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Healthy Cities Have Ped/Bike Bridges

Salem's Union Street Bridge, cc: Flickr user Hinzi

We’ve been looking into what can make healthy cities, and how park systems can better be a part of this. One feature that’s come up in several cities is the pedestrian/bike bridge.

Cities across the country are adding these bridges as part of their trail and park networks – including the Stone Arch Bridge in Minneapolis, the Kerrey Bridge in Omaha, the Walnut Street Bridge in Chattanooga, the Junction Bridge in Little Rock and others. Free of car traffic, noise and the unsafe conditions sometimes found on auto bridges, for those cities with rivers and large streams at least one bike and pedestrian exclusive bridge is a must for encouraging frequent exercise and the enjoyment of residents.

A recent success story can be found in Salem, Oregon, where the city retrofitted the Union Street Bridge for pedestrian and bike-only use. The steel frame, former railroad bridge gracing the Willamette River now connects 114-acre Wallace Marine Park on one side with 23-acre Riverfront Park and the city’s downtown on the other.

Since its opening earlier this year, the span has been used for running events, increased trail usage coming from across the river, visitors to downtown who use the river’s parks, and it has spurred the whole renewal of the trail system to extend into other parts of the city from this central location.  We caught up with the city’s parks and transportation services manager, Mark Becktel, who noted that “the bridge has become hugely popular with the community, used night and day by pedestrians and bicyclists.”

Funding for the conversion came from a $600,000 federal transportation enhancements grant, state grants for local parks and trails, the city and the private Cycle Oregon Fund, with Union Pacific railroad company selling the bridge to the city for $1 along with establishing a $550,000 maintenance fund.

DeFazio Bridge in Eugune (with its congressional champion and namesake). cc: Flickr user shanerh

Bridges for people do not always have to come from an existing structure. Just down the Willamette River, Eugene, Oregon built a new bridge from scratch to provide a key link across the Willamette River into its central core. Completed in 1999 and named for the Congressman who secured a portion of its funding, the Peter DeFazio Bridge has is an important and popular link within the city’s 33-mile trail network. Completed at a cost of 2.4 million dollars, the nearly 600-foot bridge has helped Eugene become one of the most bicycled cities in the country.

In the coming weeks, we’ll try to give a round up of several bridge projects.

2 Responses

  1. Don’t forget to add to your list the “Purple People Bridge” over the Ohio River linking the park system of Cincinnati OH to the riverwalk path of Newport KY. This conversion of a half-mile long 1872 railroad bridge to ped/bike use was completed 10 years ago. More than 500,000 people used the bridge last year.

  2. Eric – Thanks for mentioning the Purple People Bridge. We’ve definitely got it on our list. I’ll be doing a round up of several bridges in a second part to this post, and it will surely be on that. I love pictures of people walking on top of the steel frame. Its a great bridge.

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