81 on 81

On October 12, 2014 · 7 Comments

I’m planning a quick trip down to southwestern Virginia and neighboring West Virginia, intending to count some new counties along the way although primarily for other purposes. I wish I could say it was entirely about the counties and I could finally finish Virginia. That will have to wait for another day.

Being true to my nature, I’ll completely over-prepare with multiple maps, both electronic and paper, even though I’ve driven the vast preponderance of the route multiple times and understand it intuitively. I’ll have lat/long coordinates prerecorded in my GPS, turn-by-turn directions printed from my preferred map website, and a battered dogeared Triple-A road atlas as a backup should a solar flare destroy every navigational satellite and should an asteroid bust the car window and suck the printouts from the dashboard. Nobody will be getting lost. No way, no how. Logic has no bearing here. Preparations will be ridiculous.

Patterns often appear on 12MC and another one emerged as I plotted waypoints. Most of the path involved Interstate 81, the primary route along the western diagonal of Virginia (map). Many of those waypoints fell awfully close to longitude 81 West. This type of reasoning often leads me to trouble. Was there a place, I wondered, where 81 West crossed Interstate 81? It seemed like it would offer a nice bit of numerical symmetry.

In fact a golden spot existed at 36.938110°,-81.000000°, just a stone’s throw from the Wilco Hess Truck Stop – Wytheville. Or the Flying J. Or Galewinds Go Carts & Mini Golf although apparently it’s closed now so scratch that suggestion.

Were there other Primary (e.g., one or two-digit) Interstate Highways equally blessed with similar golden spots? Why yes there were. Longtime readers already knew that I’d have to map them.



View Interstate-Coordinate Confluences in a larger map

I noticed that spots concentrated in the eastern half of the nation, many in the Upper Midwest. I think I found all of the possibilities although there might be others lurking out there. Let me know if you find any that I overlooked and I’ll add them to the map.


Interstate Longitude Confluences


Chicago Skyline During Sunrise from Lombard, Illinois
Chicago Skyline During Sunrise from Lombard, Illinois by Corey Seeman, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Longitude possibilities were limited to feasible values between 67 (easternmost whole number longitude) and 99 (highest possible 2-digit Interstate Highway). I found a total of seven places where a longitude crossed an Interstate highway with the same number, including the original example I discovered on I-81.

Some of those spots saw more traffic than others although I’d be surprised if even a single person recognized the significance. Why would they? Only a geo-oddity aficionado would find the topic even mildly interesting. One such location fell in Lombard, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. I was surprised to find a photo of the Chicago skyline captured from an upper floor of a hotel less than a mile away from I-88/88°. That amused me for some weird reason.


Interstate Latitude Confluences



Lincoln Village, Milwaukee County, Wisconsin

There were fewer latitude opportunities, limited to values between 25 (southernmost whole number latitude in the Lower 48 states) and 49 (northernmost). I found only two occurrences.

Once again I was lucky to find something to illustrate a nearby area, the Lincoln Village neighborhood in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I-43 formed its eastern boundary including the segment with I-43/43°.

The overall champion had to be Interstate 94. It shared a confluence with longitude 94° West. It was also concurrently signed with a stretch of I-43/43° North and I-90/90° West.


Confluences Outside of the United States


Penllergaer
Penllergaer by stu, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Similar confluences existed outside of the United States. I found a couple of occurrences between motorways and longitudes in the United Kingdom. One fell near a lovely waterfall at Penllergaer Valley Wood (M4/4° West).

I even discovered one in Ireland, M8 and 8° West: 52.356181°,-8.000000°.

Then I grew tired of the exercise.

Woonerf

On October 1, 2014 · 0 Comments

In some places they’re called complete streets, home zones or shared spaces, however I preferred the original Dutch term "woonerf" (pronounced VONE-erf). It described a concept as old as urban civilization itself although applied within a new context, the very simple idea of streets shared by everyone. That notion had taken a beating for most of the 20th Century after the rise and supremacy of motorized vehicles. A few cities attempted to ratchet-back some of that automobile favoritism in recent years through creative street designs.


Residential, woonerf
Residential, woonerf by La Citta Vita, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

This image of a woonerf located somewhere in Sweden demonstrated several typical design characteristics. Nothing designated distinct walkways, roadways or cycle tracks. Every traveler regardless of method received the same consideration. In theory this forced everyone to pay closer attention to everything happening around them, especially those driving automobiles who would also have to slow to walking speed to avoid pedestrians, bicyclists, children at play, babies in carriages, dogs on leashes, parked cars, landscaping and myriad other obstacles. It seemed to work in the Netherlands and spread to other areas of Europe, then to select urban locations in Japan, Israel and increasingly to North America.

Niek de Boer, a professor of urban planning, coined the wonderful phrase, woonerf. It translated in this context to something akin to "living yard" according to several sources. The Oxford Dictionary provided an etymology, "from wonen ‘reside’ + erf ‘premises, ground’." It sprang from a philosophy that all land between two row of shops or homes should be everyone’s yard, a single public space.

Dutch Wikipedia placed the first modern woonerf in the Emmerhout neighborhood of Emmen (map). An article in the Journal of the American Planning Association "Changing the Residential Street Scene" (1995) traced the initial implementation to Delft. I think there might be confusion because Niek de Boer was a professor in both cities, or perhaps because I don’t read Dutch and translation software wasn’t all that great. Either way, woonerfs began somewhere in the Netherlands circa 1969.

The concept began to creep into North America only recently. I found a few examples.


Chicago, Illinois, USA


Chicago's only woonerf
Chicago's only woonerf by Steven Vance, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

While the photo caption proclaimed "Chicago’s Only Woonerf" for a two-block segment of Sunnyside Avenue (map), that won’t be the case for long. Others were already in the works. A much more ambitious effort, the Argyle Streetscape Project (map) was slated for construction in the Spring of 2015, for example. Another instance was completed recently in the suburb of Batavia. It was so new that a Google Street View photo from 2012 showed it still under construction (image).


Montréal, Québec, Canada



Woonerf Saint-Pierre became Montréal first woonerf in September 2013: "Today, the woonerf Saint-Pierre is 7000 square meters of greenery, a hundred trees, shrubs and 1,800 square meters of stabilized stone dust!"

Prior to that it was mostly an eyesore.

The alleyway in Saint-Henri between Saint-Ambroise and Sainte-Marie streets, and between Côte Saint-Paul and de Courcelle, is somwhat of an anomaly: nearly 4-lanes wide, it is one of the only clues that the Saint-Pierre river once wound it’s way through south-west Montreal… this alley has become an informal parking lot for local residents and businesses.

Street View also showed this woonerf still under construction (image) although the silomontreal.com had several photos of the completed project.


Seattle, Washington, USA


Bell Street Woonerf
Bell Street Woonerf by Oran Viriyincy, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Seattle had several woonerfs and more on the way. Some even described the famous Pike Place Market as a woonerf albeit a holdover from an earlier era. An instance of the modern incarnation could be found on Bell Street in the Belltown neighborhood (map) where several blocks were converted.

Schwebefähre

On September 3, 2014 · 4 Comments

Twelve Mile Circle received a wonderful suggestion from loyal reader “Joshua D” probably six months ago. He mentioned the schwebefähre ("suspension ferry") in Rendsburg, Germany. These structures went by various names in different languages including "transporter bridge" in English. They were so odd, so whimsical, so amazingly impractical that I found them difficult to comprehend, much less explain. Maybe this would help:


MovableBridge transport
By Y_tambe on
Wikimedia Commons

A transporter bridge had features reminiscent of a bridge and a ferry simultaneously, except the ferry was more of a gondola suspended above the river by steel cables. It was cheaper to build than an actual bridge and it could continue to operate while a ferry could not, such as during high water or icy conditions. The concept never gained significant mainstream adoption however because of all of the practical reasons one could imagine. Maybe two dozen transporter bridges ever went into operation during their heyday a few years on either side of 1900. Few survived and fewer still continue to fulfill their original purpose today.

The weird design and scarcity only increased my desire to ride one someday.


Puente de Vizcaya


Barquilla - Puente Vizcaya
Barquilla – Puente Vizcaya by Francisco Martins, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0) license

The first transporter bridge, Puente de Vizcaya, opened in 1893 in Portugalete, Spain (map). It gained a nickname over time, Puente Colgante — "hanging bridge" — and "The objective behind the construction of the Vizcaya Bridge was to link the two banks of the mouth of the river Nervión without hindering the shipping," by joining Portugalete to Getxo.

UNESCO added Vizcaya Bridge to its list of World Heritage Sites "as one of the outstanding architectural iron constructions of the Industrial Revolution, " operating continuously since its construction except for a brief period during the Spanish Civil War.


Schwebefähre Rendsburg


Schwebefähre Rendsburg
Schwebefähre Rendsburg by Henning Leweke, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) license

Schwebefähre Rendsburg (aka Rendsburger Hochbrücke), the transporter bridge brought to my attention by Joshua D, commemorated its 100th anniversary recently (map). The gondola can accommodate up to four cars or a hundred pedestrians suspended about six metres above the Kiel Canal, taking a minute and a half to whisk passengers between Rendsburg to Osterrönfeld. The fare is also wonderful: free!


Le Pont Transbordeur de Rochefort


Pont transbordeur
Pont transbordeur by Henri-Jean Siperius, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) license

Le Pont Transbordeur de Rochefort (map) celebrated its 114th birthday recently with several thousand visitors and spectacular fireworks, if my very limited understanding of French was correct. It provided passage over the Charente River between Rochefort and Échillais during some unusual hours, closing for lunch each day and then on Monday morning and on Thursday afternoon, all of which seemed quirky in an endearing French way.

The transporter bridge also accommodated only pedestrians and bicycles which led me to believe it was operated more as an historical attraction for tourists rather than as a serious transportation alternative. The major four-lane vehicle bridge a half kilometre to the west (Street View) would be a more practical solution. Thankfully officials preserved the old structure as a work of magnificence even though long since technologically obsolete.


Tees Transporter Bridge


Transporter Bridge
Transporter Bridge by John, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) license

The United Kingdom once had several transporter bridges, of which at least two survived. One was the Tees Transporter Bridge (map) in Middlesbrough. According to the Middlesbrough Council, "The Tees Transporter is a total of 851 feet (259.3 metres) in length which makes it the longest of those remaining Transporter Bridges in the world" and "is fully operational and provides a regular quarter-hourly service between Middlesbrough and Port Clarence for 12 hours a day."

The current Street View imagery actually showed the bridge in action from inside the gondola. Check it out before Google decides to update it.


Puente Transbordador Nicolás Avellaneda



Recuperación del Transbordador Nicolás Avellaneda

No functioning transporter bridge existed outside of Europe except for one in Argentina. Maybe.

The Puente Transbordador Nicolás Avellaneda (aka Puente Transbordador de La Boca) in Buenos Aires (map) had been mothballed for decades. Recently it became a focus of restoration. Repairs were scheduled to be completed in January 2014 although I couldn’t find any information to confirm whether that actually happened or not.

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12 Mile Circle:
An Appreciation of Unusual Places
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