Wednesday, January 16, 2013

On Pedestrian Bridges

Pedestrian bridges are experiencing a renaissance, both here in the United States and in the rest of the world.   Travel & Leisure Magazine did a feature article on The World's Most Spectacular Pedestrian Bridges in May, 2011.

Hudson River Walkway Bridge, Poughkeepsie, NY opened in 2009
The Hudson River Walkway

The Hudson River Walkway which crosses the Hudson River in Poughkeepsie, NY is the longest pedestrian bridge in the world.  It is the former Poughkeepsie Highland Railroad Bridge originally built between 1886 and 1889.
At the time it was built it was the longest bridge in America and the first to cross the Hudson River between New York City and Albany. The railroad bridge continued to be used until 1973 when a fire destroyed the tracks. In 1990,  local organizations attempted to get the Walkway project off the ground.  After 17 years the bridge  reconstruction started in 2008. It was finally completed in October, 2009. The Walkway utilizes this same original structure of the railroad bridge and has created "a neighborhood revival and attracted more than 1,000,000 tourists  -- three times the expected amount. Stroll the 1.3 mile Hudson River Walkway ... taking in the exhilarating view of the water, treetops, and sky -- and you could almost forget that we live in a world designed for the automobile.  Here the environment belongs not to those who roar by at 70 mph, but to pedestrians like you."

According to T&L Magazine the "latest generation of newly constructed or retrofitted pedestrian bridges—where cars are strictly off-limits—takes a number of forms. Some exist primarily to thrill tourists. You have to take a harrowing cable car ride up a lush Malaysian mountain just to get to the aptly named Langkawi Sky Bridge. It's a curved bridge to nowhere that dangles 2,300 feet above the dazzling Andaman Sea.

Other pedestrian bridges elevate the everyday business of getting from point A to point B. From Buenas Aires to Bilbao, routine errands are imbued with grandeur thanks to Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava's dramatically sculptural footbridges."

The Walnut Street Bridge

Walnut Street Bridge, Chattanooga TN

Another interesting bridge is the Walnut Street Bridge designed by Edwin Thacher was built in 1890 and was the first bridge to connect Chattanooga, Tennessee with the North Shore across the Tennessee River.  The bridge connected downtown Chattanooga with the predominantly black workforce on the North Shore in Hill City. The bridge was closed to motor vehicle traffic in 1978 and sat in disuse and disrepair for a decade.  The bridge was repurposed and turned into a pedestrian bridge around 1990.  At 2,376 it is one of the worlds longer pedestrian bridges. It is approximately 100 feet above the river.

The Sundial Bridge in Redding CA is another example of the trend toward pedestrian/bicycle only bridges.

The Sundial Bridge is a cantilever spar cable-stayed bridge that spans the Sacramento River in Redding CA, and doubles as a large sundial.  It was designed by Santiago Calatrava and was completed in 2005 at a cost of $23,500,000.  The bridge has become an iconic landmark for Redding.  The gnomon of the sundial is 217 feet in length, pointing true north, and functions as a true sundial with markers showing the hours on the ground.

T&L Magazine claims, "The most successful [bridges] fall somewhere between spectacle and conduit because they blaze a path where no one felt the need for one before. The newly built Bob Kerrey Bridge linking Omaha, NE, to Council Bluffs, IA, surely attracts tourists, but it has also changed life for the locals. Footbridges encourage new patterns of development geared toward human-powered pace, especially along the nearby waterfronts.
Sure, these pedestrian bridges make a big impression with sweeping views and innovative features like solar-powered LED lighting or the ability to levitate and roll upwards into a wheel. But above all, they reward us for traveling, whether on foot or two wheels, with our own muscle power."

One of the newest pedestrian bridges will be the reconstruction of the High Bridge, which was originally built as an aqueduct bridge from the Bronx to Manhattan in 1848.  For more information on this project see this post.

For other fascinating descriptions of pedestrian bridges you might also click here or here.

Let's hope that the High Bridge will be added as a prominent member of these exciting lists of important pedestrian bridges.

Meanwhile, see this article on a footbridge only recently opened right here in New York City that has now been closed due to bounce.  Yes, you heard that correctly. Bounce.

last modified 10/16/15


  1. Tony from YonkersJune 14, 2013 at 11:20 AM

    Unless you have experienced a walk on a large pedestrian bridge, you will be awestruck with the experience. I can't wait for the High Bridge to be completed. Bravo to all involved.

  2. I had no idea about all this stuff. Thanks