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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.