How to Celebrate Bike-Pedestrian Bridges: Let Me Count Thy Ways

A shiny new bridge,  is a local cause célèbre in many ways, for expected and totally unexpected reasons. Sometimes it’s just a lovely architectural backdrop to frame not only cyclists and strollers, but also graduation parties, post-wedding photos, seminal reunions of family and friends.

Gaggle of high school grads in party wear have fun taking photos before jumping back into the rented limousines. Peace Bridge, Calgary, AB May 2012. Photo by J. Chong
Gaggle of high school grads in party wear have fun taking photos before jumping back into the rented limousines. Peace Bridge, Calgary, AB May 2012. Photo by J. Chong

Peace Bridge, Calgary: Frames Grad, Wedding and Family Celebrations
We were cycling homeward on the new helical Peace Bridge in Calgary by Spanish architect, Santiago Calvatore.  Ahead at the south bridge entrance, was a gaggle of excited student graduates bedecked in their long prom gowns and suits  swapping  group poses for photos. The student party-goers caused a minor bubble of congestion among  bemused cyclists, walkers and dogs along the bridge.

Traffic jam for bemused cyclists, pedestrians and their dogs. Peace Bridge, Calgary AB. May 2012. Photo by J.Chong
Traffic jam for bemused cyclists, pedestrians and their dogs. Peace Bridge, Calgary AB. May 2012. Photo by J.Chong

Why would chiffon swathed women and their nattily suited guys even want photos on this red bridge?  My guess was either typical garden shots were boring:   well just spoke too much of “weddings” or it was still too early this spring for a more glorious bloom of Nature.

After these photos were taken, for next few weeks, we have seen several different long-gowned and two- piece suited convoys of fresh faced graduates preening and prancing happily before cameras on the Peace Bridge.  The bridge literally has become a Calgarian symbol for one of life’s rite of passage.

Peace Bridge, Calgary AB 2012. Designed by Spanish architect, Santiago Calatrava. Photo by J.Chong
Peace Bridge, Calgary AB 2012. Designed by Spanish architect, Santiago Calatrava. Photo by J.Chong

Over the years, I’ve cycled to several opening day festivities for just completed bike-pedestrian bridges.  After months and months of public anticipation, and local news charting the barometer of public debate over a bridge’s price tag, it can be special moment when it’s time to walk, bike across the bridge.

On Golden Ears Bridge. Langley, BC. Information plaque mentions golden eagle that is indigenous to area. Ahead gold light poles light up at night while metal fence has salmon shapes lining sideways. Photo by J.Chong 2010
On Golden Ears Bridge. Langley, BC. Information plaque mentions golden eagle that is indigenous to area. Ahead gold light poles against the rise of mountains which there is the Golden Ears Provincial Park. Metal fence has salmon shapes inserted in between vertical rails slats. Photo by J.Chong 2010

At the Peace Bridge celebration this year, they even arranged a helicopter to fly over the bridge several times from a nearby, barely-used helipad.  A Chinese lion dance wove along while stilt-walkers perched precariously and entertained from their lofty height to  crowds below.

Golden Ears Bridge, Metro Vancouver:   Highlighting Local Nature, Culture  
In 2009, the Golden Ears Bridge opening in the suburbs of Metro Vancouver, had special meaning for me. I was the Document Control Manager during the design and construction project phases. More about that work experience later in a different blog post.

Member of Sto:lo First Nations who lived near Fraser River where Golden Bridge spans on opening day for aboriginal blessing and ceremony. Langley, BC 2009.
Member of Sto:lo First Nations who lives near Fraser River where Golden Bridge spans. On opening day for aboriginal blessing and ceremony. Langley, BC 2009. I learned from him about a few sturgeon fish, now an endangered species exist in the waters. Fraser River can have annually up to a million salmon fish swim in from Pacific Ocean.

Approximately up to 20,000 people from all over Metro Vancouver, attended the bridge opening celebrations on a hot June day.  The Golden Ears Bridge is a 1 km. four lane road bridge  topped with iconic gold metal eagle sculptures,  gold coloured light poles and salmon shaped metal fences that line the bridge contours. Construction of this bridge over the Fraser River, also included building 5 highway approaches from the municipalities of Surrey, Langley, Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge.  Along both sides of the bridge, there are protected bike and pedestrian lanes. Bridge opening festivities included an ignaural 5 km. run of joggers and a bridge blessing by the local Sto-Lo aboriginal group, who also showcased their traditional longboat.

Cycling on Golden Ears Bridge 2010. A 100 km round trip between home and bridge. Photo by HJEH Becker
Cycling on Golden Ears Bridge 2010. A 100 km round trip between home in downtown Vancouver and bridge in the suburbs. Photo by HJEH Becker

On that day, Jack and I cycled a 100 km. round trip between home in downtown Vancouver and this bridge. I then, realized my own personal sacrifice for my job:  a daily lengthy work commute for nearly three years on the job.  Each day, my commute blended cycling, light rapid train, then parking my bike in a locker, stepping onto a bus and finally, walking 15 minutes to the construction site.  I wrote about this convoluted bike to work trip in an earlier blog post. I was relieved to have moved beyond this infrastructure project onto other things in life.  But when I saw the completed bridge, I nursed a smidgen of pride to have been on the project team that was responsible for this  local landmark.

Since then, we’ve enjoyed this day round trip several times to the bridge, with a stop at our favourite Italian bakery café and gelatari in Port Moody.

"Stream of Dreams", showcases local children's art of salmon fish. Park grass seems to simulate underwater seaweed. Photo by J. Chong
“Stream of Dreams”, showcases local children’s art of salmon fish. Park grass seems to simulate underwater seaweed. Photo by J. Chong. Background is Sperling bike-pedestrian overpass bridge connecting Sperling Skytrain station in Burnaby BC, to the Central Valley Greenway.

Central Valley Greenway & Sperling Station Bridge: Marking Connections Among Communities
For the celebration day on the opening of the Central Valley Greenway, a long awaited 30-km. bikeway and greenway, Jack and I were on local tv news.  Global tv station filmed a small group of  us cycling over the new white Sperling Station bike-pedestrian bridge that connects between  the TransLink Skytrain station and the Central Valley Greenway  in Burnaby.

This whole bike route is particularily known for its gentler grades and was Metro Vancouver’s first longest, east-west route for cyclists and walkers by joining the municipalities of New Westminister, Burnaby and Vancouver. It is a boon for bike commuters who want a less stressful bike route away from car traffic.

Opening day celebrations for 30 km. bike-pedestrian Central Valley Greenway by new bike-pedestrian bridge at Skytrain Sperling transit station. Burnby, BC 2009. Photo by J. Chong
Opening day celebrations for 30 km. bike-pedestrian Central Valley Greenway by new bike-pedestrian bridge at Skytrain Sperling transit station. Burnaby, BC 2009. Photo by J. Chong

A whimsical simple feature along the way, are children’s handmade salmon art that grace the fence by Sperling station underneath the bridge in the park.  You will see this type of children’s local artwork when cycling by some of the elementary schools in Metro Vancouver  –wonderful, colourful  art that is participatory, permanent and iconic that reflects salmon that swim into some local rivers from the Pacific Ocean.

I’ve been fortunate to witness and join the crowds in celebrating new bridge links several times since I’ve returned to cycling.  Often the event is more than just welcoming a new, often better way to travel by bike, walking or  jogging. Each bridge becomes a memorable marker, an icon in the local landscape, history and lore that will spawn more stories into the future.

Cycling towards Sperling Station bike-pedestrian bridge.Burnaby BC 2009. Photo by HJEH Becker
Cycling towards Sperling Station bike-pedestrian bridge.Burnaby BC 2009. Photo by HJEH Becker. North Vancouver mountains in background.

Further Reading:
Chong, Jean.  Biking to Work in More Challenging or Isolated Work Areas.  In Third Wave Cycling Blog. May 22, 2010.

Chong, Jean.  Golden Ears Bridge: A Nod to Nature and Aboriginal Heritage.  In Inside Vancouver Blog.  May 26, 2011.  More details on local history and culture of the Fraser River where the bridge is located.

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11 Comments Add yours

  1. It is a beautiful bridge, elegant and graceful and unusual in its design. And bridges are liminal spaces, the connection between one place and another, deeply symbolic. So, it doesn’t surprise me that everyone flocks to it – I would too! Great post, Jean!

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    1. Jean says:

      Bridges as transitional, in-between places to match your allusion to “liminal spaces”, is a wonderful way to point out why we are attracted to these places. We do need such places to get across safely. 🙂 I learned something new. Thanks Lynne! For others who more descriptional of liminal:
      “You will not find the term “liminality” in many dictionaries. In fact, it is not in the Second Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary. The OED does, however, have an entry for “liminal,” the adjectival form, which it lists as a rare usage: “Of or pertaining to the threshold or initial stage of a process.” Both liminal and liminality are derived from the Latin “limen,” which means “threshold”—that is, the bottom part of a doorway that must be crossed when entering a building.
      The OED notes that “liminal” first appears in publication in the field of psychology in 1884, but the idea was introduced to the field of anthropology in 1909 by Arnold Van Gennep in his seminal work, Les rites de passage. Van Gennep described rites of passage such as coming-of-age rituals and marriage as having the following three-part structure:
      1. separation
      2. liminal period
      3. reassimilation
      The initiate (that is, the person undergoing the ritual) is first stripped of the social status that he or she possessed before the ritual, inducted into the liminal period of transition, and finally given his or her new status and reassimilated into society.”
      http://www.liminality.org/about/whatisliminality/

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  2. Thanks for stopping by my blog today (I expect to see you in a hoodie very soon!) Love your blog! I swapped a lot of distance running for a road bike last year…..I’m not brave enough to go all the way and clip my feet in yet, but I’m really enjoying some ‘leisurely’ 20km pootles around the esplanade’s of Moreton Bay!

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    1. Jean says:

      I only have plastic toe cups, without the straps. I don’t use clipless pedals. I’ve been riding this way since returning to cycling 20 yrs. ago. It gives me leverage when cycling up hills and also I prefer that my shod feet don’t slip off the pedals by accident. I think you’ll like cycling if you used to be a distance runner. I’ll get to my hoodie one day before I gain weight that will prevent me from fitting into it.

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  3. Eileen On says:

    I’ve actually been on two of these bridges – last summer visiting Calgary we made our friend take us to the Peace Bridge and during Velo-City in Vancouver we rode the other one. Beautiful infrastructure really adds to everyone’s quality of life. Nice photos!

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    1. Jean says:

      So you rode the Lion’s Gate Bridge in Vancouver. I haven’t read your bio yet if you were around Velo-City in 2012. My partner was involved in spearheading the conference for lst half. https://thirdwavecyclingblog.wordpress.com/hans-jurgen-jack-becker-profile/

      Nice to meet another cycling spirit.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Eileen On says:

        We were in Iceland over New Years a couple years back with a huge storm. It really was icy. I’d love to go back during the summer.

        I know my blog hasn’t talked much on my cycling side of life so far. Reading your blog it’s possible our paths may have crossed at some point. I presented at Velo-City Vancouver about my Scout-A-Route ride that was based out of Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop in Austin, TX and I’ve been in a couple of Momentum articles.

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        1. Eileen On says:

          Ooops – so the first part of my previous comment looks really random… I was using my mobile app to respond to both of your comments. I’ll paste the Iceland response again where you actually commented on something related to Iceland.

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        2. Jean says:

          I wasn’t in Vancouver during Velo-CIty conference in Vancouver. Working in Calgary. I noticed you went to Banff in November? Hope trip was ok. Did you bike the legacy bike trail between Canmore and Banff? It’s parallel to TransCanada Highway. Just beautiful views. Which part of North America are you situated?

          Send me a link to a Momentum article featuring you.

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          1. Eileen On says:

            It’s too bad you couldn’t be at Velo-City. I really enjoyed the conference and BC. Spent a few days in Whistler afterwards too. That part of the world is stunningly gorgeous!

            So last year we worked our way up through the Rockies and made it into Canada in early July. We had a couple days in Calgary (made it to Stampede) and then went to Banff. I have to go back and check exactly where we rode – I know we went on the Bow Valley Parkway to a waterfall hike and another day rode to Lake Moraine.

            For Momentum I’m quoted back in issue #33 – the story is about Lance Armstrong’s bike shop. I was hired to do advocacy work by Mellow Johnny’s. The other is a photo on a story about bike culture in Austin, Texas.

            For the last three years we’ve been moving quite frequently – we are in LA for one more month before heading to Minneapolis for the summer.

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            1. Jean says:

              I live and work in Calgary with Vancouver as 2nd home. So I wasn’t far away. 🙂 It would have been great to cycle at that time of year even though maybe abit hot/very sunny. We have cycled from Banff to Calgary ..for me at least twice. For my partner more often since he has cycled across Canada twice.

              Momentum magazine will be sold soon. That’s the latest news.

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