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Chicago has the most movable bridges of any city in the world

A behind-the-scenes look at the most movable bridges in any city in the world

Every spring and fall, we are reminded about what a headache they can be when it’s bridge lift season, but also about the beauty and architectural marvels they are — as people stop what they’re doing and take it all in.

If you live or work in the city of Chicago, maybe you take them for granted.

You drive over them or walk on them every single day.

But did you know Chicago has the most movable bridges of any city in the world?

Every spring and fall, we are reminded about what a headache they can be when it’s bridge lift season, but also about the beauty and architectural marvels they are — as people stop what they’re doing and take it all in.

When the downtown Chicago bridges go up — like it or not — cars and pedestrians are forced to stop and watch.

Chicago bridge lift season happens between April and June — two days a week — on Wednesday and Saturday mornings.

From street level, people stop to take pictures and watch in awe as they see firsthand what an amazing architectural fête it truly is.

But if you go below, you can watch the grinding of the gears, and can’t help but marvel as they turn and the bridges rise.

“I started when I was 28, and now I’m 62,” said bridge operator George Brown.

Brown has been a bridge operator for more than 30 years. He travels from one bridge to another to keep the process moving.

In the 1800s, bridge tenders lived on the bridges in small houses. That’s not the case anymore.

Now, there are teams made up of bridge tenders, machinist and electricians who work together to make sure these recreational boats safely make their journey to Lake Michigan.

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Chicago is also home to what’s known as the most bascule bridges.

Not only do these bascule bridges add to the city’s world renowned architecture, they often play a role in movies.

They can be seen in Batman and Backdraft — just to name a few.

Brown was there for all of them and remembers helping out in the Keanu Reeves movie, Chain Reaction.

“When Keanu Reeves was climbing up Michican Avenue, I was on the lower level operating the gates,” said Brown.

But it is this most recent image of these bridges that people still likely remember.

It’s something most Chicagoans have never seen in their lifetime: all of the bridges raised at once during the civil unrest of 2020.

The city used the bridges to control rioting, crowds and looting in the downtown area.

For the teams behind the regular bridge lift season, safety is always a priority, but they also take great pride in knowing the work they do has become an attraction that keeps tourists and locals alike marveling at their beauty.

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