Five of America’s Best Pedestrian Bridges (and Why They Matter)

Posted 10/11/15 by Katie Harris in America's Trails, Success Stories

October is Trails, Parks and Outdoor Spots Month! Join us in the national conversation on walking by using the hashtag #outdoorwalks on social media.

Spanning waterways, railroad tracks, highways, canals and more, bridges allow us to make the necessary connections that we often take for granted.

Walking infrastructure is not high on the priority list for some communities, but these spectacular bridges in the United States defy that standard, close gaps and allow access for all.

1Walkway Over The Hudson (New York)

Walkway Over The Hudson | Photo courtesy shinya | CC by 2.0

The Walkway Over The Hudson is a pedestrian bridge like no other. Reaching from Highland to Poughkeepsie, New York, the Walkway spans the mighty Hudson River an astounding 212 feet above the river’s surface. The Walkway finishes an important trail connection, too. The Hudson Valley Rail Trail on the river’s west bank now seamlessly connects to Poughkeepsie and the William R. Steinhaus Dutchess County Rail Trail, creating a ribbon of New York rail-trail magic, 17 miles of continuous paved pathway that area residents treasure like gold.

2Met Branch Trail Pedestrian Walkway (District of Columbia)

Met Branch Trail Pedestrian Bridge, Washington, D.C. | Photo courtesy Washington Area Bicyclists Association

In Washington, D.C., the 8-mile Metropolitan Branch Trail (MBT) runs along a transit line, and once completed, will connect Silver Spring, Maryland, to Union Station in D.C., which is a mere few blocks away from the U.S. Capitol.

Being close to transit only matters if you can access the transit station, and for a long time, the tracks served as a barrier to walkers who wished to access the station from the trail.  Walkers were forced to take a long detour that included an eroded hillside footpath and an underpass with very little walking space and fast-moving traffic. In 2015, a stunning pedestrian bridge was completed that crosses over the tracks and directly connects the trail to the Rhode Island Avenue Metro station, providing the opportunity for a multi-modal trip without the rough pedestrian detour. Hundreds of D.C. residents now use the bridge daily.

3Newport Southbank “Purple People” Bridge (Ohio)

Purple People Bridge, Cincinnati, Ohio | Photo courtesy haglundc | CC by 2.0

The purple hue of Cincinnati, Ohio’s pedestrian bridge is sure to catch your eye. But the vibrancy of the bridge isn’t relegated just to the paint job; the folks that use the walkway are just as lively. While its official name is the Newport Southbank Bridge, most residents know it as the Purple People Bridge, and it’s a vital connection between Cincinnati and Newport, Kentucky. In fact, city leaders on each side of the mighty Ohio River were in support of the bridge for bringing pedestrians to destinations on both sides of the waterway.

The bridge is both a physical connector for non-motorized users and a symbolic connection between the two states. And the connections don’t end there; in Cinncinnati, walkers and bikers can jump on the 245-mile Ohio-to-Erie Trail, which runs through the entire state of Ohio all the way to Cleveland on the shores of Lake Erie.

RELATED: Five New American Rail-Trails

4Tilikum Crossing—“Bridge of the People” (Oregon)

Tilikum Crossing, Portland, Oregon | Photo courtesy TriMet | Used by permission.

Portland, Oregon, has long been known as a bike- and pedestrian-friendly city, and the opening of the much-acclaimed Tilikum Crossing in 2015 further proved the city’s prioritization of active transportation.

The word “Tilikum” comes from the Chinook Wawa language, an international language used by the first Oregonians. It describes friendly people, and the accepted translation for the Tilikum Crossing is “Bridge of the People.”

The Orange Line of Portland’s MAX light rail system also runs over the bridge. Nearly 8 miles of bike and pedestrian infrastructure are associated with the MAX Orange Line, including connections to the Springwater Corridor, a 2011 inductee into the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy Rail-Trail Hall of Fame!

5Continental Bridge (Texas)

Continental Bridge, Dallas, Texas | Photo courtesy Steve Rainwater | CC by 2.0

One of the most celebrated components of the Trinity River Corridor Project, a public works and urban development project with a focus on flood prevention in Dallas, Texas, is the Continental Bridge, a former highway bridge converted into a pedestrian corridor and linear park. The bridge, which connects lower income neighborhoods to Dallas’ bustling downtown, is a success story in a city that was once divided by a four-lane road and the Trinity River.

Whether it’s for exercise, family time, recreation (bocce courts flank the upper promenade!) or transportation, Dallas residents flock to the Continental Bridge to enjoy and celebrate the reclaimed public space. Dallas’ Trinity River Trails squiggle across the city, and a connection can be made right from the Continental Bridge.

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