This blog about bridges appeared earlier but after Brent Toderian retweeted it last week, I thought it was time to update it. I added two bridges and updated some of the text. I have also added the architect and the estimated cost of each bridge so you can compare it somewhat with the infrastructure that is built in your own municipality.
Bridges as an image of a city
Netherlands’ cities have been building some fantastic bike infrastructure in the last decade. Bridges that look more than just a utilitarian crossing over a river or road. Cities don’t always chose the cheapest option per se, to great chagrin of some, but don’t underestimate the effects of beautiful design. Rotterdam for example is well known for its two large bridges, the 318 meter long cable-stayed Willemsbrug (1981) and the 800 meter cable-stayed and bascule bridge Erasmusbrug (1996) (nicknamed the Swan for its shape). Architecture has an important place in Dutch culture and that is why it is not always about the bottom line, despite the country being known as a country of book keepers.
I am convinced that a beautiful bridge puts your city on map. It shows that a municipality takes active transportation serious and doesn’t always see it as the closing entry in the books. You will also notice that the bridges are in different places in the Netherlands. Too often cycling enthusiasts think Amsterdam is equivalent of the Netherlands, but nothing is farther from the truth. The entire country cycles, with dozens upon dozens of cities with very large bike modal shares. The beauty of the Netherlands is that the planners, the architects, the engineers virtually all cycle as well and so do the decision makers. Obviously, that reflects in the bike infrastructure.
Hövenring – IPV Delft – 2012 – Eindhoven – 22.5 mln Euro
The road used to be a roundabout, but became a ‘normal’ intersection. This suspended bike roundabout was built to conquer the problem of trying to keep traffic moving without making the waiting time to long for each type of road user. As you probably know, the Netherlands has separate bike traffic signals with their own light cycles, just like we have ped lights in North America. We have some in Ottawa too now, as it is now officially in the manuals for traffic design. As long as we have right through red in many places, bike traffic signals won’t really work though. But I am digressing.
‘t Groentje – NEY & Partners – 2013 – 4 mln Euro
Built in Belgium and trucked to the Netherlands in 3 parts, each 110,000 kg and 40 meters long, It took one weekend to put the pieces into place.
“De Oversteek” – NEY & Partners – 2013 – 140 mln Euro
Opened in the summer of 2013, this is not a bike bridge, but do note the bidirectional bike path, shared with pedestrians. To remember the 1944 crossing over the river Waal by the US Army 504th Infantry Regiment van de 82d Airborne Brigade the bridge carries the name “The oversteek” (The crossing). To honour the 48 servicemen who died on the bridge, the bridge is equipped with 48 pairs of light posts which slowly switch on pair by pair with the speed of a slow march when the city switches on the city lights.The bridge is managed under a design, build and maintain contract for 25 years. After 25 years the city takes over the management. The proposals were judged on the most economic one but design (the looks of the bridge) played a role too. The bridge was built on land and then put into place in a day or so. Some fantastic logistics.
Melkweg bridge – NEXT Architects – 2012 – 6 mln Euro
Residents of Purmerend were not amused when it was announced that the bridge would cost 6 million Euro. The odd 12 meter high shape definitely stands out though in the North Holland flatlands. The arch over this canal in North Holland connects the centre of Purmerend with a new housing development is designed for pedestrians; the lower part (which opens for shipping traffic) is designed for cyclists and everyone else. The funny hair pins appear playful, but it does cover some difference in height. and at 12 meter high, you can likely look over the entire country. It is that flat.
Jan Waaijer bridge – Syb van Breda – 2013 – 6 mln Euro
Perhaps my favourite bridge because it is so different and built fairly cheap, all things considered. It was built to connect two natural areas in what is called the bedroom community of The Hague. I literally grew up around the corner of Zoetermeer and saw it grow and grow since childhood. When I go back, I am completely disoriented as I used to approach Zoetermeer on a country road through fields of cows. I cycled the bridge with my parents a few years ago. I think it is lovely. Marc Wagenbuur writes a lot more about it, including the fact that it generates solar power on top of its light posts, but 2.5 times as much as it actually needs. The remaining power goes back into the grid. The design is based on a treed lane in an old Dutch painting. You might think the metal looks a tad rusty already. That is actually purposely done. It protects the bridge and needs little maintenance, or so they say.
Dafne Schippers bridge – NEXT Architects – 2017 – 25 million Euro
This bridge opened in 2017 and was very popular on social media as the bike path runs over a school to gain the necessary height for the approach to the bridge over a busy canal from Amsterdam to the Rijn River. The bridge was built in parts and installed over a weekend, which was streamed live on the Internet. Fascinating slow TV akin to Norway’s 7.5 hour BergensBanen train ride as seen from the cabin. The cost included the school and a new park. More on the bridge here.
Nescio Bridge – Wilkinson Eyre Architects – 2006 – 12.2 Euro
The main span was constructed off-site as a single steel structure of approximately 180 m (591 ft) long, weighing some 510 t (502 long tons; 562 short tons). In order to obstruct the busy shipping traffic on the canal as little as possible, it was hoisted into place within half a day on 9 July 2005. (Wikipedia). See for a detailed write up from the university of Bath (!) here.