Hovering a few feet over the Buffalo River in New York, the world’s scariest bridge is not particularly tall. Nor is it unusually long–just 26 feet. It isn’t rickety, either, like those death-trap crossings in China you read about. The world’s scariest bridge is so christened because it cantilevers clear over the water, without anything tethering it to the riverbed; it’s really only half a bridge. Oh, and it’s made almost exclusively out of paper.
Paper Lever was developed by four graduate students in the Material Culture Graduate Research Group at the University of Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning. It is constructed from hundreds of paper tubes packed side-by-side–“paper tubes are very strong, especially in compression,” student Scott Selin assures us–and attached to ⅛-inch steel cables that double as handrails. The cables clamp onto to some old railroad tracks on the shore and hold most of the tensile forces.
Construction took about a week, at which point students invited people to march across the span. Surely, this required courage not witnessed since the Battle of Wake Island, since the only thing scarier than the bridge is the ungodly brown water below. Apparently, though, several people can walk on the bridge at once, and it won’t collapse.
Selin built Paper Lever with Troy Barnes, Stephen Olson, and Adrian Solecki, under the direction of associate professor Jean LaMarche, to “explore a material new to us.” They took it down after 10 days “mainly due to the fact that we were over a navigable waterway,” Selin says. Phew. I’d hate to give engineers in China any ideas.