I am known to get a little white-knuckled and superstitious when driving across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. The rails are low, the shore seems distant, and it’s easy to imagine my car careening off the side and landing with a splash in the waters below. But the idea of paying someone $25 to shuttle me across — as several thousand people apparently do every year, according to the New York Times — never once occurred to me.
At $25 a pop and 5,800 trips per year, the Kent Island Express racks up $150,000 a year thanks to gephyrophobia, or fear of bridges. Factor in the two other companies that provide the same service, and it seems that bridge-crossing is an unexpectedly thriving industry.
You could argue that Alex Robinson, Kent Island Express’s operator, is profiting from people’s phobias — but he says he also offers bridge-driving coaching for those who hope to overcome their terror. It doesn’t usually work, though. “Fear is there for a reason,” Johns Hopkins psychiatrist Una McCann told the Times. “It’s harm avoidance. It’s not natural to be driving at great speeds high above water.”