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Building Bridges

I just read a story this morning about a new Interstate 90 Bridge being built in Minnesota. Cycling and pedestrian groups are pressing for the new bridge to include a bike/pedestrian path.

"The Minnesota Department of Transportation says a bike or pedestrian lane on an Interstate bridge won’t work for a variety of reasons, among them cost, environmental impacts, aesthetics and safety concerns."

The Minnesota DOT is blowing smoke. Yes it will cost a little more, but nowhere near as much as a few years down the road when people start wishing they had such a bike/foot path and they think about retro-fitting one.

Here in Charleston, South Carolina, they built a beautiful new bridge over the Cooper River that opened in 2005. (Pictured above.) Initially it too had no planned provision for cyclists or pedestrians, but the local people got organized, signed petitions, and got the planners and people in charge to change their minds.

The bridge was built with a separate path about 12 feet wide on one side of the bridge only. It really is not that difficult, all bridges have steel beams that go cross-wise to support the roadway, it is just a matter of extending those beams on one side to support the bike path. They do not have to redesign the whole bridge.

Here in Charleston there is a wonderful organization called “Charleston Moves.” It is a coalition of cyclists, pedestrians and people pushing for public transport. I would urge the people who live in the area of this proposed bridge to combine their effort; there is strength in numbers.

Don’t let the nay sayers tell you it can’t be done, and even though work is due to start next year; it was quite late in the planning stages when the bike path was added to our bridge.

Everyone who lives in Charleston is very proud of their new bridge; it is a structure of immense beauty. However, without the bike/pedestrian path it would be just another freeway bridge.

Walking the bridge has now become one of the “Must Do” things for tourists visiting our city. The views from the bridge are breathtaking, and you don’t even see these vistas driving over on the freeway. They had the good sense to put the path on the side with the best views of the harbor and downtown Charleston.

Many people work in Down Town Charleston, but live in Mount Pleasant on the other side of the river. Parking is a nightmare in historic Old Town Charleston with its narrow streets. The new bridge is just 2 ½ miles across, easy enough to bike or even walk across to work; many do just that.

Prior to this new bridge being built the river crossing was via two old steel bridges. There was no bike/pedestrian access, and no way to get over the Cooper River other than by car. The new bridge with its bike path means that whole new areas for local cyclists to ride were opened up for people living on either side.

You can cross over the Cooper River Bridge quite late into any evening and you will see people walking, running or cycling on the path. It is much more than a means to drive from one side to the other; it is a facility enjoyed by thousands during the course of a year.

If left to the planners it never would have happed; it came about because of local people getting together and making it happen.



Reader Comments (9)

Not adding pedestrian / cycling facilities is crap. We had a bridge here the powers that be didn't want to add non-car space for. The price was an extra 50 million to do that. way too expensive. nope nope nope. Then some one said you could also use that space for maintenance... The cost of the addition dropped 80%.

Hope the people in Minesota get the word out. We should contact LaHood's office also. it's an intersate after all.

June 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRalph

Dave, that bridge really looks nice. Wow, it's really long. Here in Toronto we have plenty of bridges, but nothing more than about a 1/2 mile long. I wish the designers of streets, roadways, and bridges would be more intellingent than to make stupid excuses why not to include bike or multi-use paths. When it comes to the overall cost of the projects, the paths don't add that much, yet they can help a lot. Build it and they will come (biking, walking, rollerblading).

June 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMicheal Blue

How I envy you your bridge. Where I live I can't seem to engage either CDOT of the statewide cycling organization to have a discussion about a proposed I-25 overpass that would serve three moderately active cycling communities. On my cynical days I suspect CDOT understands that, like Michael Blue observes, if they build it, the cyclists will come, and they don't want us.

Charleston's bridge is gorgeous. Kudos to the Charleston alternative transportation people who pushed it. Best wishes to the folks in Minnesota. May they prevail.

June 2, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterbystander

Speaking as a Minnesotan (for one final month) and a cyclist, I'm not sure if it's a big deal on that bridge. There should be access between La Crescent, MN and LaCrosse, WI—but on the route just south of the Interstate. That's a city-to-city connection, and it doesn't look friendly at all.

June 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChamps

Love the Cooper River Bridge. We have a little bridge up here in Buffalo called the Peace Bridge that carries us to Canada - they allowed for a bike path and this place is about the least bike friendly city in America!

I would think the MN bikers will get this changed.

June 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBill

The I-90 floating bridge across Lake Washington entering Seattle has a bi-directional bike/ped lane. It's loud and wet (and when it's not wet it can be gritty) and it's Awesome! To leave off accommodation for these modes of transportation on some spurious pretext of cost and (good lord!) aesthetics, is unconscionable.

June 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJAT in Seattle

After spending a gazillion dollars and taking several years to redo the Bay bridge,they put in a bike lane- BUT- it only goes HALFWAY(!!?!) across to a small island. My home state California (the gang who couldn't shoot straight) couldn't make the bike lane all the way across across the Bay. That would just make too much sense, and, since California politics are bizarre, the result is bizarre decisions like that one. The tourism industry can't seem to flex any muscles to get it all the way across. So we lose the chance to get more tourism dollars, not to mention the Bay crossing vital to making cycling a viable transportation alternative. Every morning and evening thousands of idiots line up in their gas-guzzlers to crawl across the bridge MUCH slower than bicycles ever would, while we impoverish and enslave ourselves that much more to the oil producers. America seems unwilling to take the steps necessary to end oil addiction. Like all addicts, we are in a state of denial called California.

June 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDoug P

Quite fortunate to have bike advocates that speak out and are effective. In building the New 64 highway, pedestrian bridges were permanently removed even though MoDOT claims at their website that such facilities will be improved when roads are rebuilt. Fine print: regional MoDOT manager has the power to veto such "policies".

The result: numerous stores, restaurants and other important destinations that are just 500 feet away now requires traveling 1.8 miles via high capacity roads. Real estate prices fall faster than local averages and livability takes a serious hit.

June 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJack

They certainly can (and should) add that pedestrian/bike path.

I used to ride every day over the Gold Star bridge on I95 here in CT, between New London and Groton. This path is also only on one side of the bridge, and the views were lovely. They even kept it ploughed in he winter (not very well, but t was passable with studded tyres).

You could tell that it was not really planned for. It is very narrow. Two road bike riders could pass each other if they were good riders, but if one of the bikes was a mountain bike or a cruiser (with their wider handlebars), one of the bikes has to stop and lean away from the other. Also, pedestrians couldn't really be passed safely unless they stopped and stood sideways.

One of the off-ramps from the path is so steep and so highly curved, that most casual bikers can't make it up that ramp. Also, i curves so much, and is so narrow, that when you're coming down the ramp you have to be careful not to go too quickly or you'll wind up in the trees. :)

Still, it's there, and it's the only crossing of the Thames that would work for most people. The next bridge is about 20 miles out of the way.

They absolutely have to plan for pedestrian/bike paths on these bridges.

June 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterYohann

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