Decoding Streets: Secret Symbols of the Urban Underground
Report by Urbanist, filed below Urbex & Parkour in the Worldwide class.
Somewhere in between city indications and street graffiti lies a remarkably rich and colorful language of secret messages, all hidden in plain sight on roads and sidewalks. This spray-painted slang we walk in excess of and drive along every single day is employed by infrastructure engineers, utility firms and other city workers.
Laurence Cawley of BBC Information lately explored this unusual planet of colorful spray-painted dots, arrows, text and far more, all of which denote what lies under the surface of the city.
These markings may seem rushed and crude to the informal observer, but they are vital to the safety underground power lines, pipes and a maze of other likely subterranean hazards, as properly as to the security of people who operate around them. There are no laws governing this mysterious language, merely conventions and colloquial shorthand that have evolved over time. As Cawley aptly summarizes: ”Its lexicon is numbers, lines and symbols. Its grammar is most definitely colour.”
Colours are particularly crucial – at least in the United kingdom, red implies electrical power, blue stands for water, yellow is tied to gasoline, and green is employed for cables (CCTV ne2rks, television lines and fiber optics). White, meanwhile, is a type of all-function colour for broader communications about street and sidewalk arranging. None of these are spelled out in any official manual in the United kingdom – they are a matter of convention, and, sometimes, contention, as not all organizations use the exact same visual dictionary.
In the United States, nonetheless, in accordance to Smithsonian: “These ‘safety colors’–expanded to include red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, brown, grey, white, and black– have been formalized by the American Standards Institute (ANSI) as Safety Shade Code Z535, which provides Munsell notation and Pantone color-matching details to assist make certain consistency across mediums.”
At least back in the United kingdom, though, numbers and arrows get on distinct meanings due to color and context. Sometimes they refer to the depth of a water pipe, or the stress in a gas line. Infinity symbols might mark the end of starting of a planned street, even though zig-zags talk an intended pedestrian crossing. Numerous of these are mapped out by third-party contractors whose sole task it is to locate and tag prospective hazards beneath. All are biodegradable and numerous made intentionally to fade in excess of time.
If you are looking for a lot more specifics, the BBC write-up goes into detail about the distinct meanings of a variety of distinct marks, but preserve in thoughts: several of these could be distinct to the United Kingdom, or even just particular towns and streets. There is no Oxford English Dictionary tying them all collectively … at least not nevertheless. The subsequent time you consider a walk, take into account taking some notes as properly and see if you can decipher the neighborhood dialects of this curious language on your personal city’s streets.
Lately popularized thanks to TV’s MadMen, hoboglyphs also come to mind – a semi-secret language of unobtrusive markings utilized by the homeless to note possibilities and hazards in urban environments. And 1 has to wonder: are there other hidden communications out there employed by ancient orders, intelligence companies or other groups hiding in plain sight? (Pictures by means of BBC and Smithsonian)