Just add Bats: my submission for the new Arkansas River Pedestrian Bridge

April 7, 2017

Tonight at Midnight, the City of Tulsa will close an online web design competition for a new pedestrian bridge at basically 34th & Riverside.  The old Midland railroad bridge is structurally unsound, and is needs to be replaced with something that will match the new look of the area, courtesy of A Gathering Place when it’s finished early next year.

Here’s my thoughts…

The old bridge was a train bridge, and was straight.  The new pedestrian bridge should be curved, to allow a bit of meandering over the water…

Should it have shade covers and built-in seating?  Nice, but we don’t have that much money…

But what it should have is BATS…not that we’re seeking to steal the cool from the Congress Street/Ann Richards Bridge in Austin, but for the environment.  Let me explain…

Years ago we had a half-dozen bats in our attic in Midtown.  Ask me in person sometime and I’ll regale you with the humorous stories (yes; more than one) about our bats, Ivan the Bat Specialist, etc. etc.  Suffice it to say that one of the things I learned was that Bats Love Midtown Tulsa.  Mature trees + stable neighborhoods + plentiful water = Bat Heaven.  I have to say they were much more prevalent in Midtown than they seem to be out here in South Tulsa — smaller trees, and perhaps less places where bats can move in.

With that in mind, I ran across pics of the Vlotwatering River Bridge in Monster, Netherlands.  It’s a bike and walking bridge, made of reinforced concrete, with brick on the side that gets the most sun.  But it’s most striking feature is it’s covered with planks (2x12s, it looks like) with 1-1/2″ spaces between them, suitable as Bat Condos.

Austin’s bats consume up to 15 TONS of insects each night — now that would definitely make A Gathering Place more pleasurable on a Summer night without slathering oneself in DEET…

The Austin bats (Mexican FreeTail bats) migrate, and don’t stick around when it gets cold.  We have those bats here also, but Evening Bats, Little Brown Bats, that live here year-around.  I’m no bat expert, but building a bridge with brick on it’s southern side allows the Winter sun to warm the concrete, and “bank” the heat into the structure, allowing some bats to perhaps stay, eating more insects off-season.

And to make the bridge last longer, one could build in I-Joists or similar to hang those 2x12s with.  As they age or decay from the elements (or bat guano!) individual pieces could be replaced easily.

There.  Discuss!

Personally, I like the gentle low arches presented by this Vlotwatering Bridge.  The old train bridge in Tulsa is quite tall off the water, and so much of the design of A Gathering Place is about putting Tulsans back in touch with the environment.  A lower bridge like this, yet still capable of providing habitat for ravenous mosquito eaters, sounds like a win-win to me.

And if you like design ramblings, check out this earlier post

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