having to imput lots of fiddly Finnish names (try inputting Kalasatama at minus 15 degrees). You can then track the upcoming stops on your mobile and see where exactly are your connecting buses are in the city as well. Its almost as if you can route your way around a city using packet switching I think i’ve seen the future of mass transit. And it doesn’t involve a timetable.
Imagine a town or city with no pavements, stop signs, traffic lights or lines in the middle of the road. Sounds like chaos? Maybe not. When such schemes are introduced in tests they can cut traffic accidents by 95%.
The philosophy behind it is called ‘shared space’ and it relies on public courtesy and eye contact to make it work. I came across the latest installment of this story about shared traffic spaces in the Washington Post
(via metafilter). I think this is a lovely idea. one that would cut the speed of motorists, save lives and stop people feeling that they were under so much surveillance and being told what to do all the time, which i think would be good for democracy as a whole.
Personal rapid transit (PRT) is a futuristic form of public transport that is due to arrive at Heathrow Terminal 5 some time next autumn. The pod-like, driverless taxis will ferry people from the car parks to the new Rogers Stirk Harbour + partners building. Advanced Transport Systems, the company building the network, is making impressive claims about how clean and green it all is … although exactly how much difference zero emission vehicles will make between car park and the runway is admittedly moot.
The Guardian’s technology section has published a longish feature of mine which delves into the background of PRT (it’s almost 50 years old) before discussing how it might – just might – be woven into the the infrastructure of our cities, where zero-emission vehicles would really start to count. Although the idea was fostered in the US and Sweden, it’s lovely to see a UK technology company get there first.