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Pearl River Necklace bridge: a twisted solution to an unusual traffic problem


July 11, 2010

The Pearl River Necklace concept design

The Pearl River Necklace concept design

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Luckily there aren’t many countries that drive on the opposite side of the road and share borders. However, they do exist, such as China, which drives on the right, and the former British colony of Hong Kong, and former Portuguese colony of Macau, both which drive on the left. This can pose an interesting problem for engineers and road planners, but Dutch architectural firm, NL Architects, has come up with a bridge with a twist – a concept that not only puts the drivers on the correct side of the road physically, but helps reinforce that fact visually to help get the drivers into the mindset of driving on the opposite side of the road.

Left or right?

The grooves of a well-preserved track leading to a Roman quarry near Swindon, England, suggests that Romans drove on the left. It has been theorized that riders on horseback generally rode on the left so they could hold their reigns with their left and keep their dominant hand free to offer a greeting to passing riders or to defend themselves with a sword.

In the late 1700s in the U.S. teamsters driving large freight wagons pulled by several teams of horses were positioned on the left rear horse so they could hold the whip with their right. To ensure the clearance of the wheels of oncoming wagons they preferred that wagons pass them on the left where they had a better view. This prompted a shift from left to right-hand traffic in many countries. So much so that today around two thirds of the world’s people live in right-hand drive countries.

Current bridges

Hong Kong and Macau have retained left-hand traffic after returning to Chinese control in 1997 and 1999 respectively. There are already some interesting solutions to the problem of setting drivers on the right track when crossing the border such as the Lok Ma Chau bridge between Hong Kong and mainland China, and the Lotus Bridge between Macau and mainland China. Although both these solutions get the job done, they don’t really communicate visually to the driver what is happening.

The Flipper

Dubbed “the Flipper” by its designers, the Pearl River Necklace bridge concept features the different sides of the road separating and twisting around each other to meet up on the opposite side. Unfortunately it doesn’t look like we’ll be seeing the concept become a reality. NL Architects designed the bridge as part of a competition, but lost – possibly because the switchover technically took place in the wrong location.

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag. All articles by Darren Quick

Very clean, stylish and visually attractive design, and most of all practical :)

Facebook User

I realize it is just a concept, but they probably lost due to how low the one side is to the water. That seems problematic to me, but I\'m not an engineer or an architect. However, I am observant that most bridges over bodies of water have substantial clearance.

Gene Jordan

Very artistic design however, what happen when water level rise, abnormally storm? ships and boats?


The lowest part of that bridge looks to be about 15-20 feet off the water. Probably no reason it can\'t be built in the same style and even higher. Maybe it got shot down because it would be too fun to drive over and they are afraid of heavy traffic with people turning around to drive back and forth.


The left and right debate. Having just done a \'google\' on the subject to verify what I believed already, it appears that the evidence suggest much of the US was divided on what side of the road people drove their carts etc. even up until the introduction of the automobile. The history lies in Europe where Napoleon for the sake of \'change\', converted all the countries which he conquered to driving on the right. This is because he thought it was the english that introduced left hand driving. It has to be something so simple like, the fact that if 90% of horsemen were right-handed then obviously it was natural for them to hold their swords with their right hands and even their lances. What has to be the most ironic thing is Napoleon was fanatical about the Roman Empire and everything roman. And as the news article reports that it was the romans that introduced the road code throughout europe. Had he known, we would all be driving on the left. And all the signal and horn controls in your vehicles would be standardised throughout the motor industry thus reducing traffic accidents by half. Stupid frenchman!



You don\'t have to an engineer to conceive this :rolleyes:

Problem: A general traffic rule for which you can be fined if you do not obey it is that you must drive to the utmost right (for most people that drive in a country that generally drive on the right hand side of roads) if you are not overtaking a car (or other very good reason not to drive on the utmost right), with the exception of traffic jam driving. The logic behind this is to allow space to be there for overtaking cars. Overtaking, MUST, by law, be done to the left of the moving object they are overtaking (except in traffic jams). What you think will happen if you cross a border where there is a lot of traffic and not a traffic jam? All trucks need to go from left lane to right lane and vice versa...

two solutions, disconnect all lanes and swap em all like a spaghetti (too expensive) or make a bottleneck to one lane in each direction and swap those based on the above design.


One lane should remain straight and unchanged,bank to bank. The other should run parallel and at the proper point move upwards and over the other. Upon reaching the opposite bank,it then moves downwards into proper placement.

Now really, is that so complicated?


concept k design mr k, necessity is the mother of invention

Sayed Zainul Abid Thangals

The most serious problem with changing sides of the road is that buses must discharge their passengers into traffic, unless your bus has doors on both sides. This recently happened in Samoa, when they decided to change. It was a very real concern.

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