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Transport / Mass transit

Video: New Mexico's singing road

Traffic management isn’t usually a very friendly business. Signs in stark Helvetica instruct you when to stop, go, and turn; and ocassionally flash at you if you’re going too fast. In New Mexico, however, one road is operating a more reward-based approach to speed limits. 

A line of “rumble strips” were installed on a street betwen Alberquerque and Tijeras earlier this month. When motorists drive over the strips at the correct speed (45mph), metal plates under the tarmac vibrate, producing music. The result is something that sounds like a trombone slowly puffing out “America the Beautiful”. Now that’s worth slowing down for.   

This video shows the road in action (the music starts around 15 seconds in): 

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According to ABC news, the musical road was actually paid for by the National Geographic channel, as part of a new series about street experiments designed to “curate social behaviour”.

There are six other singing roads in the world, all of which use fluctuations in the road (bumps, grooves or rumble strips) to produce sound. Here they are, along with their track choices: 

1. The Asphaltophone, Gylling, Denmark

This, constructed in 1995, was the world’s first musical road. The road doesn’t play a full piece – just a few chord sounds – but it has the best name of the lot. 

2. The Melody Roads, Japan (in Hokkaido, Wakayama and Gunma)

Each of these short strips of musical road in Japan plays 30 second clips of Japanese ballads. A cluster of giant music notes on the road warns drivers that they’re approaching a singing section. 

3. Singing Road, Anyang, South Korea

According to official figures, around 68 per cent of trafffic accidents in South Korea take place because drivers are intattentive or asleep at the wheel. Singing roads both blare noise at drivers and force them to pay attention to keep the melody going, so could act as a solution to this problem. However, South Korea’s singing road plays “Mary had a little Lamb” – probably not the best choice to keep drivers awake at the wheel. 

4. Civic Musical Road, Lancaster, California

California’s musical road was installed for a Honda advert in 2007, but the city decided to keep it. The melody of choice here is a horribly tuneless version of the William Tell Overture. 
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