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South Bay Civil Engineer 'Mr. Barricade' Rises to Fame on TikTok

CUPERTINO (KPIX)- Some may say civil engineering isn't the most interesting topic, but don't tell that to Vignesh Swaminathan's over 436,000 followers on TikTok.

A viral sensation known as "Mr. Barricade" on the social media app, Swaminathan is using the short video platform to educate the masses of the importance of civil engineering and urban planning.

@mrbarricade????‍♀️????????????##bikeblvds are essential for ##bikenetworks We can keep the ##cutthrough ##traffic out of the ##neighborhood ##civileng ##urbanplanning ##biking♬ original sound - Mr Barricade


Long before gaining fame online, Swaminathan received the nickname "Mr. Barricade" as an engineering intern for the city of San Jose. He lent a helping hand in putting up cones for various festivals and events. He was so great at his job, he earned the nickname and a plaque.

Currently, Swaminathan is the CEO of Cupertino-based civil engineering consulting firm, Crossroad Lab. The firm essentially changed downtown San Jose.

The revamp of the downtown prompted other Bay Area cities to see how it could work for them.

@mrbarricade##protectedintersection is the future. ##bikes make ##leftturns from the ##bikebox ##civilengineering ##urbandesign ##quickbuild ##trafficengineering ##larch♬ original sound - Mr Barricade

As some tech companies left the Bay Area for other states, Swaminathan hopes his videos can help other civil engineers deal with issues that come with this.

"You're eventually going to have tech buses, you're eventually going to have scooter issues. All these things that we've been struggling with, we have some great solutions for. Those solutions won't be the same everywhere, but at least i can highlight those," he explained.

Swaminathan's TikTok fame has also gotten many young people interested in the field of civil engineering.

"A lot of people from different minority groups are really interested", he said. "It's really exciting to see where this is going to go in the future. I feel it's the right time for this because we've been talking, in my industry, about historical inequalities and issues with urban planning for a very very long time."

2020 and 2021 have highlighted many issues across the country , and Swaminathan said many of them can be tied to urban planning and civil engineering.

"2018 to 2019 was a really great year for talking about historical redlining and issues with equity with community outreach; working with different immigrant communities and refugee communities," he explained. "In 2020 all the issues we were talking about were highlighted in full force when COVID happened, in terms of communication for the vaccine."

For Swaminathan, equality is one of the main reasons he took to social media to bring attention to civil engineering and urban planning.

"What I hope with Mr. Barricade is that we engage the community and we empower them," said Swaminathan. "I hope I'm able to help enable the community to push their city to apply for grants, and to give everybody the same opportunities that we have everywhere."

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