Brooklyn Bridge

Saturday, May 29, 2010 |

Under the theory that if you can walk panic-free over a bridge, then you can drive over it comfortably as well, I have started a progressive program of walking over scary bridges. The more people I speak with about my big discomfort about driving over major bridges, the more I find others who are also uncomfortable, but, unlike me, most of them will at least do it. (Of course, maybe they're just trying to make me feel better and say they're uncomfortable.) Anyway, it's time to put my walking theory to the test. Although I've done some preliminaries on Washington, DC bridges, where I live, there's nothing like New York City for lots of high, long bridge choices, and the first step in the program is a trek to the Brooklyn Bridge.

Last Sunday, May 23, was a cloudy day, but at 70 degrees pretty much perfect for a good bridge walk. With me were family who live right on the Manhattan side of the bridge, perfect guides, and my wife. The Brooklyn Bridge, if you haven't seen it, is a beautiful structure built in the 1870s and early 1880s, with the towers (for the suspension cables) built of stone. The bridge, of course, goes between Manhattan and Brooklyn. Solid as a rock. John and Washington Roebling knew what they were doing when they designed and built that bridge. But it is rather high. Fortunately the pedestrian path goes above the road, right in the center of the bridge, so while walking over it I was far from the bridge edge; no way a rogue gust of wind could do any damage, except maybe to my hat. And I guess if you fell, it would be 15 feet or so into traffic, and there were lots of cabs down there who could pick you up. And there were lots of people, lots and lots of people to keep you company. And benches to rest on. That bridge was built for walking. (Well, it actually was built before automobiles, so maybe it was built for horses, too.)

Back to the bridge walk. The bridge was about a mile long including all the approaches, and walking over it was moderately anxiety inducing, at least at first. You have to climb upgrade somewhat, and that doesn't help. And it does get pretty high up, I'll say again. But with my cool, young niece there to point out the sights and provide real perspective, and my wife to hold hands with at one point (an affectionate couple, everybody figures), and other family encouragement, it was quite manageable. A challenge, but not overwhelming so, thus a perfect start to the bridge walking experience.

The scariness of bridges can be rated, I believe, by three factors: height, length, and width (think of the mathematical formula for volume). With each of the factors getting a score of up to 10 (with higher numbers being worse), I give the Brooklyn Bridge a scary score of 13: 6 for height (135 feet in the air according to wiki), 5 for length, and 2 for width (nearness to edge, openness of bridge, solidity of side supports). No intangibles to add to or subtract from that score. 13 out of 30 leaves lots of room for bigger challenges.

Next stop may be the George Washington Bridge in a couple of weeks. We'll see.