Over the past 30 years, we have seen many professions in the graphic arts replaced by technology. Sign painting is one. Sign painting was a trade that existed in every community to adorn storefronts, banners, billboards, street signs, and buildings. The really good signs were one-of-a-kind works of art, produced by a steady hand, discerning eye, and aesthetic sensibility. Hand-painted signs revealed the pride and skill of the craftsmen. Their execution took human judgment and an active collaboration of eye, mind and hand. On a subliminal level, viewers could feel the effort of the maker. Now signs are mostly computer-designed, die-cut vinyl lettering. Undoubtedly, this is faster, cheaper and more uniform in quality, but like so much of our urban landscape, it lacks the warmth, soul and touch of human hands. “Sign Painters” is a documentary film (and also a book) by Faythe Levine and Sam Macon that celebrates the vanishing art of sign painting. The film is currently being shown in select locations in the U.S. and other parts of the globe. If it comes to your area, do see it.
Urban transportation planners everywhere are grappling with the question of how to move traffic faster, cleaner, greener and cheaper. They have urged people to ride bikes, telecommute, buy hybrid vehicles and mini-cars, but here’s a concept from China that is truly original – a super gigantic bus taller than an overpass that straddles the road creating a moving tunnel that regular cars can drive through. Bus passengers board on the upper level from elevated platforms, while smaller vehicles drive under and through the bus. Ultrasonic waves alert trucks too tall to fit to go around the bus on another lane. A stop light activates to stop cars in the tunnel when the bus needs to make a turn.
The “straddling bus” was exhibited at the 13th Beijing International High-Tech Expo in May and a pilot model is being built in Beijing’s Mentougou District by its developer Shenzhen Hashi Future Parking Equipment Co. Powered by electricity and solar energy, the straddling bus can carry between 1,200 and 1,400 passengers at a time and travel at speeds of up to 60 km per hour. Developers claim that it will reduce traffic jams by up to 30% on main roads and can be built in a fraction of the time that would be required to construct a new subway. The bus is also projected to save up to 860 tons of fuel annually, reducing carbon emissions by 2,640 tons. There is also no need to build a parking lot to house buses out of service; they can be left straddling the road.