11 June 2014

Across The Bridges

On this blog, I have posted many images--and many more words--about cycling across bridges, mainly in New York City.

Even before I became a dedicated cyclist, I was fascinated by bridges.  Perhaps it has to do with seeing, in my childhood, the construction of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.  I was living in Brooklyn, not far from one end of the span.  I had no idea of what lay on the opposite shore, at the end of the long cables that were descending like steel cocoons woven from arches that rose like slender, elegant apparitions from the metallic ripples of the bay.  I didn't even know that the place was called Staten Island.

It just amazed me, to no end, that something could be built over a body of water to allow people to move from one place--sometimes, one world--to another.  Bridges like the Verrazano (When are they going to add a bike lane to it?) and the Brooklyn, with their long approaches to their towering arches, dramatically convey the sense of such a journey:

Then there are those bridges--like the Bayonne and Marine Parkway Bridges--on which you feel everything opening around you and there seems to be nothing but water around you.  Those bridges are usually not suspension bridges and thus do not have webs of supporting cables surrounding you:  Such spans are flat or have a single arch in spanning the length, rather than several stretching across the width, of the bridge.  If you're agoraphobic, you don't want to ride across them.

On the other hand, some bridges enclose you.  In parts of the Williamsburg Bridge, these "walls" of girders are rather elegant:

But, at other times, you can feel as if you're cycling in a cage.

Perhaps the strangest sensation I ever experienced in crossing a bridge (apart from the time lightning flashed around me on the Brooklyn Bridge) came from underneath me, when I crossed the Pont Jacques Cartier in Montreal.  The bike/pedestrian path was not paved.  Rather, it was an open metal grid deck.  You've probably driven over it:  Sometimes it's used on bridge road surfaces because puddles can't form on it as they can on asphalt or other surfaces. 

While it made for a surface that wouldn't be slippery on a wet day, it also exposed the St. Lawrence River, churning more than 100 meters (about 30 stories) below.  Also, at the time, the arced fence that now encloses the pedestrian/bicycle lane had not been constructed. 

I can hardly recall any other time when I rode with so little separating me and my bike from a large body of water with a strong current.  It was quite the crossing, quite the journey.

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