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Ottawa has a four mile ice skating highway

Ottawans probably don’t get a lot of snow days off work. Not with winter commuting options like the Rideau skateway, a four mile long highway for ice skaters


Rideau skateway. Photo by Ted Court on Flickr.

The skateway runs along the Rideau Canal, from downtown Ottawa to the south, cutting through some of Ottawa’s densest urban neighborhoods.


Rideau skateway. Basemap from Google.

During most of the year, Rideau Canal is liquid. It’s an actual, functioning canal. But in the winter it naturally freezes over, so Ottawans take advantage.

For the most part the skateway is recreational. Crowds of teenagers and happy couples play there, and advertisers bill it as the “world’s longest ice skating rink,” not as a commuter route.

But at least one person commutes on it, and that’s such a cool idea that there are surely many others.

It’s almost enough to make you wish DC winters got a bit colder.

 Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington.
 
 

January 27th, 2015 | Permalink | {num}Comments
Tags: fun, parks, transportation



Accounting for population, the world map looks totally different

This is a world population cartogram, a false-geography map that resizes countries according to their population. It’s an interesting way to view the world, and compared to common projections perhaps more accurate, in its own way.


Map from Reddit user TeaDranks.

The United States is the world’s fourth largest country by land area, and third largest by population, so it’s not particularly distorted compared to geographic projections. But many other countries are.

China (1.4 billion) and India (1.3 billion) visually dominate, being by far the world’s two most populous countries. Others that stand out with seemingly oversized populations are Nigeria, Bangladesh, Japan, and the Philippines.

On the other end of the spectrum, the world’s two largest countries by land area are much reduced. Russia’s population of 146 million is still good enough for 9th highest globally, but that appears unimpressive against its normally huge area. And Canada, the world’s second largest country but only its 37th most populous, is nothing but a tiny sliver.

What stands out to you?

 Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington.
 
 
 

January 26th, 2015 | Permalink | {num}Comments
Tags: demographics, fun, maps



Australia has an enormous nationwide beltway

Washington’s I-495 beltway is a 64 mile long loop. London’s M-25 orbital motorway is 117 miles. They seem big, but they’re practically microscopic next to the greatest ring road on Earth, Australia’s 9,000-mile Highway 1.


Map from the Commonwealth of Australia.

In fact, Highway 1 is the longest single highway in the world. It’s 32% longer than Russia’s Trans-Siberian Highway, and almost three times longer than the longest US Interstate, I-90.

The Australian government created Highway 1 in 1955, by compiling a network of existing local and regional highways under a single banner.

Unlike American Interstates, Highway 1 isn’t fully limited access for its entire length. Near big cities like Sydney or Melbourne it looks like an Interstate, but many sections in rural areas are simple two-lane roads, and some extremely isolated sections are even more basic.

All hail the king of ring roads.

 Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington.
 
 
 

January 12th, 2015 | Permalink | {num}Comments
Tags: fun, maps, roads/cars, transportation



Amsterdam plays spot the Christmas streetcar

Remember #bikeinbloom, when Capital Bikeshare dressed one of its bikes up in cherry blossom regalia? Every Christmas, Amsterdam does the same thing with one of its famous streetcars.

Amsterdamers call it the “kersttram”, or “Christmas tram.”


Photo from Alexander Meijer on Flickr.

Amsterdam isn’t alone. Other cities around the world partake in the same fun with their own trams. Among them: Budapest, Zurich, and San Francisco.

How about it, DDOT? Maybe next year, when H Street is finally up and running?

 Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington.
 
 

December 18th, 2014 | Permalink | {num}Comments
Tags: fun, streetcar, transportation



San Francisco street lights will animate subway trains below

A public art installation on San Francisco’s Market Street will add animated lights following the movement of subway trains running directly below.


Image from Illuminate The Arts.

The project is called “LightRail,” and according to its sponsors it will be the world’s first “subway-responsive light sculpture.”

Two LED strings will stretch above Market Street for two miles through downtown San Francisco. Using real-time arrival data, the strings will visualize movement of BART and Muni trains directly underneath the street.

Sponsors hope LightRail will open in 2015, and will remain in place until at least 2018. If it proves popular, officials may decide to keep it up longer.

Without a doubt, this is one of the coolest public art projects I’ve ever seen.

 Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington.
 
 
 

December 17th, 2014 | Permalink | {num}Comments
Tags: fun, lightrail, metrorail, transportation



If we build cities in space, this is what they’ll look like

These stills from the four minute film Wanderers beautifully show what human civilization might look like with colonies on Mars, in the asteroid belt, and on the moons of Jupiter, Saturn, and Uranus.


Cities on Saturn’s moon Iapetus. All images from Erik Wernquist’s Wanderers.

Though stunning, these images are not mere fantasies. They’re based on real scientific ideas about what a spacegoing civilization would likely look like, given foreseeable future technology.

The film is by Swedish artist Erik Wernquist, who draws inspiration from hard sci-fi author Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Mars trilogy, as well as his novel 2312.

The first image, above, shows a series of domed settlements on Saturn’s icy moon Iapetus. Iapetus has a giant equatorial ridge that runs around the entire moon like an actual physical equator. The views of ringed Saturn from atop Iapetus’ ridge would be among the most dazzling in the solar system.


Bird suit fliers on Titan.

This second image shows another moon of Saturn, Titan, where the human-powered transportation equivalent to bicycling would be a bird suit.

Titan is larger than the planet Mercury, has rivers and oceans of liquid methane, and an atmosphere thicker than Earth’s. Its combination of thick atmosphere and low gravity would make it possible for humans to fly using nothing but strapped-on wings.


“Terraruim” colony, from a hollowed cylindrical asteroid.

This third image shows an O’Neill cylinder colony, or what Wernquist and Robinson call a “terrarium.” It’s a cylindrical hollowed out asteroid that astronauts have filled with an atmosphere and terraformed with a habitable landscape.

That may seem like a lot of effort, but for a spacegoing civilization asteroids offer many advantages, especially for transportation purposes. Their extremely low gravity makes launches and landings much easier than any planet or moon, while they still have enough raw materials to mine and export.


Martian space elevator.

This last image shows a space elevator ferrying people and goods between orbit and a brightly lit metropolis on the surface of Mars.

Space elevators would have to be tens of thousands of miles long, but would negate the need for expensive chemical rockets, making space vastly easier and cheaper to access.

They’re exactly the sort of revolutionary transportation system that could completely change how humanity organizes itself. Prosperous port cities would be sure to form at the base of any elevators ever built, like futuristic New Yorks at the mouth of a celestial Hudson River.

Amazingly, space elevators are not that far-fetched. Scientists understand elevators’ physics well enough that they may be buildable within the next century.

Be sure to watch the four-minute film, and check out Wernquist’s gallery for more of these beautiful images.

 Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington.
 
 
 

December 2nd, 2014 | Permalink | {num}Comments
Tags: fun, master planning, proposal, transportation



For one day, Metro has a Pink Line

For Veteran’s Day festivities today, Metro is running an unusual service pattern, with no Blue Line. It’ll be rough for commuters, but neat for transit nerds. Why? Say hello to the Pink Line, for one day only.


“Special trains” between Arlington Cemetery and National Airport, illustrated with pink. Original image from WMATA.

Without regular Blue Line trains, Metro is running this special Pink Line to provide service to Arlington Cemetery, which otherwise wouldn’t have any trains.

The map doesn’t actually include the words “Pink Line” anywhere, and trains running this route will probably simply be labelled “Special,” without any color.

But the map shows pink, so I think we can claim it.

 Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington.
 
 
 

November 11th, 2014 | Permalink | {num}Comments
Tags: fun, metrorail, transportation



With its new plaza, Tysons begins to feel urban

Metro’s Silver Line isn’t the only indication the transformation of Tysons Corner is clearly underway. Further undeniable evidence: The Plaza, a popular new urban-style open space at the front door to Tysons Corner Center mall.

The Plaza (that’s its official name) is on the north side of the mall, near the pedestrian bridge from the Tysons Corner Metro station. Three new high-rises are under construction around the plaza, tightly enclosing the space like a genuine city square.


The Plaza and its surroundings. Original photo from Macerich.

The pedestrian bridge to the Metro station isn’t open yet, because the high-rise it connects is still under construction. But when all is said and done, The Plaza will become the main entry point to the mall from the Metro. In a very real sense it will become the center of this emerging urban neighborhood.

Befitting Tysons, The Plaza is a thoroughly contemporary update on the classic city square. There’s no marble statue in the middle, no grand fountain like in Dupont Circle. Instead, there are padded couches, small-scale artistic flourishes, and outdoor games.

Couches (left), and sculpted birds (right).

Ping pong (left) and corn hole (right).

The first plaza-fronting retail, a Shake Shack, opened earlier this week. More is coming soon.

One crucial difference between The Plaza and a traditional city square is who owns it. This may masquerade as civic space, but it’s clearly private property. Security guards patrol the square, and you can bet homeless people aren’t welcome to sleep on benches.

But still, The Plaza is a big step forward for Tysons. It’s a genuine gathering place, and people are using it. Even without the Metro connection, plenty of other people were hanging out nearby when I visited last weekend. It’s not the kind of place that a mere 20th Century office park would support.

 Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington.
 
 
 

August 14th, 2014 | Permalink | {num}Comments
Tags: development, fun, parks, urbandesign



A “no cellphones” express walking lane appeared on a DC sidewalk. What’s the story?

A curious thing appeared on a downtown DC sidewalk this week: Dedicated lanes for pedestrians talking on cellphones, with an express lane to the side for everyone else.


Photo by Rob Pegoraro on Flickr.

The lanes aren’t a half-baked experiment from DDOT. They’re actually a stunt from National Geographic.

National Geographic workers added the sidewalk lanes, with permission from DDOT, to film people’s reactions for an upcoming TV show about human behavior.

Film crews recorded pedestrians’ reactions for several hours yesterday. The most common reaction seemed to be curiosity, but according to Yahoo! Tech columnist Rob Pegoraro, the new lanes did inspire many people to move to one side or the other.

The sidewalk lanes are marked on the 1000 block of 18th Street NW, between K Street and L Street.

This might have drawn inspiration from a “tourist lane” New York-based group Improv Everywhere painted on a Manhattan sidewalk in 2010.

 Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington.
 
 
 

July 18th, 2014 | Permalink | {num}Comments
Tags: fun, pedestrians, social, transportation



The best picture of yesterday’s double rainbow

Yesterday evening DC was blessed with a lovely double rainbow. It seemed like just about everyone in town tweeted pictures of it.

But this one, from a 13th floor balcony near Massachusetts Avenue, is too great not to share.


Photo from reddit user nodecore.

July 9th, 2014 | Permalink | {num}Comments
Tags: fun, galleries



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