State and local officials are set to celebrate the opening of a new bicycle and pedestrian bridge that links Charlestown and Cambridge on Friday.
The North Bank Bridge will open Friday afternoon with celebrations on both ends of its pathway. The bridge begins in Charlestown’s Paul Revere Park and takes travelers under the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge to Cambridge’s North Point Park.
The bridge is a key piece in a larger initiative to promote cycling and connect the city and surrounding areas through more than just highways.
The bridge, partially paid for with $10 million in federal stimulus funds, opens after two years of construction Friday at 2 p.m. when the state’s Department of Conservation and Recreation, Department of Transportation, and Energy and Environmental Affairs host a ribbon cutting at the North Point Park entrance to the bridge.
At the same time, the Charlestown Mothers Association, the Charlestown Waterfront Coalition, and the Friends of City Square Park will host a celebration with ice cream, drinks, and children’s entertainment on the Boston side, before making an inaugural journey across the bridge.
At 698 feet, it’s the longest bicycle and pedestrian bridge built in Boston and is the first of three footbridges designed to increase access to parks and green spaces around the Charles River Basin.
As the Boston Globe Magazine reported Sunday, two more footbridges are in design and funding in place to complete them by 2015. One of those bridges would span the Charles, and the other would cross over the railroad tracks adjacent to the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital.
When completed, the bridge system would allow walkers and cyclists from Cambridge, the North End, and Charlestown to travel uninterrupted through the Esplanade, Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, and Boston Harbor.
The North Bank Bridge and other projects that make it easier for cyclists to travel uninterrupted and away from vehicular traffic are just part of Boston’s plan to promote biking in the city.
The city has added more than 50 miles of bike lanes to its roads in the past four years of its biking initiative, and its widely popular bike-share program, Hubway, is set to expand to Cambridge, Somerville, and Brookline this summer.