No Man in the Hole: Beijing Installs 1,000 Safety Nets

Watch your step.

Beijing plans to install 1,000 safety nets and protective devices to prevent cyclists, pedestrians, and the otherwise oblivious from falling into open manhole covers, a report on Weibo indicated.

This was once an even bigger problem in Beijing, as manhole covers were often stolen for their value as scrap metal – one estimate suggested that 240,000 of them went missing in 2004. The result was horrific stories of automobile damage, injuries and even deaths caused by falls into the open shafts. Although stronger locks and chains helped end the thefts, accidents still occur when work crews open the holes for maintenance, repairs and upgrades.

The new design (pictured above) has a net that covers the hole and should prevent passersby from falling through. It also includes a reflect bar that pops up like a periscope, that should be clearly visible and help people nearby avoid the open hole. Of course, they could go for the barriers-and-cones approach seen in cities like London or New York, but we'll get there.

The first 1,000 are a trial, which could then be expanded to more manholes if they are found to be effective, since there are hundreds of thousands of such openings in the city.

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