While there are a multitude of visually stunning road and rail bridges out there, there's nothing quite like a dramatic, beautifully designed bridge reserved for pedestrians and cyclists.
Perhaps it's the fact that pedestrian bridges are narrower, shorter and generally a bit less costly that compel architects and engineers to push boundaries and take greater artistic liberties; or maybe it's because the users of pedestrian bridges have a more intimate relationship with these crossings than motorists do with the bridges they traverse; it could have something to do with the unique way pedestrian bridges interact with the surrounding landscape. Whatever the case, more and more landmark footbridges are being built to stretch the limits of innovation and with plenty of aesthetic flair to spare. These aren't just people-conveying structures but sculptural works of art.
Below you'll find 18 particularly awe-inspiring pedestrian bridges from across the globe including a newly opened "golden" showstopper in Vietnam, an exhilarating rails-to-trails bridge in the American Heartland and an all-wood Dutch span that has to be seen to be believed.
The emphasis here is on modern bridges of particular artistic and architectural significance and not necessarily bridges, as impressive as they may be, that can claim various superlatives such as longest, tallest, scariest, oldest, busiest or most love lock-riddled. There are no centuries-old historic spans or glass-bottomed tourist attractions on this list — just functional and highly photogenic footbridges that serve a distinct infrastructural need and just happen to look spectacular while doing so.
BP Pedestrian Bridge, Chicago
Flashy, fluid and clad in brushed stainless steel sheets, Chicago's BP Pedestrian Bridge boasts all the hallmarks of famous — and famously feisty — Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry. This wildly meandering wood-decked footbridge is the only Gehry-designed bridge completed to date. (And yes, to considerable consternation, BP stands for British Petroleum as the oil company footed $5 million of the undulating girder span's total bill, guaranteeing it naming rights.)
Snaking 935 feet above Columbus Drive, the bridge serves as a link between two sections of sprawling Grant Park: Maggie Daley Park and Millennium Park, which is also home to a magnificent Gehry-designed bandshell. A huge to-do when it debuted in 2004, the BP Bridge received a mostly welcome reception from Chicagoans. "… in a world that usually favors the straightest route from Point A to Point B, only a superstar such as Gehry could have designed (and gotten away with) a bridge that resembles a giant silver snake, complete with a scaly skin," wrote longtime Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin in his four-star assessment. "If you're having a bad day, I would strongly suggest a stroll across this bridge. You won't get where you're going quickly, but you'll feel a whole lot better once you're done."
Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, Omaha, Nebraska/Council Bluffs, Iowa
Charming as it is curvy, 'Bob' is the first dedicated pedestrian bridge to connect two states. (Photo: Andrew Seaman/Flickr)
With its subtle s-curve and relatively straightforward cable-stayed design, the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge — or, simply, Bob the Bridge — may not be the most audacious or visually arresting bridge on this list. It is, however, the longest at 3,000 feet and also the first dedicated pedestrian bridge to connect two cities in two different states: Omaha, Nebraska, and Council Bluffs, Iowa. What's more, this is one bridge with a strong social media game. Bob, it would seem, has it going on.
Construction on Bob the Bridge — named for one its most vocal early champions, former Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey — kicked off in October 2006 and opened to walkers, joggers and cyclists nearly two years later. At long last, over 150 miles of highly trafficked urban trails within the metro Omaha area on both sides of the Missouri River were linked. (The bridge is open to the public 24/7, to boot.) Anchored by twin 210-foot single-tower pylons and sporting a 15-foot-wide bridge deck that soars 60 feet above the waters of the Missouri for a portion of its total length, this sinuous $22 million span also looks ravishing at night when the illuminated bridge cables — the lighting scheme changes colors for special events — shine bright.
Bridge of Peace, Tbilisi, Georgia
The Bridge of Peace, a bow-shaped bridge that acts as a pedestrian link across the Kura River in the heart of Tbilisi, was roundly dismissed as being too flamboyant when it debuted. Locals likened it to a colossal feminine hygiene product realized in steel and glass; historians bemoaned the fact that it made no attempt to blend into its surroundings. Eight-some years later, however, many residents have warmed to the peacock-y landmark and embraced it as a modern icon of the Georgian capital.
Fabricated in Italy and trucked to Tbilisi for assembling, the Bridge of Peace comes alive at night thanks to over 1,000 LEDs embedded-integrated into its swooping canopy. The bridge's hypnotic evening light show kicks off 90 minutes before sunset and lasts until 90 minutes after sunrise. What's more, the LED-embedded glass panels that line the full 490-foot length of the bridge walkway instantly illuminate as pedestrians pass by thanks to 240 individual motion sensors. (It's impossible to discreetly saunter across this bridge under a cover of darkness.) "This bridge is a symbol of Georgia's way from the past to the better future," proclaimed now-exiled former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili at the bridge's 2010 unveiling.
Cau Vang 'Golden Bridge', Danang, Vietnam
Sure, Cau Vang — the "Golden Bridge" — in the Ba Na Hills resort area of central Vietnam is over the top. And true, it has more in common with paid thrill attractions involving bridges — usually terrifying and completely see-through — that are multiplying across China than it does with hardworking public footbridges. Simply, this 500-foot-long structure is a tourist attraction first, pedestrian bridge second.
But what a structure it is. Seemingly supported by two giant stone hands (they're actually fiberglass) emerging from the mountainous landscape, this gold-painted, wood-decked steel bridge acts as a scenic loop connecting two cable car stations that flank Thien Thai Gardens. The gargantuan moss-caked hands don't belong to anyone in particular — maybe an ogre, a mountain-dwelling colossus, the ghost of Paul Bunyan's French colonist cousin. Vu Viet Anh, a principal with TA Landscape Architecture, notes that the otherworldly design was inspired by "world of gods, giant things and livings things." The Golden Bridge, which also features neatly planted rows of vibrant purple chrysanthemums lining the span's latticed sides, has proven to be such a hit that other countries — namely India — are inspired to build similar scenic footbridges capable of pulling in tourists by the busload.
Circle Bridge, Copenhagen
Opened in 2015, Olafur Eliasson's Circle Bridge in Copenhagen is best enjoyed at a leisurely pace. (Photo: Maria Eklind/Flickr)
Copenhagen, the enlightened Danish capital where pedestrians and bicyclists rule the road, is no stranger to car-less bridges. One of the city's most anticipated pedestrian-bike spans, the Inner Harbour Bridge, opened to mostly glowing reviews in July 2016.
But based on pure looks alone, there's no bigger crowd-pleaser than Cirkelbroen (Circle Bridge) by lauded Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson. Spanning 131 feet across southern mouth of the Christianshavn Canal, Eliasson's loopy work of bridge-art consists of a quintet of connected circular platforms, each pierced by tall white pylons. From a distance, the pylons, with their thin steel cables connecting to the bridge's fire engine red railings, appear as an assemblage of sailboat masts. (This purely ornamental touch is an obvious nod to Copenhagen's maritime heritage.) Those in a rush — cyclists, in particular — may want to bypass Circle Bridge and its meandering path as Eliasson intentionally designed it to be a place for Copenhageners and visitors alike to decelerate and enjoy the scenery. "The bridge's zigzag design allows users to slow down and change their focus. It calls for a renegotiation of the public space," says Eliasson.
Esplanade Riel, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Stretching across the Red River as a "people path" between downtown Winnipeg and the city's Francophone ward, Esplanade Riel is no doubt striking-looking. But this side-spar cable-stayed bridge's primary claim to fame? It's the only bridge, pedestrian or otherwise, in North America to have a restaurant plopped down in the middle of it.
Located in a semi-circular structure at the base of the 646-foot-long span's soaring spire, Esplanade Riel's view-heavy restaurant isn't some tiny grab-and-go hot dog shack. When the bridge opened in 2003, it's first culinary venture was an outpost of Salisbury House, a local casual dining chain famous for its "nips" (hamburgers), grilled pickerel platters and, of course, Salisbury steaks. In 2013, high-end French eatery Chez Sophie took over the space only to shutter in less than two years. Ironically, some blamed Chez Sophie's demise on a lack of parking. Today, a laid-back brasserie named Mon Ami Louis is the spot to stop and get a bite while taking a stroll across the Red River. How can you go wrong with a stunning-looking pedestrian bridge that just happens to also serve up braised brisket poutine and mussels by the pot-full?
Gateshead Millennium Bridge, Gateshead/Newcastle upon Tyne, England
Ah, the Gateshead Millennium Bridge — the first and only bridge in the world that "blinks."
Open to pedestrians and cyclists, the Gateshead Millennium Bridge never fails to amaze nearly 17 years after it first tilted — quite literally — to let boat traffic traveling along the River Tyne pass beneath. A rare type of moveable bridge that rotates instead of lifts, swings or bends, the Gateshead Millennium Bridge opens and closes within four-and-a-half minutes during scheduled tilts. (The movement is powered by four electric motors.) Winning the Royal Institute of British Architects' prestigious Stirling Prize British in 2002 and even appearing on both a pound coin and a postage stamp, the curvy span stretches just over 400 feet across the Tyne as a means of linking Gateshead's bustling quayside arts district with Newcastle. Local residents take particular pride in this singular bridge as they helped to pick the design — conceived by London-based WilkinsonEyre — from a shortlist of contending submissions. You can watch this £22 million beauty in full-tilt action here.
Helix Bridge, Singapore
Helix Bridge is at home amongst other architectural showstoppers on Singapore's Marina Bay. (Photo: Jeffery Wong/Flickr)
A tubular stainless steel truss bridge done up like strands of DNA, the Helix Bridge is the world's first double-helix span and the longest pedestrian bridge in Singapore at nearly 920 feet.
Meticulously designed and unabashedly flashy, Helix Bridge — officially The Helix — is in good company along Marina Bay where slack-jawed visitors will find a gargantuan Ferris wheel (the Singapore Flyer), a spike-studded concrete blob (the Esplanade), a lotus flower-esque edifice (the ArtScience Museum), a boat-shaped park-in-the-sky (the Marina Bay Sands), towering "Supertrees" and a 28-foot-tall mythical creature with the head of a lion and the body of a fish that shoots water out of its mouth (the Merlion). In addition to being ultra-photogenic and convenient for pedestrians navigating Marina Bay, The Helix, with its shade-providing glass and steel-mesh canopy and cantilevered "viewing pods," is an excellent place to linger, relax and attempt to take it all in. Like several other bridges on this list, The Helix is particularly commanding when lit up at night.
Henderson Waves Bridge, Singapore
While the Helix Bridge may be the longest — and most dazzlingly adorned — pedestrian bridge in Singapore, the tallest footbridge in town is the undulating wonder known as the Henderson Waves Bridge. Rising 120 feet above a six-lane highway, Henderson Waves Bridge — part of the Southern Ridges urban nature trail — strings together two large parks set amid lush rolling hills: Mount Faber Park and Telok Blangah Park.
Nearly 900 feet in length, the Henderson Waves Bridge is, as described, quite wavy (some might say a bit snaky), with its most noticeable feature being curved "ribs" that serve as shelter-providing alcoves. Weathered steel dominates the structure as does Balau wood, a beautiful hardwood timber native to Southeast Asia used in the bridge's decking. "Henderson Waves is an excellent example of multifunctionality, the integration and interaction of different functions or activities on the same piece of land for efficiency and sustainability, which makes sense in land-scarce Singapore," writes Y-Jean Mun-Delsalle for Forbes. "It has proven to be a source of valuable community benefits, from recreation and providing shade and shelter to connecting separate existing spaces, demonstrating the importance of the natural environment in decisions about land use planning."
High Trestle Trail Bridge, Madrid, Iowa
Boone Country, Iowa is home to a beautiful, slightly hallucinatory rails-to-trail bridge. (Photo: Max Goldberg/Flickr)
Iowa isn't just known for its covered bridges — the picturesque kind made famous in best-selling novels and Clint Eastwood-helmed romantic dramas.
A couple county lines away from Madison County in rural Boone County, you'll find a truly extraordinary footbridge. Soaring high above the Des Moines River Valley for half a mile, the High Trestle Trail Bridge is the most awe-inspiring and self-consciously theatrical element of the 25-mile-long High Trestle Trail, a celebrated rails-to-trails project spearheaded by the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. The High Trestle Trail Bridge, which was partially repurposed from a 1970s-era trestle rail bridge, takes on an ethereal edge at night when a series of 41 spiraling sculptural steel frames positioned over the bridge deck cast a luminous blue LED glow. Conceived in tribute to the area's mining heritage, the otherworldly lighting installation by artist David B. Dahlquist is meant to evoke the slow and disorienting decent into a mine shaft. (Or maybe just down the rabbit hole.) "The changing geometry of the steel cribbing radiates around you," writes the Greater Des Moines Public Art Foundation. "The viewer moves along the path as though moving through history, through the tunnel of a mine." Heady stuff for an Iowan pedestrian bridge — and it works.
Infinity Bridge, Stockton-on-Tees, England
Spanning the River Tees, Infinity Bridge is a feat of structural engineering. (Photo: darren price/Flickr)
An impossible-to-miss landmark along the River Tees in the northeast of England, the Infinity Bridge is a sight to behold during the daylight hours — make no doubt about it. But on a clear night, when the 780-foot bridge's pair of soaring asymmetrical steel arches are illuminated and reflect on the glittering water below, the whole "infinity" thing really starts to makes sense.
Completed in May 2009 at a cost of £15 million, this attention-grabbing dual-tied arch bridge located downriver from the decidedly less spectacular Princess of Wales Bridge (sorry, Diana) was selected as the winner in a design competition seeking an architecturally significant footbridge that would serve as the shimmering centerpiece of a massive regional regeneration project and, more importantly, a vital pedestrian and cyclist link between the growing north and south shores of the Tees. More than 4,000 people reportedly use the award-winning and locally beloved — London-based Expedition Engineering gets credit for the ingenious design — bridge daily.
The Luchtsingel, Rotterdam
As one would imagine, the Netherlands, a waterlogged and bicycle-embracing nation if there ever was one, isn't short on high-design pedestrian bridges.
One that sticks out from this very crowded playing field is Luchtsingel ("Air Canal"), an all-wood footbridge located in the Netherlands' innovation-driven second largest city, Rotterdam. In a nontraditional town that has one foot placed solidly in the future, Luchtsingel, which connects three once-severed neighborhoods, fits right in. The most remarkable thing about this cheery yellow elevated footpath that spans over 1,300 feet across roads and railway tracks isn't necessarily its design (which is solid) but how it came to be. Per hometown architecture studio ZUS, Luchtsingel can claim the title as the "world's first crowdfunded public infrastructure project." All funding for the bridge came through an online campaign in which supporters could opt to have their names etched into one of the bridge's wooden boards as a donation perk. While it may not be as tall, twisty or flamboyantly adorned as some of the other car-free bridge's on this list, Luchtsingel, representing yet another of many firsts for Rotterdam, is one-of-a-kind.
Millennium Bridge, London
The Millennium Bridge, the first new bridge to be built across the River Thames in central London in over a century, opened with a bang in June 2000. Two days later, the stunning pedestrians-only steel suspension bridge went out with a wobble.
Following two years of structural improvements and analysis performed to eliminate the mildly terrifying swaying and twisting sensation — a phenomenon known as synchronous lateral excitation — experienced by the public on opening day, the magnificent 1,000-foot-long span at long last reopened to visitors in February 2002. The so-called "Wobbly Bridge" hasn't wobbled since. In some circles, however, the epic embarrassment that comes with erecting an £18.2 million bridge only to be forced to shutter it and perform an additional £5 million worth of repairs lingers. (As does the "Wobbly" moniker.) Whatever the matter, the formerly oscillating London landmark is still a towering feat of engineering and design — Arup Group, Foster and Partners and the late English abstract sculptor Sir Anthony Caro collaborating on the bridge's slender, blade-like form — and a bona fide spectacle that attracts Londoners and visitors alike. Offering sweeping views of the British capital, the bridge serves as a direct link between St. Paul's Cathedral and Tate Modern, the famed modern art gallery perched on the regenerated southern bank of the Thames.
Moses Bridge, Halsteren, the Netherlands
Most bridges allow people to walk above water. Loopgraafbrug — more popularly known as the Moses Bridge — lets people walk directly through it.
Quietly tucked away in the southern Dutch province North Brabant, the half-submerged Moses Bridge is one of the most photogenic best kept secrets in all the Netherlands — its off-the-beaten-path locale means less foot traffic and getting in the way of other people's Instagram frenzies. Like its biblical nickname suggests, the bridge, crafted entirely from waterproofed timber, appears to part the waters of an ancient moat encircling Fort de Roovre, a 17th century earthen fortification. As part of a restoration program that kicked off in 2010, local firm RO&AD Architecten designed the sunken passage to act as an alternative to a traditional bridge, which could potentially tarnish the unblemished historic site that was once part of a soggy Dutch defense system known as the Hollandic Water Line. "It is, of course, highly improper to build bridges across the moats of defense works, especially on the side of the fortress the enemy was expected to appear on. That's why we designed an invisible bridge," explain the architects. "The bridge lies like a trench in the fortress and the moat, shaped to blend in with the outlines of the landscape."
Peace Bridge, Calgary, Alberta
Like other works by Santiago Calatrava, Calgary's Peace Bridge elicits passionate reactions. (Photo: Minniemouseaunt/Flickr)
No treasury of architecturally significant pedestrian bridges would be complete without a work by the undisputed master of the genre, Santiago Calatrava. The Spanish architect's sculptural spans can be found in cities across the globe including Bilbao, Buenos Aires, Athens, Tel Aviv and Toronto. Calatrava is so prolific that in 2011, CityLab compiled a list of beautiful bridges not designed by him.
Debuting in 2012, Calatrava's newest and arguably most bravura pedestrian bridge is the Peace Bridge, a tubular curiosity with a double helix design that stretches 428 feet across the Bow River in downtown Calgary. Likened to an oversized finger trap puzzle and marred in controversy from the get-go, the Peace Bridge is an anomaly for a Calatrava-designed bridge in that it's mast-free. And instead of being realized in pure white, it's done-up in glossy red as a nod to both the city flag and the Canadian flag. Built from reinforced concrete and steel and partially encased in glass, the Peace Bridge is used by an estimated 6,000 Calgarians per day (many of whom detested the showy span when it was first built). And while there are a handful of pedestrian bridges that cross the Bow River in the vicinity, the Peace Bridge (price tag: $25 million) is the only one to feature dedicated bike lanes.
Rolling Bridge, London
While plans for London's divisive Garden Bridge may be dead and buried, fans of Thomas Heatherwick can take solace in the fact that the British capital still has Rolling Bridge, another idiosyncratic pedestrian span dreamt up by the visionary designer. Like all Heatherwick creations, there's nothing else like it out there.
Stretching a mere 39 feet across an inlet at Paddington Basin, Rolling Bridge is a bit of misnomer. Curl more accurately describes the action of this moveable truss bridge, which resembles any other run-of-the-mill steel and timber footbridge when extended. Yet when boats need to pass, the cleverly designed bridge folds up on into a giant octagon before unfurling itself again. (Per the website of Merchant Square, the development where Rolling Bridge and the also-ingenious Fan Bridge are located, the bridge is out of curling action for the time being.) Writes Heatherwick Studio of the 2004 design: "Taking initial influence from the fluid, coiling tails of the animatronic dinosaurs of Jurassic Park, the studio evolved the design to create a bridge that rolls up until its two ends join together to create a circle. Powered by hydraulic fluid, the steel mechanism is so quiet as to be almost spooky."
SkyDance Bridge, Oklahoma City
Oklahoma City isn't exactly famous for having a wealth of iconic bridges, pedestrian or otherwise. The sprawling cattle and oil town does, however, have a couple notable ones: the 380-foot-long SkyDance Bridge, which carries foot traffic over Interstate 40, and Crystal Bridge, which isn't really a bridge at all but a tubular tropical conservatory designed by I.M. Pei that spans over a lake at Myriad Botanical Gardens.
Topped with a shimmering stainless steel sculpture that represents the acrobatic mating rituals of Oklahoma's state bird, the scissor-tailed flycatcher, SkyDance Bridge was immediately embraced as a triumphant — and hard to miss at 197 feet tall — symbol of 21st century OKC when it opened in April 2012 after a four-year design and construction process. "The scissor-tailed flycatcher seems to embody the most beautiful ideas that relate to engineering, the Oklahoma wind and our love for the Oklahoma landscape and wildlife," notes the bridge's designer, University of Oklahoma architecture professor Hanz Butzer. SkyDance Bridge and its very big bird — named one of the nation's 50 top public art projects in 2012 — is a dramatic sight to behold at any time of day. But as locals will tell you, the structure truly soars at night when illuminated by a cutting-edge LED lighting system.
Webb Bridge, Melbourne, Australia
The once-humdrum Webb Bridge is now the attention-grabbing centerpiece of the Melbourne Docklands. (Photo: Jes/Flickr)
In Melbourne, a city chock-full of beautiful bridges both historic and contemporary, it takes a lot for a new span to stand out. And boy does the Webb Bridge stand out.
The most striking aspect of the Webb Bridge — technically located in the Docklands, an inner suburb of Melbourne that's been dramatically transformed through urban renewal initiatives — is no doubt its latticed, serpentine form inspired by aboriginal eel traps. (Melbourne sculptor Robert Owen, working with architecture firm Denton Corker Marshall, conceived the design which was then brought to life by engineering firm Arup.) But unbeknownst to many visitors who traverse the Yarra River-spanning bridge by foot or bike, it's also an adaptive reuse project that recycles a 475-foot rail bridge that went belly up a few short years after it opened. The new Webb Bridge, with its curving, cocoon-y ramp, was completed in 2004. Wrote The Age shortly after its debut: "Webb Bridge is down-to-earth, a project Melbourne can be proud of, built among the superannuated towers of Docklands. It suggests, romantically, the fishing nets, cages, middens and naughty hosiery of the old wharfs. It is biological and ethereal, a stab in the dark and sculptural."