Odd Figure-8 Bridge to Merge Left vs. Right Side Traffic

A Dutch architectural firm has proposed a bridge shaped like a figure '8' to switch the sides of the road driven on by cars traveling between Hong Kong and mainland China.

In Hong Kong – a former British colony – people drive on the left hand side of the road, as in the UK and Australia. In mainland China, however, people drive on the right hand side of the road, like in the United States.

To solve this infrastructural mess, Amsterdam-based NL Architects suggested a "Flipper" bridge concept wherein the halves of the roadway split and cross over and under each other. Such an arrangement would guide traffic seamlessly, and perhaps stylishly, into the correct flow during the border crossing.

"The Flipper is a device that is designed to 'celebrate' the traffic switch," according to an NL Architects statement. "Can we turn the moment of swapping into an unforgettable spectacle?"

This bridge was part of a proposal called the Pearl River Necklace submitted by the firm as part of the Hong Kong Boundary Crossing Facilities International Design Ideas Competition.

This contest was held to come up with an inspiring design for a transportation hub planned for construction on an artificial island. The complex will serve as an important junction point for both goods and people along the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge under construction near Hong Kong's airport in the Pearl River Delta.

This massive Bridge project, begun last December and slated for a 2016 completion, will link up the Chinese mainland city of Zhuhai with the western part of Hong Kong and another specially administered region called Macau, a former Portuguese colony.

NL Architects' proposal envisioned stringing out the large transit hub across several new artificial islands. Perhaps as a result of this outright rejiggering, NL Architects' entry did not place in the contest, whose winners were announced May 14. Yet the twisty bridge aspect has gotten the attention of the blogosphere.

While intriguing, the concept of using bridges to elegantly switch traffic patterns between countries with differing road rules is not new. Similarly inspired though less striking, so-called crossover bridges exist on land between China and Macau and between Guyana and Brazil, for example. At quiet border crossings, however, often little more than a sign is employed to advise drivers of the changeover.

In roughly a third of the world's countries, especially in Africa and the Caribbean, people drive on the left side of the road.

Kamiel Klaasse of NL Architects told TechNewsDaily that the firm's traffic flipper idea was "speculative," but that "it was important to us to show that road design could be interesting and maybe even fun."

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Adam Hadhazy
Adam Hadhazy is a contributing writer for Live Science and Space.com. He often writes about physics, psychology, animal behavior and story topics in general that explore the blurring line between today's science fiction and tomorrow's science fact. Adam has a Master of Arts degree from the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Boston College. When not squeezing in reruns of Star Trek, Adam likes hurling a Frisbee or dining on spicy food. You can check out more of his work at www.adamhadhazy.com.