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Purple People Bridge, Cincinnati, Ohio

Dating from 1872, the Newport-Southbank Bridge in Cincinnati is a former railroad and traffic bridge that is more than a half-mile long. Railroad traffic on the bridge ceased in 1987 and, due to further deterioration and lack of maintenance, it was closed to vehicle traffic in 2001. The local communities and economic development organizations immediately moved to restore the bridge and convert it to pedestrian and bicycle use, and the bridge reopened in 2003. Although open to the public most of the time, it is also available to rent for private events.

The purple color, actually more of a light lavender, has taken on a life of its own unlike the color of any other bridge. During the rehabilitation, the color was selected through testing of computer simulations by a dozen focus groups, all of them independently selecting purple as their choice. The bridge immediately became known as the Purple People Bridge even before it reopened, but the effect of the unusual choice did not stop at the paint color and the name. The bridge’s signs, both on the bridge and on the riverwalk directing people to the bridge, are all in purple. PurplePeopleBridge.com is the bridge company’s website, where you can get more information and reserve a private event. The website is mostly in purple. This is possibly the only bridge in the world where people specifically choose the color of the clothing - you will see dozens of people wearing purple! And finally, most pedestrian bridges these days have love padlocks. On this one, a large number of these padlocks have also been colored purple, by either paint or marker, before being attached.

The conversion of former railroad bridges into bike trails and pedestrian parks was one of the reasons I became interested in tourist bridges, and decided to write a book about them, about 10 years ago. Chapter 8 of both Bridgespotting books is dedicated to describing these converted bridges. The Purple People Bridge, specifically, is described in Bridgespotting Part 2: A Guide to Even More Bridges that Connect People, Places, and Times.

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