Beijing Suspends Construction of Glass Walkways
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2017-02-16 10:51:36

Though glass-floored walkways have become a craze among daring tourists, Beijing has decided to put new construction projects on hold.

Song Yu, director of the Beijing Municipal Commission of Tourism Development, said in a conference Wednesday that companies should stop the construction of glass walkways while the government formulates regulations, The Beijing News reported.

Chinese tourists have flocked to the glass-floored walkways, bridges, and observation decks that have sprung up at tourist sites around China in recent years, but such structures do pose safety risks, and it’s not currently clear which government body is responsible for regulating the sites, Song said.

Perhaps inspired by the horseshoe-shaped Grand Canyon Skywalk in the U.S., many of the 250 glass walkways around China have been built in the last five years. But no province has set construction standards or specified which government body is responsible for regulating the structures, an employee from the Beijing tourism commission told The Beijing News. Regulations will be released this year, the employee said.

Among the new constructions is a glass walkway that — at 430 meters long and 300 meters above the ground — claims to be the world’s longest and highest; the structure opened last year in the scenic mountains of Zhangjiajie, in central China’s Hunan province. These walkways offer tourists opportunities to take the coolest of selfies and to overcome their fears of heights — but sometimes, these fears are not groundless.

In 2015, a newly opened 68-meter-long glass walkway at Yuntai Mountain, located in central China’s Henan province, was closed after cracks appeared in the structure during the National Day holiday, a peak tourist season. The park later said the cracks were caused by “external force” from a sharp object.

The walkway in Zhangjiajie was hit by falling stones in 2016, and at Baishi Mountain in northern China’s Hebei province, a glass walkway cracked after it carried large crowds of hikers.

Yet most tourists appear unfazed by such stories. Lin Da, who works at a pharmaceutical company in Beijing, visited the walkway at Baishi Mountain with a group of hikers two years ago. She told Sixth Tone that she felt quite safe. “Some staff told us that only athletic shoes or casual shoes with soft soles were allowed on the walkway,” Lin said. “High heels and leather shoes that may cut the glass are forbidden.” 

Meanwhile, others expressed apathy toward the tourism craze. “They’re building this stuff everywhere now,” a netizen who supports the capital’s temporary ban on glass walkways wrote on microblogging site Weibo. “There’s really nothing to see or do at most of the mountain scenic spots,” wrote another user. “If not for these walkways, what else is there?”

(Header image: Tourists visit a glass walkway in Beijing’s Shilinxia Scenic Area, April 30, 2016. Pan Zhiwang/Beijing Times/IC)