There was a time when not everyone owned a car, when you needed to catch the bus you had to walk to the bus stop, and city planners didn’t have a windshield worldview and actually made infrastructure to accommodate pedestrians. This time ironically overlaps the birth of the Interstate Highway system in the late 1950s.
As the Interstate cut through neighborhoods it cut streets in two and cut access from one part of the city to the other. Instead of making people walk from their block to the closest street that actually did cross the interstate, planners installed pedestrian bridges. This was, at least, a consolation prize for the traditionally working class neighborhoods; other neighborhoods – likely upper-middle class where the residents all had cars – went home empty-handed.
DON’T SKIRT THE ISSUE
Fast-forward 60 years. Some of those upper-middle class neighborhoods are now working class to lower-middle class neighborhoods. Even though most people own a car, these neighborhoods feel the burden of separation that the Interstate and what-have-become high traffic volume streets have caused. The funnel analogy is applicable to the planning thought-process here: Why build more bridges between spots B, C, and D when you’re just trying to get people from those spots to spot A? How much food would a spider catch if he built his web as a single line?
And inside the city where the web is still connected, a closer inspection reveals that the strands are not as strong as they appear. Many of the existing pedestrian bridges have locked gates (but only on one side) while others have missing rails or people sleeping on them. In light of their state they present some fun exploration and photographic potential. My friend Cory and I got out to ride (almost) all of these bridges the other week and work on our bike handling and bike portaging skills. On a bike you skirt the line between vehicle and pedestrian, so very little is off-limits.