Flipper bridge could sort out Hong Kong-China traffic switch

Published 21 June 2010

In Hong Kong, people drive on the left; in mainland China, they drive on the right; a Dutch architectural firm has proposed a solution for traffic between the two places: a flipper bridge

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 they do in the United Kingdom 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 — some would add, 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.

TechNewsDaily’s Adam Hadhazy writes in the Christian Science Monitor that 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. Hadhazy notes that perhaps as a result of this outright rejiggering, NL Architects’ entry did not place in the contest, whose winners were announced 14 May. Yet the twisty bridge aspect has gotten the attention of bloggers.

While intriguing, the concept of using bridges elegantly to 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 Hadhazy 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.”