City living is full of perks: an abundance of cuisine options, access to treasured cultural institutions, and the chance to see a rat carrying a slice of pizza onto the subway! But while urbanites may believe they can do just about anything they want, they aren’t as in control as their day as they’d like to think.
Urban planners have snuck in a number of ingenious designs to make people behave differently. Some methods are sneaky and almost impossible to notice, while others are out in the open but with no obvious purpose. Either way, these tricks have a ton of sway over your daily life.
1. A few lucky commuters have come across Yo-Yo Ma playing Bach in the subway, but you can’t expect pro musicians to be busking. However, some cities are experimenting with playing classical music over the intercom to lower rider stress and deter crime.
2. Bogotá, Columbia, had its hands full with an overload of car crashes and a corrupt police force. The creative mayor actually hired mimes as traffic directors, with the added power to mock drivers who broke the law. Incredibly, the accident rate plummeted!
3. The moment many drivers spot a police car, they slow down. What they don’t realize is that the vehicle might be completely empty! Authorities sometimes park police cruisers in public spaces to frighten potential lawbreakers.
4. Entering a crowded public bathroom, you may notice a distinct blue hue coming from the lamps. This isn’t to give off a nightclub aura. Instead, the blue lighting makes drug use more difficult, as addicts cannot find a vein.
5. Is Big Brother watching you? Not exactly. Although there are more cameras in the world than ever, many of the security cams you see in public aren’t recording any footage. They’re props, basically hi-tech scarecrows to make people feel watched.
6. Similarly, don’t believe every sign you see on the road. Warnings of red light cameras sometimes are just warnings, with no actual backing to their claims. But if they help prevent accidents, it seems like a pretty useful white lie.
7. Ever notice that malls’ up and down escalators are often found at completely different parts of the floor? This layout is quite intentional, as it’s designed to make shoppers walk past as many stores as possible.
8. You may come across these peculiar water fountains that shoot straight up. Never fear: there’s a very eco-friendly purpose behind it. The upward angle makes it impossible to fill up plastic bottles with water, thereby reducing landfill waste.
9. Don’t worry, that’s not a pharaoh’s tomb in the middle of the sidewalk. This concrete bench slopes in varying directions so that it offers a comfortable seat for a few minutes but gets too unpleasant for any would-be loiterers.
10. On other benches and ledges, you might notice these metal studs at periodic intervals. Bummer alert: they are meant to ward of skaters who would otherwise shred all over the place. Granted, these aren’t the most controversial “additions” to public spaces.