Streetwise Standardised Hieragylphs


Something of interest especially for those unfortunates suffering the long under-construction Nottingham tram routes, and quite a curiosity:

What do those [coloured spray-paint] squiggles on the pavement actually mean?

Look down at British roads and pavements and there’s often a slew of squiggles, dots and arrows, painted in a plethora of hues. But what do they actually mean?

In London alone, more than 50 different utility companies have the power to dig up the highway. There are a lot of people who need to know exactly what lies beneath the ground…

Two interesting observations from all that:

  1. The symbols and abbreviations used are ‘intuitively obvious’ to those already familiar with the respective craft/trade. No special training or look-up guides or high-tech needed;
  2. A commonly understood ‘convention/standard’ has become established spanning multiple unconnected groups without the need for any authoritative or bureaucratic steering.

All by the power of “common sense” and mutual understanding? Or an obscure example of “self-organization”?

Or an interesting example of another form of “Free-Libre” in very down-to-earth action for everyday use?! 🙂

1 comment to Streetwise Standardised Hieragylphs

  • Martin L

    That looks to have generated enough interest for a follow-on article and radio program:

    Pavement squiggle markings decoded

    … The product of convention rather than law, the different colours used in pavement markings refer to a particular utility…

    … And as this network of pipes and cables becomes ever more congested, so specialist “locating companies” are increasingly the ones mapping out this subterranean world…

    … John Robinson will be speaking about the language of pavement markings on BBC Radio 3’s The Verb programme on Friday, 4 April at 22:00 BST.

Leave a Reply