A graphic designer just got his unauthorised redesign adopted as the official Luxembourg bus map

Artist and creation: Jug Cerović finds his new map in the wild. Image: Jug Cerović.

Remember Jug Cerović, the Serbian graphic designer who last summer sent us his take on London’s tube map? The city of Luxembourg just adopted his unauthorised re-design of the municipal bus network as its official transport map. Cool.

We suspect Jug has an ulterior motive in publicising his maps: his day job is working for Parisian mapping consultancy INAT. All the same, we thought you might like to read about how an unofficial map became official...

Transport maps are probably the only thing that all inhabitants of a city have in common. The Eiffel Tower or Tower Bridge are not unifying features; the tube map is.

And metro or subway maps are remarkably powerful artefacts. Not only are they accepted as a familiar tool, but they are absolutely trusted by everybody. Nobody questions them, or their origin, or the information they sport: we all take them for granted.


So, he who controls the map controls the mental image of the city that it projects. He who controls the map controls minds.

Tremendous power, isn't it?

I’d go as far as to say that the map is more important than the network itself. Without the map, a multibillion dollar network might as well not be there, since travellers will be unable to navigate it. If a station is erased on the map, for anyone who doesn’t live or work close by, it simply ceases to exist. In this paradoxical situation, it’s the physical network that is actually virtual, while the artefact picturing it is its only reality. The map is the network.

Once you appreciate the power the map has over a city, you start to believe that its creation is too important to be left only to some administration without public scrutiny. As French prime minister Georges Clemenceau once said, “War is too important a matter to be left to the military.”

The Luxembourg Genesis

In May 2015 a reader posted the then official Luxembourg municipal bus map on TransitMaps.net, describing it as “the city’s spaghetti monster”. I must say, he was quite right about the poor quality of the overall design.

The original official map. Click to expand.

The US news site Vox reported the story – and when the news reached Luxembourg, it caused much unease among politicians and officials alike.

When I discovered the map on TransitMaps, I wondered if it could be redesigned to make it more legible. So I started disentangling it:

The existing tangle...

...gradually disentangled. Click to expand.

After managing to tidy up some of this mess, I realised that the network was actually pretty good – but that the map was not representing it well at all.
So I set about designing a brand new version.

My new map encompasses the entire area served by the bus system with two different scales: a pedestrian scale, in the dense central area; and a territorial scale on the periphery.

It shows an enlarged and geographically accurate city centre, surrounded by a smaller, more schematic view of the suburbs.

Symbolically, the Old Town (Ville Haute) is placed at the exact centre of the map for immediate orientation. Its peculiar pentagonal shape is emphasised, and it is shown as a dense urban fabric with packed building intersected by streets and squares.

The structure of the map corresponds to the morphology of the city: all the angles are multiples of 36°, relating to the pentagonal centre.

In terms of information hierarchy, 19 lines go through the city’s central corridor.

These are shown in bright colours...

Click to expand.

...and grouped by their direction.

Click to expand.

The width of the line represents frequency. Thick lines are high frequency services (those that run at 5-10 minute headways); thin ones are low frequency.

Click to expand.

A further 11 lines make up a secondary network.

These are shown in lighter, pastel colours.

Click to expand.

Lastly, I included various elements of the cityscape, to aid navigation: remarkable buildings, parks, rivers, railways and bridges.

Click to expand.

When it was complete I sent it to the place where everything started, TransitMaps. From there, it was picked up by the Luxembourg media – and the local citizens placed such pressure on the politicians that they had no choice left but to contact me. After six months with the Luxembourg Bus Administration, fine tuning the map, last week it was finally made official.

Now everybody is happy: the citizens enjoy a great map, the public transport operating company can show the excellence of its network, the politicians contributed to developing a stronger identity for the city – and I am happy to see a city adopt my creation.

Here’s the map:

 

Click to expand. Or you can download the full sized version on the city of Luxembourg's official website here.

This unlikely genesis for a public transport map is a sign of what awaits us in the near future: a combination of actors (media, social networks, politicians, officials) influencing each other and coming together to create something new. We have finally moved from a vertical decision making process to a deterritorialised and horizontal creativity network.

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Where did London’s parakeets come from?

Parakeets in the skies above Wormwood Scrubs, west London. Image: Getty.

Visitors to London’s many green spaces would have to be stubbornly looking at their feet to not see one of the UK’s most exotic birds.  Dubbed “posh pigeons” by unimaginative Londoners, these brilliant green parakeets stand out among the fauna of Northern Europe’s mostly grey cities.

‘Parakeets’ is actually an umbrella term referring to the multiple species, which can now be found in London, Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris and various German cities. By far the most common is the Indian ring-necked parakeet, easily recognisable by the stylish red ring around their neck, a matching red beak and, of course, the loud squawking.

In the last 50 years these migrants from South Asia have arrived and thrived, settling into their own ecological niche. In the UK, London is a particular stronghold, but although they may have originally settled in the leafy streets of Twickenham, the birds can now be found in cities as far north as Glasgow.

The story of how they ended up in London is a matter of some discussion and plenty of myth. One often reported theory is that the capitals’ current population are the descendants of birds that escaped from Shepperton Studios during filming of The African Queen, starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn. Others would tell you that they escaped from Syon Park in the early 1970s, when a piece of debris from a passing plane damaged the aviary and allowed them to escape. This chimes with their original concentration in South West London.
My favourite story by far is that they were released by Jimi Hendrix on Carnaby Street in the late 60s. Bored of London’s grey skyline, he set the little fellas free to liven up the place.

However they got here, from 1970 onwards their numbers boomed. In 1992, 700 birds were recorded in London Bird Report. By 1998, 2,845 were seen in the London Area, and by 2006 the ring-neck parakeet was 15th most sighted bird in London.


Darwin would be proud at how well they adapted to the new environment. Toughened up by the hard Himalayan climate, they handle the cold northern European winters better than most locals. Global warming is often brought up in discussions of the parakeets, but it is certainly only part of the story.
It helps, too, that the birds have a 35 year lifespan and few local predators, enabling them to breed freely.

As with any new species, the debate has raged about whether they are harmful to the ecosystem. Strangely reminiscent of the debate over human migrants, often the birds have often been accused of stealing the homes of the natives. The parakeets do nest in tree cavities also used by jackdaws, owls and woodpeckers – but there is little evidence that native species are being muscled out. 

The also provide a food source for Britain's embattled birds of prey. Owls and peregrine falcons have been know to eat them. Charlie and Tom, two city dwelling falcons monitored by Nathalie Mahieu, often bring back parakeets as food.
Of more concern is the new arrivals’ effect on plants and trees. By 2009 their numbers in the UK had grown so much that they were added to the “general licence” of species, which can be killed without individual permission if they are causing damage.

And Parrotnet, am EU funded research project studying the development of parakeet populations across Europe, has warned of the risk they pose to agriculture. In their native India, the parakeets are known to cause widespread damage to crops. As agriculture develops in the UK in line with warmer climates, crops such as maize, grapes and sunflower will become more popular. In India the birds have been documented as reducing maize crops by 81 per cent.

So the parakeets remain divisive. Environmentalist Tony Juniper has disparagingly described them as “the grey squirrel of the skies”. By contrast, the University of York biologist Chris D. Thomas has argued that the parakeets should be left free to move and breed. He sees those wary of the parakeet boom of “irrational persecution” of the bird.

For good or ill the parakeets are here to stay. As so often with migrants of all kinds, there has been some unease about the impact they have had – but the birds, popular amongst Londoners, certainly add colour to the city. Thriving in the urban environment thousands of miles from their natural habitat, they are a metropolitan bird for Europe’s metropolitan cities. 

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