Winston Churchill once wryly observed that pessimists see difficulty in every opportunity, and optimists see opportunity in every difficulty. That makes New Jerseyite Kevin Shane an optimist of Brobdingnagian proportions, judging by his audacious proposal to ease frustrated commuters’ pain in Manhattan: a roughly one-mile-long pedestrian/cyclist bridge across the Hudson River.
“I always think big and a little crazy,” says Shane, a self-described entrepreneur and crowdfunding consultant who teamed up with architect Jeff Jordan to imaginize the Liberty Bridge, which would rise about 200 feet above the Hudson and link lower Manhattan and Jersey City. The bridge would provide an alternative for the more than 100,000 commuters who take PATH trains from New Jersey into Manhattan every day.
But the duo envisions more than just a pedestrian bridge. Jordan’s design incorporates a pair of interwoven paths within a box-truss frame, replete with seating areas, gardens and cafes and shops. In short, think Florence’s Ponte Vecchio on steroids. The bridge and its park-like ambience also would serve as a tourist magnet, offering eye-popping views of the Manhattan skyline.
The bridge and its park-like ambience also would serve as a tourist magnet, offering eye-popping views of the Manhattan skyline.
Pedestrian bridges – both real and proposed – are changing urban landscapes around the world. Witness the Taibet pedestrian bridge in Tehran, Iran; the Bob Kerrey pedestrian bridge linking Omaha, Nebraska, and Council Bluffs, Iowa; London’s Millennium Bridge; the Helix Bridge in Singapore; and the proposed Garden Bridge and pedestrian/cycling bridge over the River Thames in London.
But what might really set apart the Liberty Bridge from its cousins around the globe is its upstart progenitor. How can a millennial ’trep with no lofty urban-design credentials even consider proposing such a bold idea?
“Entrepreneurs are solution-seeking,” replies Shane, who earned a bachelor’s degree from Babson College in Boston, with an emphasis on finance and entrepreneurship, and has initiated several small start-up businesses. “They see problems, but also opportunities. I experience the (commuting) problem firsthand every day…it can take me 1½ hours to get to work in Manhattan. Most people will sit there and complain, but I try to think up a solution.”
At the moment, Shane’s proposal is sparse on details, especially regarding funding. Nonetheless, several thousand people have already signed a petition in favor of the concept, and Shane says local media coverage has included supportive comments from some local politicians.
All in all, the bridge is a crazy idea, Shane admits. On the other hand, from Fulton’s Folly to Elon Musk’s Hyperloop concept, the world is filled with wild ideas that came – or may some day come – to fruition. “What about cell phones or self-driving cars?” Shane posits. “Crazy ideas can change the way we do everything.”
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