I’ve Got Five Bridges to Sell You

I started listening to Hello Internet after the endorsement of Myke Hurley, and now I’m a subscriber. Myke just recently selected this as his favorite podcast of the year to give you some kind of an idea of how much he likes it.

I quite like the show, though honestly I’ve been unable to formulate a way to pitch someone else on it. It’s two guys that make YouTube videos about stuff, but the podcast is mostly about the peripheral issues in the lives of these two people. They discuss state flags, or they discuss fiddly little protocols and forms they follow concerning Twitter and email. On the most recent episode, Brady Haran starts up a conversation about bridges. He loves bridges, and he wanted to talk about them with CGP Grey.

The bridge conversation rules were:

  • They would take turns naming bridges they liked.
  • They must have been on (or under) the bridge in person.

Brady was so excited by this topic, and Grey so baffled by it, that I found myself wondering what bridges I would select if I were to make this hypothetical list.

I won’t keep you in suspension any longer.

Sunshine Skyway Bridge

Sunshine Skyway on the Tampa Bay.jpg
Sunshine Skyway on the Tampa Bay” by Zword97. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

I spent much of my life in the Tampa Bay Area of Florida. Your condolences are appreciated, but unnecessary because I had this beautiful bridge to enjoy!


This iconic bridge was constructed after the first, SUPER-UGLY, cantilever, steel bridge was hit by freighter in 1980. Parts of the concrete sections from the old bridge remain up today and used mostly for recreational fishing.

Because Florida is so very, very flat, the bridge can be seen from miles and miles in all directions. Like many bridges trying to emulate the colorful success of the Golden Gate bridge, the Sunshine Skyway’s cables are painted an eye-catching, yellow hue. It really stands out against the blue sky. I’m glad they went that route and didn’t paint it with green zinc paint like Los Angeles’ Vincent Thomas Bridge. Barf.

Brooklyn Bridge


Naturally, Brady and Grey took the Golden Gate Bridge off the table, as well they should have. However, second on the list of famous, and not to be overlooked, bridges is the Brooklyn Bridge. It was completed in 1883, which is 1,000 years ago in American History Years. I walked across the bridge once, on the pedestrian path, and you get an impressive view as you walk towards the spans, with the cables drawing your eye skyward. Literally everyone takes exactly this shot.

“If you believe that, I’ve got a bridge to sell you” — and variations of that phrase, have become part of our culture because a con man repeatedly “sold” the bridge. Most bridges can’t really compete with that kind of trivia.

Sixth Street Viaduct

Sixth Street Viaduct
“Sixth Street Viaduct” - Laurie Avocado
Sixth Street Bridge over Los Angeles River.jpg
Sixth Street Bridge over Los Angeles River” by Downtowngal. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Downtown Los Angeles is a bit of a festering sore. Early in the life of the city, people lived there. Then people were attracted to the suburbs (Beverly Hills and Santa Monica held “weekend homes” for people downtown that wanted to get away from it all). After World War II, LA put all of its effort into a “hygenic” car movement. Roads, bridges, freeways (highways), tunnels, all exploded over the town. The structures designed in that time are incredibly interesting, even if they are poorly maintained, and covered in graffiti. The Sixth Street Viaduct is a perfect example of that.

Even if you don’t know the name of it, you’ve seen this viaduct bridge in many films, TV shows, music videos, car commercials, and games.

The bridge is in three sections. Two reinforced concrete structures, and then the set of steel arches in the middle. Below the bridge is the scenic Los Angeles River — That’s sarcasm, it’s a concrete ditch with a trickle of industrial and residential runoff. After many devastating floods LA got the Army Corps of Engineers to pave the whole river.

The view from the bridge is actually quite interesting — in a very industrial kind of a way.

Original from Sixth Street Viaduct over the Los Angeles River.

If you have any interest in seeing it, I’d recommend you do, because people estimate there’s a 70% chance it will collapse in an earthquake due to the quality of the concrete used in its construction.

Ponte Vecchio


This bridge is so strange. It’s barnacled with shops and buildings that break all the lines. It’s haphazard — grown instead of designed — but the assemblage is so interesting that you want to explore it. Most famous bridges are obvious from afar, but not this one. When I saw it for the first time, from the street along the Arno, I thought it was pretty ugly. Over the next couple days in Florence, passing by it, and over it, I had to acknowledge that I found it too fascinating to ignore.

Bow Bridge


Central Park’s Bow Bridge is the second-oldest cast iron bridge in the US. It is quite small, but that also gives it a feeling of intimacy in its setting. The circular bows that span the bridge create give it a soft look. In fact, the view of the bridge is more picturesque than the view on the bridge.

2015-01-01 13:45:00

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