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Modern Service Bridges Ancient Fears

Friday, September 13, 2013

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Friday the 13th sparks all kinds of fearsand, not surprisingly, people ready to profit from them.

Take the Chesapeake Bay Bridge: the five-mile behemoth that soars 186 feet over the depths of the Chesapeake Bay.

While crews of painters now clock in on (and above) the bridge for hours each day, white-knuckled motorists are paying someone to just get them across the span.

"Nervous about crossing over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge? If so, you're not alone," says Kent Island Express, a company that operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year to transport cars and their owners across the bridge.

Chesapeake Bay Bridge
Maryland Transportation Authority / Facebook

An enterprising service will drive gephyrophobics over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, dubbed America's scariest span.

The service comes at a cost—$25 each way. But for true gephyrophobics (those with a fear of bridges), it's apparently a small price to pay for safe passage over what several publications have dubbed one of the world's scariest bridges—and the scariest in the United States.

Many gephyrophobics reroute their travels around bridges. Kent and other services offer the option for those who can't.

Bridging Your Fears

Indeed, some bridge owners (including the Maryland Transportation Authority, or MTA, which owns the Chesapeake Bay Bridge) have been quite accommodating about their panicky patrons.

In 2008, The New York Times reported on a number of jurisdictions that provided crossing services for gephyrophobics.

At the time, the chauffeurs included:

  • The New York Thruway Authority, which would arrange (with advance notice) for someone to drive a motorist's car over the Tappan Zee Bridge;
  • The MTA, which offered a similar service for the Chesapeake Bay span; and
  • The Mackinac (MI) Bridge Authority, which took about a thousand drivers each year over the Mackinac Bridge.

Satanic Spans...

As if bridges don't carry enough real dangers, tradition has passed down plenty of imaginary ones.

Devil's Bridges
Wikimedia Commons

Devil's Bridges, like this one in Bulgaria, were said to be the work of the devil, who then demanded a fee in the form of the builder's soul.

Take Devil's Bridges, ancient spans scattered around Europe that date back hundreds of years. These structures were considered such wonders that they were thought to have been the work of the Devil.

The story went that the Devil would appear before the builder and offer to complete the bridges in exchange for the soul of the first person to cross it. Fortunately for the builder's soul, he tricked the Devil in the end, sending an animal across the bridge as its first living patron.

...And Superstition Savvy

Fortunately, tradition has not left us emptyhanded in dealing with all manner of bridge dangers. Herewith, some of that advice:

Troll Below
Mary E. Chollet

Bridges in Dublin remind pedestrians who's really in charge of the crossing.

Watch for trains. It is unlucky to be under a railroad bridge when a train is passing over it, or to be on a bridge that spans a railway while a train is passing below. Motorists who must drive under a bridge while a train is passing are advised to touch the roof of the car—a gesture intended to hold the bridge up.

Beware your farewells. If two people part on a bridge, they will never see each other again. (The bridge is seen as a symbol of crossing into another part of one's life.)

Keep cool. Burning bridges should be reserved without exception for its original intent—keeping the enemy's army from reaching your troops once they have escaped across the bridge.

concrete cracks
Boston University

Do you know what happens to your mom if you step on a crack? Just another reason to properly coat your concrete.

Troll for tolls. It has long been believed in some circles that trolls live under bridges. To avoid a confrontation, pedestrians are advised to have a gratuity ready to pay the keeper and get across. (Trolls may also do a good turn. In California, a troll statue lived under the Bay Bridge and is credited with keeping earthquakes at bay.)

Mind your Maintenance. Cracks are not only a danger for bridges. If you step on one, you'll break your mother's back.

So keep your inspectors, and protective coatings, handy.


Tagged categories: Bridges; Concrete

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