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A New York icon, the Brooklyn Bridge was the world’s first steel suspension bridge, and, at 1596ft, the longest when it opened in 1883. Although construction was fraught with disaster, the bridge became a magnificent example of urban design. Its suspended bicycle/pedestrian walkway delivers soul-stirring views of Manhattan, the East River and the Brooklyn waterfront. Though beautiful, the crossing can be challenging – if walking, stay in the pedestrian portion of the lane as cyclists move quickly.
Sadly, one man deprived of this view was the bridge's designer, John Roebling. The Prussian-born engineer's foot was crushed in an accident on Fulton Landing in June 1869; he died of tetanus poisoning a few weeks later, before construction even began. His son, Washington Roebling, took over the work, which lasted 14 years and managed to survive budget overruns and the deaths of an estimated 27 workers. The younger Roebling himself suffered from the bends (decompression sickness) while helping to excavate the riverbed for the bridge’s western tower and remained bedridden within sight of the bridge for much of the project. His wife, Emily, also blessed with mathematical and engineering gifts, oversaw construction in his stead. There was one final tragedy to come in June 1883, when the bridge opened to pedestrian traffic: perhaps meaning it as a joke, someone in the crowd shouted that the bridge was collapsing into the river; this set off a mad rush in which 12 people were trampled to death.
Structural repairs that began in 2010 are expected to continue until 2022 – though they're a hassle and can make bridge entrances harder to spot, it's still possible to cross.