After an adventurous visit across the top (and bottom) of the New River Gorge Bridge in Fayetteville, West Virginia – one of the local tour guides took a shot at explaining the fear of crossing bridges. He noted “Humans have been programmed for thousands of years to avoid potentially dangerous scenarios. You can’t really blame people for having the instinct to avoid them.”
For the rest of us – it can be an incredible experience. Even if at times the experience is frightening.
While most bridges in the United States are statistically safe – that doesn’t stop many travelers from wanting to avoid them altogether.
A few months ago, I found myself stuck in the middle of a thunderstorm on America’s longest bridge – the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway. At 23.83 miles – the two parallel bridges cross the water in southern Louisiana and at times you cannot see any trace of land. Add the winds, rain and lightning from a passing storm and it’s enough to make you want to sob behind the wheel.
Some people are so afraid of crossing bridges that they have to use special services to guide or drive them to the other side.
Gephyrophobia is the anxiety disorder or specific phobia characterized by the fear of bridges
The Chesapeake Bridge is so frightening to some that a local service called Kent Island Express will set up appointments to get you safely across the bridge. Last year, more than 6,000 people used the service which equals about 25 people a day using the assistance which runs about $30 a ride.
According to a New York Times story about the fears of the Chesapeake Bridge – one doctor claimed to have patients that would literally insist that their spouses lock them in the trunk of the car every time they’d have to drive on it.
Some of the more daunting bridge trips include the highest bridge in America – the Royal Gorge Bridge which sits 956 feet above the Arkansas River at its highest point. The bridge was built in 1929 – specifically to attract tourists.
The Seven Mile Bridge which takes travelers to the Florida Keys can be frightening if you aren’t a fan of water. The lanes of the bridge rest just 65 feet above the Gulf of Mexico. While scary to some – it looks great on the big screen as many movie popular scenes have been filmed on it.
The Foresthill Bridge which crosses the North Fork American River between Nevada and California is one of the highest bridges in the U.S. at 730 feet. Some locals refuse to cross it. But, some locals have used it to end their lives. In fact, since the bridge’s construction – a whopping 76 people have committed suicide by leaping off it.
The New River Gorge Bridge that I mentioned earlier allows a limited number of people to walk underneath it each day on a two foot wide catwalk. The experience is called Bridge Walk. I featured it in my book 100 Things To Do In America Before You Die as there’s no other experience like it. (At least that’s 100% safe.)
If there is one bridge I might consider avoiding – it’s the Cape William Moore Bridge just outside of Anchorage, Alaska. Not because the bridge is too high, too long or in disrepair.
Instead, it’s located directly over an active earthquake fault.
Other Interesting Bridge Facts:
America has approximately 607,380 bridges
Ohio has the most bridges in America (26,986)
The Chesapeake Bridge is often voted the “scariest bridge in America”
The Big Dam Bridge is the longest pedestrian bridge in the U.S. and has never been used by vehicular traffic. It extends 4,226 feet across the Arkansas River in Little Rock, Arkansas.
The Golden Gate Bridge is widely considered the “most photographed bridge in the world”.