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A footbridge is a bridge which is designed with pedestrian traffic in mind. Some footbridges also accommodate light traffic such as horses and bicycles, while keeping motor vehicles such as cars off the bridge. In some cases, foot bridges are converted railway or car bridges which have been closed to the traffic they were originally intended for, an example of materials recycling in which something has outlived one use can be repurposed for another.
This style of bridge tends to be narrow, because it only needs to be wide enough to accommodate pedestrians. The footbridge design is also lightweight, without the extensive engineering needed to support a bridge designed for things like cars. Many different styles of bridge can be built as footbridges, including suspension bridges and movable bridges.
For safety, most footbridges are equipped with rails. The rails provide grips for people who may feel unsteady on their feet, and they are also designed to prevent people from falling off the bridge. In cases where a footbridge passes over other forms of traffic, the bridge may be fully enclosed for additional safety, ensuring that things cannot be dropped from the bridge to hit people or vehicles below. Enclosed footbridges are sometimes known as skyways, especially when they pass between buildings; the skyway design is used in some cold climates to allow people to move between buildings in complexes such as hospitals without having to go outdoors.
Footbridges are also used inside, and to provide access on the exterior of buildings, in which case they are known as catwalks. Catwalks are used by maintenance crews to do things like washing windows, accessing roofs, and replacing lightbulbs. In theatrical settings, this style of footbridge is utilized by crew for lighting, scenery moving, and other tasks.
In the developing world, footbridges are an important part of the transportation network, allowing people to travel over rivers, ravines, and areas of low ground which may be subject to seasonal flooding. Without bridges, people might have to walk a considerable distance to reach a site such as a hospital or market.
The footbridge can be a purely ornamental feature in addition to a practical one. Some gardens use footbridges to bridge various areas of ground, or to provide a method of passing over a stream or pond. Ornamental footbridges are often designed with aesthetic appeal in mind, and they may be arched or otherwise decorative in structure to make them visually interesting.