Bridges fascinate me. They can be daring and seemingly impossible, massive, and full of technological advances, or small and human scale. They can be aesthetically pleasing, they can add drama into landscapes and become symbolic of a place.
They create activity, they are connectors of people and places, and they are enablers of change. In developing countries and areas of deprivation they drive prosperity.
There is something compelling about the way bridges reach from one place to another, often across difficult terrain. They solve problems, and they are used by everyone – their absence is felt.
And someone must design and build the bridges in the first place. From the timber beams, ropes and stones of the earliest bridges and those in developing countries, to the gigantic modern day suspension bridges made from steel and concrete. Bridges which are so advanced they automatically adjust the tension in the cables according to the environment.
Great bridges need the involvement of the community. Bridges are not just structures – they provide a service and improve the communities they are part of – so those communities must be involved.
One day, I will work on a bridge project. A bridge which promotes active travel would be great, or a rail bridge across a stunning river or valley. Even a road bridge will be fine if it encourages active travel – but maybe not a motorway flyover!
Some favourite bridges, they all appear to be in France…
The Pont de Muides-Sur-Loires (above). I’ve cycled across this so many times between Chambord and Blois in the Loire. I love its symmetry and simplicity.
The Millau Viaduct across the Tarn Valley in the south of France (below). The tallest bridge in the world. I worked with some of the Eiffage engineers responsible for this bridge when I was bid director for HS2. They all had images of this bridge as their screen saver – that says all you need to know about how proud they are of the achievement.
The Pont du Gard in the south of France, an ancient roman aqueduct bridge. The last time I saw this was when the Tour de France crossed it in 2019. It was scenic and the stage setting for a global sporting event.