Bridges of excessive lameness

2 08 2010

How do you measure the quality of a ride?

Distance? Climbing? Average speed? Scenery? Mid-ride snack? Not getting hit by a truck?

Sunday’s ride had it all.

Shortly after Katie left early for her Longest Training Run Ever, 26 km, I headed out to meet my newly-minted roadie buddy, Rich. The ride to his place was about 30 kms. From there we set out for Fort Langley. Total round trip for me, 126 kms, the Longest Ride of the Season.

Sunday's mid-ride snack, a very tasty butter tart.

The conditions were perfect to really put some kilometers into the legs, overcast, coolish enough that I wore sleeves.

Along the way we encountered a few running groups and lots of cyclists, from casual couples on their cruisers, to a peloton of seniors on a mish-mash of bikes with tall, upright bars and classic steel road bikes burdened with paniers, to hardcore roadies airing it out on the rural flats, to a tri-guy who I was able to chase down on the ascent of the Golden Ears Bridge; face it, tri-guys can’t climb. Of course he never even acknowledged my existence.

Speaking of bridges; did the province get a bulk deal on bridge design? All the bridges built in the Lower Mainland in the last 30 years look kinda the same. The Pitt River Bridge looks like the Golden Ears Bridge looks like SkyTrain Bridge in Richmond looks like the SkyTrain Bridge in New Westminster looks like the Alex Fraser Bridge.

Four of these things look much like the others, four of these things are pretty much the same...

Maybe they were going for some sort of unified look along the Fraser River. Maybe, like buying huge boxes of cereal at Costco, the province got a special deal if they commissioned lots of similar-looking and engineered bridges.

Bridges are constructions and engineering marvels. Building structures to span canyons or big bodies of water is no mean feat. They’re often gateways into cities or territories.

Bridges should make a statement. They should take your breath away as you approach them, and then make your heart race as you cross them.

The good old cable-stayed bridge may be proven, reliable technology, but why not jazz it up a bit, like the offset pillar of the Erasmus Bridge in Rotterdam, which became the spectacular backdrop to the start of this year’s Tour de France? Or create some visual splendor with the imaginative use of lights, like the Bosphorous Bridge in Istanbul?

The Erasmus Bridge in Rotterdam was a spectacular setting for the start of this year's Tour de France.

Imaginative lighting can turn a bridge into a work of art, like the Bosphorous Bridge in Istanbul.

In fact the whole Vancouver area is lacking architectural splendor of any kind. I can’t think of one building that would be a must-see to show off to visitors. Where is our Gehry? Where is our Niemeyer? Where is our Gherkin or Dancing House?

It’s as if the architects, and the people who commission them, are afraid to upstage the mountains or the ocean. It’s as if they’re afraid to make a statement.