Cross that bridge when you come to it
October 3, 2015 10:18 AM   Subscribe

Gephyrophobia is an anxiety disorder characterized by a fear of bridges. No not those bridges. If you suffer from this disorder (as I do) you may not want to read this list of bridge collapses. You may also not want to read that the US Department of Transportation rates 1 out of 9 bridges in the country as deficient. Even worse, here's an awesome interactive map showing your local bridge evaluation scores from the USDOT.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln (55 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Sorry, realized I made a very US-centric assumption in my phrasing. As far as I know world-wide bridge conditions might be better where you live. Hooray for legislatures who can actually raise taxes for infrastructure!
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 10:21 AM on October 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

The Loma Prieta earthquake bridge collapse didn't give me a fear of bridges, but I drove warily on the upper deck and refused to take the lower deck of I-35 in Austin for years after seeing footage of it. It's strange what sorts of things really hit you where you live.
posted by immlass at 10:31 AM on October 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

There are actually car services for the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel where you can pay somebody to drive your car across and make pleasant, distracting conversation while you sit in the passenger seat.
posted by indubitable at 10:37 AM on October 3, 2015 [12 favorites]

I would rather drive around lake michigan to get to the UP than cross the Might Mac on a windy day (or any day, for that matter).
posted by HuronBob at 10:37 AM on October 3, 2015 [4 favorites]

I hate this bridge
posted by T.D. Strange at 10:53 AM on October 3, 2015

Is this related to Agoraphobia that debilitating terror of angora sweaters?

Anyway I took a significant detour to drive over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and it was amazing, really worth a drive. I guess I don't have that syndrome I was just disappointed that there was not a way to stop and take a long touristic gander at all the boats.
posted by sammyo at 10:57 AM on October 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Severe sufferers of this condition break into a sweat every time The Big Lebowski comes on tv.
posted by dr_dank at 11:00 AM on October 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

Do Not Watch if this is your syndrome.
posted by sammyo at 11:04 AM on October 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

posted by mwhybark at 11:07 AM on October 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

Wow, I'm pretty psyched to find out that this thing I thought was idiosyncratic to me is actually an identified, named disorder. (Seriously!)
posted by Asparagus at 11:09 AM on October 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

A different reason to fear bridges.

(no fear of Jeff Bridges here, SLO's Downtown Brew pub was where he started playing guitar publicly and put together his perfectly-named backup band "The Abiders")
posted by oneswellfoop at 11:30 AM on October 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

I am mostly okay with bridges but tunnels are generally terrible.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:36 AM on October 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Driving over bridges is fine. Plus, most bridges in my area don't really have a bunch of visibility out the sides.

But going under an overpass? Oh god, oh man.

The worst is at Secaucus train station in New Jersey. For those not around the area, that's a big train station that's at the intersection of a bunch of NJTransit lines, one stop before New York Penn Station. It's a great place to park next to if you want to go to New York, as it's right off the NJ Turnpike. Unfortunately, the entrance to the train station is underneath an overpass for the Turnpike. So you get to hear a bunch of speeding cars passing overhead on one of the busiest roads. No car stereo or steel shell between you and the concrete, just your weak human body hearing every car.
posted by mccarty.tim at 11:43 AM on October 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

coincidence or kara? I picked up my bridge from my dentist this morning! When I got the price, I told him building the new Tappan Zee bridge in NY-NJ cheaper.
posted by Postroad at 11:45 AM on October 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

I actually really like tunnels. Especially on a bright day. You give your eyes a rest and get to annoy passengers by talking about how hard it must be to bore a hole through a mountain, or how leaky coaxial cables are the reason you can get cell-phone service in Lincoln tunnel.
posted by mccarty.tim at 11:46 AM on October 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

I was afraid of bridges, particularly long bridges over water, as a child. I really hated the 5 mile span of I-10 between Slidell and New Orleans, which we crossed frequently to visit my maternal grandparents.

For the last 25 years or so I've commuted across the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, which at 24 miles is the longest continuous bridge across open water in the world. Humans can get used to anything.
posted by Bringer Tom at 11:56 AM on October 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

I35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis, previously. In the aftermath, a structural rating list came out for other bridges in the state. Some of them were in worse shape, which caused a few people to detour around them.
posted by ZeusHumms at 11:59 AM on October 3, 2015

Have you ever ridden a train over the Hell Gate Bridge? At its highest point it's 135 feet in the air, which feels fine while you're actually on the bridge because you are surrounded by girders. What's spooky is when you're on the south side approach. It feels like the train is flying through the air because you can't see the track or the trestle the track is on.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 12:04 PM on October 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

In Quebec, Pont Champlain is a butt-pucker of a rotting bridge to drive across and I hated being stuck on it during rush hour when going and coming from Montreal.
posted by Kitteh at 12:09 PM on October 3, 2015

I was surprised at the number of bridges around me; mostly canal crossings. The worst part is how many Structurally Deficient ones I've driven over and didn't notice. Which, I suppose, is part of the problem.
posted by zinon at 12:47 PM on October 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

I am mostly okay with bridges but tunnels are generally terrible.

Definitely don't move to Hampton Roads.

Sometimes when I'm going on halfway through one of the tunnels and traffic grinds to a halt, I can picture the river flooding through both ends and being trapped in there until I drown.
posted by indubitable at 12:52 PM on October 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

I haven't looked much into whether it's feasible, but I want an extension to Waze that lets you know whether the bridge you're about to drive over is structurally deficient. Figure it would get quite a few people appropriately riled up.
posted by waninggibbon at 12:55 PM on October 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

You hit this bridge just after clearing the pass north from Santa Barbara on the 154. At the right time, just as the marine layer is burning off, it's like driving off the top of a mountain and just into the clouds. Can't see where the bridge ends, can't see anything at all, you just go forward with the sense that it is rather a long way down.
posted by carsonb at 1:06 PM on October 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

I don't fear bridges in general, but driving in high places (bridge, overpass, mountain road) is really really stressful. My brain keep telling me "oh no you are much too close to an endless void down which you can plummet easily, you should really be going very slowly and holding on to solid things, aaaaah why are you going so fast in this tiny fragile box noooo you are going to die!" and I can't turn it off. It doesn't help to be the passenger either. I think being knocked unconscious for the duration is the only thing that would help.

The thing I enjoy when I am on a rollercoaster is the thing I can't deal with in a car. Maybe because I know rollercoaster cars are hooked in securely to their chain, unlike my vehicle, which could hit a slick spot and go spinning off into space so very easily.
posted by emjaybee at 1:38 PM on October 3, 2015 [4 favorites]

I developed a white knuckle severe dread of bridges while living in Jacksonville, the only thing worse, if having a panic attack, is stopping on the bridge.
posted by clavdivs at 1:46 PM on October 3, 2015

I drove over the Minneapolis I35 on the day it collapsed in the morning. There were holes is the deck, tons of construction workers and equipment and I remember that it felt weird, I remember getting some butterflies in my stomach. I swear that I could feel the bridge quivering ever so slightly.

On the ride home for the evening commute I took the Hennepin Ave bridge, incidentally the site of the first permanent bridge over the Mississippi. The I35 bridge collapsed as I was driving on the Hennepin Ave bridge, which is in view of the I35 bridge. I was looking ahead at traffic listening to loud music and didn't hear or see the event. I found out when before I got home, I ended up biking back to see the smoke and flames of a burning schoolbus, debris and an Army reserve helicopter flying overhead. It looked like a scene out of Iraq.

I'm Ubering over the new 35W bridge right now. I'm glad that my experience did not caused me to experience any phobia. I'm grateful I didn't drive over the bridge on my drive home.
posted by thebestusernameever at 1:50 PM on October 3, 2015 [7 favorites]

The bridge I use for my commute will be closing to traffic in two weeks. It will be coming down at Christmas rebuilt over the course of a year and a half. The urban highway underneath will be shut down for five days for the demolition. It will be covered with a thick layer of dirt to catch the chunks of falling concrete without damaging the asphalt.

I'll miss my short commute, but the bridge already has a smaller bridge underneath to catch the concrete it periodically sheds. It has to go. It's a little worrying that my neighborhood will be isolated and our businesses will suffer, but maybe it will be a good time for the kids in the neighborhood to learn how to cross the street without all the through traffic speeding to get somewhere else.
posted by Alison at 2:33 PM on October 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

I used to drive truck and I loved the view over the railing on the bridges (you sit ~10' high in a big rig) until I switched to a cab over where you sit right on the edge. If you get in the far left lane (like on a double deck bridge, Bay Bridge e.g.) it gets a little more exciting.
Tunnels? Tunnels are for "testing" jake brakes, the steeper the tunnel the better - Alameda tube e.g.
Here's what I mean - NSFW for language (turn up your speakers or avoid all together depending on your love/hate of trucks: this charming idiot.
posted by Alter Cocker at 2:53 PM on October 3, 2015

It needs to be highlighted that one of the reasons for the perilous state of American bridges is the funding mechanism for roads in the United States. The worse your state's bridges, the more money your state gets. But the states don't have to use all that money to fix the bridges. So state DOTs that spend less on bridge maintenance actually end up with more federal money.

From the same site as the map link:

Congress also must ensure funds sent to states for bridge repair are used only for that purpose. Today, states can transfer up to 50 percent of their bridge funds to other purposes — even if they have bridges clearly in need of repair.
posted by GregorWill at 3:56 PM on October 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

Bridges? Tunnels? Yes, please!

One of my most memorable trips was riding a double stack freight train over the Keddie Wye. That's a 3-way railroad intersection, on a trestle, over a canyon, going into a tunnel. It's great.

Watch a video of a double stack container train emerging from the tunnel onto the trestle.
posted by ryanrs at 3:56 PM on October 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

The only bridge I've ever been afraid of is the terrifyingly tall, very long, and extremely narrow Chesapeake Bay Bridge that connects Maryland's Eastern Shore to the rest of the state. I love visiting the Eastern Shore but JFC do I hate, hate, hate driving over that bridge (even if I'm just a passenger!). I would rather drive through a tunnel--tunnels are awesome.
posted by a strong female character at 3:58 PM on October 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

I grew up going over this bridge on the way to my grandparents house, and it was made worse by my mom and dad telling me every single time about the 7-UP truck that drove off the side.
posted by 4ster at 4:30 PM on October 3, 2015

I love driving across the Chesapeake Bay bridge.
posted by Wolfdog at 6:22 PM on October 3, 2015

I remember reading about someone with bridge phobia in Reader's Digest as a kid. Hoo boy, am I glad I don't have that one.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:26 PM on October 3, 2015

Bridges and tunnels, eh? Then the Tokyo Bay Aqua-Line is a twofer.

It's a 4.4 km bridge connected to a 9.6 km tunnel. The transition point is an artificial island called Umihotaru which contains "restaurants, shops and amusement facilities".
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:48 PM on October 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

For the bridge/tunnel phobics, there's always the Øresund Link between Copenhagen & Malmö for a perfect storm of terror. My favorite bridge is the Carrick-a Rede in county Antrim. Try that one carrying an infant in a backpack.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 10:13 PM on October 3, 2015

Love bridges, hate tunnels. When I was born we lived on Coronado; the hospital was in San Diego. I took my first long, crazy bridge ride when I was just one day old and then over and over through infancy. I think this is the only explanation for how a bridge that makes you feel as though you culd keep driving right over the edge feels like comfort instead of fear.
posted by dame at 10:28 PM on October 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Oops I forgot pics!
posted by dame at 10:31 PM on October 3, 2015

I was terrified of the Skyway as a child. I used to keep my eyes closed until we were off the bridge. Why? Because the approach to the bridge is so steep that you can't see the road under the support structure over it, and somehow, to my mind as a child, there was no road and we had to drive over the support beams. It scared the living hell out of me every time.

Now that I'm older, it's the fastest way into and out of Chicago to get to Michigan, but it still gives me the creeps. I can't find any mention of it online, but I remember hearing that it used to be so poorly kept that at one point, a truck simply fell through the bridge. True or not, utterly believable.

As for the Aqualine, fun fact: the English translation of Aqualine is 'boondoggle.' All highways in Japan are expected to pay for their own construction and upkeep, so tolls are prohibitively high (it can be cheaper for Mrs. Ghidorah and I to take the train into Tokyo instead of drive). The Aqualine is, well, not heavily used, so the response is to make the tolls even higher in hopes of paying it off...
posted by Ghidorah at 12:35 AM on October 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

Interesting that the structure on the Aqua-line's artificial island, Umihotaru, bears a striking resemblance to a cruise ship.
posted by wierdo at 1:21 AM on October 4, 2015

There are actually car services for the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel where you can pay somebody to drive your car across and make pleasant, distracting conversation while you sit in the passenger seat.

This sounds like an awesome job.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 3:43 AM on October 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

My childhood quirk was holding my breath on bridges and in tunnels under water, with my thinking following the rational-to-a-kid lines that, if we were to plunge into the water below, I'd be ready. Because I grew up in Maryland, we spent a lot of time in the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel and on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, and watching my struggles to maintain control as I turned all shades of red on those interminable links was a beloved spectator sport in my family.

I've since gotten over it, largely because I determined I'd actually have a better lungful of oxygen if I sucked it in as our silver and purple Suburban was plunging into the nation's largest bay.

In young adulthood, though, I found new challenges with bridges that appeared when I decided that cars were a needless expense and I traded the annoyances of old beaters for a decently maintained 1980 Vespa P200E, which, in the era of the double-nickel, before we decided as a nation to surrender our souls to the stupidity of rushing through our lives as fast as possible, was actually highway-capable, with a realistic, if not necessarily delightful, top speed of around sixty miles an hour.

I got a fair amount of guff from toll collectors on the NJT, who insisted that my mighty mighty boss bike was not a legal vehicle on the highways, and I'd occasionally irritably produce my license to show the motorcycle endorsement and my registration, demonstrating that Vespa's biggest, fastest bike of the day was, in fact, a perfectly legitimate motorcycle, albeit a small one, and getting stuck in tunnel traffic would leave me with a Lucille Ball croak, but I did a lot of traveling facilitated by the gas mileage I got.

The bridge over the Chesapeake, though, was tricky, because huge sections of it was decked in see-through metal grating, and metal grating was one of those things that was already a bit of a fuss, because it gives you the exact feeling of loss of control that you'd get if you loosened the bolts holding your wheels on almost, but not quite, enough for them to actually fall off. It's a haptic illusion, really, and you have the same control on the grating as you do on most road surfaces (unless it's wet, in which case you're doooooooomed), but something about being zillions of feet in the air on a bridge on a tiny bike that, like most scooters, you can't actually see while you're riding, looking into the sparkling bay and the structure of the bridge through what looks a lot like a window screen as a Peterbilt is thundering along ten feet behind you and your wheels feel as though they're about to fall off.

My coping strategy was to start screaming the second I left the nice sturdy approach causeway and continue screaming until I reached the ones on the other side, then enjoy a happy little sunshiny zip to Ocean City, where a Vespa is entirely in its element.

Thing is, something's going to kill us, and if it's time, I'd rather plunge off a bridge and die expeditiously than to linger for a year in a hospital bed. When my flight from Los Angeles came into Baltimore in a wild storm some time back, pitching and rolling like a roller coaster, complete with a genuine touch-and-go-style aborted landing in which I watched the runway coming up, rising and falling like ocean waves as we rolled, waited for my cartwheeling demise, then was pinned back in the seat as the engines roared to abort for another pass, I thought—well, this is probably a nicely mythic way to die. Then, I felt so smug about facing into doom with such mature wisdom that I just sat there regretting that I wouldn't be able to write a short, but important, volume of my gorgeous philosophical insights while people cried in seats around me and utterly failed to notice that we'd come around and landed safely on the second pass.

These days, my Vespa is constrained by speed limits and forty-seven years of accumulated common sense to running errands around town and taking occasional slow back roads wheeeee-rides to the mountains, and I have a light touring bike for highway riding and a style my more testosterone-fueled occasional riding companions describe as obnoxiously reasonable and vigilant, and there's no more grating on the Bay Bridge and the front of my motorcycle is actually visible in front of me, so the sensation of riding a wobbly toilet at high speed is long gone. I get a little clenched on the tight curves on the mountain road down to my broke-down shack in West Virginia, mainly because there's a lot a loose gravel there, but if you name a fear of mine on the road, bridges and tunnels are near the bottom, while car-driving idiots are at the top, tied with deer, because bridges seldom appear out of the brush on the roadside .00009 seconds before impact.
posted by sonascope at 6:22 AM on October 4, 2015 [4 favorites]

I love bridges, even creaky old ones that wobble and sway. What I don't love is crossing bridges over rivers & creeks that are at flood stage. I drove home from work during a particularly bad torrent about 5 years ago, & got to a spot where 38th street crosses over Shoal creek, not far beyond which, is a traffic light. Traffic was bad, & 20 or 30 cars were backed up onto the bridge, sitting there, & the water was only about 18 inches from the bottom of the deck. I sat on the far side of that thing & waited for the light to clear, then hauled ass across it. The thing stood, but if a bridge is going to go out, it's most probably going to do it during a flood event, and watching people blithely sit on the thing gave me the heebies.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:55 AM on October 4, 2015

I had a recurring nightmare as a child (from my earliest recollection til I was about 16? 17?) that my entire family was in a car traveling over a bridge when said bridge collapsed. The car would plunge into the water and I would watch as my entire family drowned. Except me. I'm pretty sure that's where my fear of bridges comes from. What also didn't help was my father relentlessly teasing me (to the point of hysterical sobbing on my part) every single time we went across the bridge over the Mississippi from Indiana into Kentucky, which was quite a lot since my mother's family lived in the south and we visited at least twice a year.

My husband and I crossed the Bay Bridge while visiting San Fransisco and I nearly jumped out of the moving car. Had the doors not been locked, I would have succeeded. It's such a very long bridge, and a double-decker (my personal nemeses). There is a double-decker in Cincinnati that I will go out of my way to avoid if necessary. Luckily I don't have to travel that way very often.

My best friend lived in Portland, OR for many years. I only visited her once. The bridges kept me away after that. So many of them.

I really don't like bridges. My palms are sweaty and my heart is racing just reading this thread and participating. I wish people who didn't have the fear would understand and be more sympathetic to those of us who do.
posted by cooker girl at 7:12 AM on October 4, 2015

In Quebec, Pont Champlain is a butt-pucker of a rotting bridge to drive across and I hated being stuck on it during rush hour when going and coming from Montreal.

The Pont Champlain at least has the benefit of not relying too heavily on that Mafia crumble-crete everything else in Montreal is made of. I'd much rather cross that bridge than drive under any of those hundreds of rotting underpasses with clumsy superficial patching and big missing chunks.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:22 AM on October 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

I love bridges (and heights, usually), and I feel secure on them, knowing the rigorous testing they must undergo.
posted by Artful Codger at 8:34 AM on October 4, 2015

Covered wooden bridges are a bit scary, since they bend when you go over/in them in a car, as I sometimes experienced on this bridge near my grandparents' farm.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 9:09 AM on October 4, 2015

I had more than a bit of this when I was a kid, and I think that it's very closely related to acrophobia--after all, you're high enough above the water for it to be almost the equivalent of falling onto solid ground. (People do survive jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge, but they're usually pretty messed up regardless.) And the real fear, the almost unspeakable one, isn't that you'd fall accidentally, or that the bridge would collapse--it's the fear of your own perversity, that you'd take that single step despite not being (consciously) suicidal, and have enough time to regret your own impulsivity before you hit. Or, if you're driving across a bridge and all you have to do is keep going in that one direction, just twitch the steering wheel a little. (That's not the case, obviously, when someone else is driving, as with a childhood trip across the Mackinac Bridge, but then you have to fear the driver's innate perversity, see.) So, what I've done when I can is to walk across bridges when I can; the Brooklyn Bridge a few times, and the Golden Gate once in each direction. It was mildly terrifying, but also thrilling, and in both cases with an incomparable view.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:33 AM on October 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

My father was of the opinion that he was offering me a treat when he stopped the car so we could walk across a small (footpath) suspension bridge. I don't think I made it across.

He also thought it was a grand sightseeing tour to go out of our way to use the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel one time on the way home from Florida.

I am pleased to learn that should I ever find the Tappan Zee unavoidable, someone else can do the driving for me. Once and never again!

I also hate ladders.
posted by jaruwaan at 11:09 AM on October 4, 2015

You know what's fun? Sitting in the creek underneath the wooden bridge when cars go over it.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 11:19 AM on October 4, 2015

The old Huey P. Long bridge in New Orleans was always a treat in rush hour traffic, especially if you were stopped in the right lane and there was a train on the bridge. I don't find the Chesapeake Bay Bridge to be scary at all after than nightmare, but a lot of people do.
posted by wintermind at 11:52 AM on October 4, 2015

Is this related at all to the fear of driving on roads with a severe drop off? That I absolutely have.
posted by persona au gratin at 5:47 PM on October 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

--it's the fear of your own perversity, that you'd take that single step despite not being (consciously) suicidal, and have enough time to regret your own impulsivity before you hit. Or, if you're driving across a bridge and all you have to do is keep going in that one direction, just twitch the steering wheel a little.

This. It's absolutely a terror for me of going into a zoned-out road daze, looking at something interesting (like gorgeous mountains) and then missing a curve and just sailing over the edge like a doomed dumbass.

On a bridge, if it's straight and not too high up, no problem. But there's an overpass in Fort Worth where IH35 W hits I-20 that is insanely high, steep, and curves, and it does look like you're about to drive right off into the yonder. I have to take deep breaths and focus on the road itself, not the view, in order to keep from freaking out.
posted by emjaybee at 8:11 PM on October 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

Ahhhh, was wondering if the old Huey P. Long was going to get some love in this thread. The new Huey P. is almost a sacrilege to the memory of the old one, which was a trial every NOLA area driver was judged by. You have not had the true Olde Huey P. experience until you have had it from the cab of a tractor trailer, stopped in traffic, with a train going by. The whole bridge moved and the from up in that cab the guard rail looks about a centimeter high.
posted by Bringer Tom at 3:27 PM on October 5, 2015

Is this related at all to the fear of driving on roads with a severe drop off? That I absolutely have.

Not recommended for you at all then, The Hogback on Scenic Byway 12 in Utah.
posted by carsonb at 6:46 PM on October 5, 2015

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