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Although international travel may be a long way off, nature and adventure lovers are curious about the new bridge inaugurated inside the Arouca Geopark in Portugal. The bridge not only serves as a viewing gallery to verdant mountains around it and a fast flowing river beneath but is also the world’s longest pedestrian suspension bridge, beating the Charles Kuonen Suspension Bridge in Switzerland.
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Inaugurated on April 29, the bridge named 516 Arouca spans 1,693 feet or 516 meter (the 1939 built Lakshman Jhula over the Ganga in Rishikesh is 450 feet or 137 meter), while the Swiss bridge, which opened in 2017, spans 1,621 feet.
UNESCO recognized Arouca Geopark is located in northern Portugal about 50 km far away from Oporto and Aveiro cities. Among other things, the park is known for its nature tourism, including adventure sports such as rafting, canoeing, canyoning, rock climbing and a network of walking trails. The new bridge to some extent runs parallel to the popular eight km long Paiva walkway that winds along the left bank of the River Paiva.
516 Arouca, which hangs over the River Paiva at a height of 576 feet (175 meter), connects the Aguieiras Waterfall and the Paiva Gorge, and has been built at a cost of 2.3 m euros.
Two huge V-shaped towers at either end holds up the heavy steel cables of the bridge which has a deck consisting of three feet wide metal grid pathway with rigid netting along the side. According to local reports, the construction was inspired by the Inca bridges found in the Andes mountain valleys. Visitors will have to buy tickets to walk across the bridge.
While we may have to wait to see if anyone tries to go adventurous on this new bridge (it will be opened to public on May 3), it may be recalled that almost a year back (June 2020), the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in the United States, the Skybridge (680 feet; opened in May 2019) in Gatlinburg (Tennessee) had to be shut down when a visitor executed a baseball style slide across the glass base of the bridge and broke some of the panels.
For those interested in numbers, while the 516 Arouca is the world’s longest pedestrian bridge, the credit of being the longest suspension bridge overall goes to the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge in Kobe, Japan. Suspension bridges are measured by their main span (length of the suspended part between the bridge’s two towers). The Akashi Kaikyo Bridge spans 1,991 metres (6,532 feet) and connects Kobe city and Awaji Island in Hyogo Prefecture across the Akashi Strait. It took 10 years (completed in 1998) to build the six lane bridge.
Five of the world’s 10 longest suspension bridges in the world is in China including the Xihoumen Bridge, which ranks next to the Japanese bridge. Other notable suspension bridges around the world include Denmark’s Great Belt Bridge (connecting Halsskov and Sprogø), South Korea’s Yi Sun-sin Bridge (between Kwangyang and Yeosu), United Kingdom’s Humber Bridge (across the Humber Estuary) which has cycle ways and footpaths alongside carriageways, Norway’s Hardangar Bridge (connecting Oslo and Bergen), etc.
Records apart, probably no other bridge in the world can beat the Golden Gate Bridge of the United States by way of popularity or as the most photographed bridge in the world. The suspension bridge was built in 1937 linking the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean. During its inauguration, it was both the longest and the tallest suspension bridge in the world, spanning 4,200 feet (1,280 meter) and a height of 746 feet (227 meter).
Although pedestrian suspension bridges in India can be seen in the Himalayan region, the Dobra-Chanti motorable suspension bridge in Uttarakhand is said to be the country’s longest. It connects Tehri with Pratapnagar and spans 725 meters.
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