Pedestrian Overpasses: Hamster Tunnels for Walking and Biking

Skywalks, pedestrian overpasses, or, as our friends at Transit Miami like to call them, “hamster tunnels,” are an ugly symbol of the last century’s transportation sensibilities. In an effort to comfortably integrate pedestrians into the street fabric and boost sidewalk activity, some cities, including Cincinnati and Baltimore, have been tearing down their pedestrian bridges.

But Miami isn’t there yet. Matthew Toro at Transit Miami says the city’s planners — a bit on the old-fashioned side when it comes to streets and transportation — have installed these things all over the greater Miami region. And it’s not doing the city any favors, Toro says.

Pedestrian overpasses, like this one outside Hialeah, Florida, "evoke scenes from the Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp," Matthew Toro says. Image: Transit Miami

These overpasses reify the misguided mid-20th century notion that the automobile reigns supreme. All other modes of transport must make way for, and bow their heads to, the tyrannical king of the road.

Through these pedestrian overpasses, the built environment is effectively screaming at people who choose to use their own energy to get around the city: Step aside, petty pedestrians! Out of the way, bumbling bicyclists! The automobile is coming through!

These are not the messages we should be physically inscribing into the nature of our city. This is not the infrastructure needed to support a socially, economically, and ecologically thriving urban geography.

You want to keep the streets safe for pedestrians? There’s only one real solution: Make the streets safe for pedestrians!

Another slow-adapter, Cleveland, recently inspired a national round of head-scratching over its plan to install two of these babies downtown.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Beyond DC presents a short animation showing sprawl spreading across northern Virginia. WABA reports that federal officials have withdrawn some dubious claims about bike helmet safety. And Better Institutions says construction jobs are not a good justification for infrastructure projects.