Getting there is half the fun on the Scale Lane Bridge

Scale Lane Bridge
via Scale Lane Bridge via PSFK

Cunard Lines used to have the ad slogan, "Getting there is half the fun." Hull is a tired industrial town in the UK that the Guardian calls "the city whose misfortune is to sit on a word ladder between dull and hell"; a new bridge just opened that apparently is all the fun. It is an example of infrastructure that is more than just a utilitarian way to get from A to B, but that is a destination in its own right.

The swing bridge is a swinging place; the Guardian's architectural critic Rowan Moore writes that, like Florence's Ponte Vecchio, it's a place to inhabit or linger.

The Scale Lane bridge in Hull is not quite at the same scale as these great precedents, but it has the same idea – that a bridge is a place, not equipment. It includes on its steel forms a curved array of seating, south-facing and wind-sheltered, like a seaside esplanade. It has a restaurant (unfortunately untenanted) and a raised circular platform for enjoying the view. You can take two routes around it, one stepped and the other ramped, and it flows from a section of land-based street relandscaped as a series of "garden rooms".

Scale Lane BridgeScale Lane Bridge via PSFK/via

It is apparently a hit; according to PSFK, " the Scale Lane Bridge has now become a landmark in Hull and is known as more than just a connection over a river. It has seating areas and even a viewing deck for people to enjoy the views and the occasional ride as the bridge moves."

There is an important difference between building a pedestrian bridge that is fun, and one that is, well, pedestrian. If we want people to walk and cycle more, then we have to recognize that they travel a lot more slowly and are more apt to do it if there is something to look at along the way. If we want great cities, then we have to invest a little bit to make our passage through them interesting instead of utilitarian and boring.

bridgeLloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

That's why in cities like Toronto we get straight, dull bridges that end at a narrow ramp running in the wrong direction away from downtown, plopping pedestrians on a tiny landing at a traffic light that never seems to change. Delight is irrelevant.

Getting there is half the fun on the Scale Lane Bridge
There are two ways to do infrastructure: quick and dirty and utilitarian, and the fun way.

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