all about bicycling in the Netherlands
The bright white 70 meters (230Ft) tall bridge pylon can be seen from far away. Attached to the top are 24 cables that suspend a large bicycle roundabout, 72 meters (236Ft) in diameter, that seems to float over a large new junction for motorized traffic. This roundabout can be found in Eindhoven and it is called Hovenring. The exceptional piece of bicycle infrastructure was built to stand out. It is to be the iconic new landmark that signals ‘you are entering Eindhoven’. At night the slender bike ring is lit from below to further enhance that floating effect.
Thus far this was an extremely large rural roundabout (officially a ‘traffic circle’ because of the right of way arrangements) with separated cycle paths all around it. Google shows us the old situation. Google is getting outdated very quickly, because of all the new infra that is being built in the Netherlands, but as a historic reference it is perfect. Now why did this have to change? It had cycle paths and there were traffic lights to control the flow of traffic. But to the Dutch that is not safe enough anymore. Yes, there was separation, but at the places of crossing motorized traffic and cyclists were only separated in time and not in place. When people make mistakes (going through a red light for instance) this could still lead to dangerous situations. The area is full of new housing with a lot of children and especially for those kids cycling to school, the new situation is far better. Now, both types of traffic are completely separated in time and also in place, so cyclists can pass this large junction safely and without stopping.
The roads are very wide –especially for the Netherlands– but that is because this is the main entrance to Eindhoven, Veldhoven and the suburb Meerhoven from the A2, the most important North-South motorway in the Netherlands. Every day 25,000 vehicles pass this junction. The city wanted to emphasize this importance. Eindhoven is considered a brain port and feels it has a leading role in innovation and technology. All those qualities had to be reflected in the high quality design for this new piece of infrastructure: “spectacular in simplicity”.
Building such a unique ‘circular bridge’ was more difficult than expected. During construction, early 2012, the cables vibrated much more than they were supposed to in the Dutch winds. Experts recalculated the design specifications and with some modifications and counter weights the cables became much more stable. People questioned why it was necessary to have cyclists go up so high. They feared the gradient of the entrance ramps would be too steep. But the city explained on its website that cyclists have to go up less than it seems, because the junction was constructed below surface level. The gradients are different on all sides, but range from just 1.86% to 3.09%. Well within the standards CROW and other organizations in the Netherlands set. An ultimate test with a mobility scooter proved that even those could take the entrances with ease.
Opening festivities June 29th, 2012.
The roundabout was opened on June 29th, 2012 in an afternoon of festivities. An alderman of Eindhoven and one of Veldhoven opened the bridge, decorated with balloons, in a four wheel bike race. It was a –staged– photo finish. After the speeches there was music and there were games for children. The city offered drinks and –rather fitting for their shape– doughnuts. A striking high number of children came to see this new and exceptional piece of cycling infrastructure with their parents. Many older people were also curious enough to come and have a look.
“Normal” use on Sunday, August 12th, 2012.
One and a half months later I decided to visit the roundabout again to see how it is actually used without festive music and balloons. I only had 15 minutes to film but many cyclists passed in that short amount of time. This clearly is a well-used roundabout by all types of young and older, faster and slower cyclists.
This floating roundabout is not something that exists by itself. It is part of an elaborate cycle network. It would be pretty useless to have a ring like this without an underlying connected cycle network so people can actually get to this piece of remarkable infrastructure. More on the Eindhoven network in this follow up blog post.
The same designers were also responsible for a bridge in Enschede.
29 August 2012: The city of Eindhoven calls this roundabout the “world’s first floating cycle roundabout”. I did not call it that deliberately, because you never know what has already been built elsewhere. As it turns out, that was a good decision because there is another roundabout like this one. Granted, it is not floating (suspended), but apart from that it looks very similar. Tjensvollkrysset in Stavanger (Norway) is also 72 meters in diameter. It is not as wide and not as slender as the Eindhoven ring, in fact, when you are used to seeing the open and light Eindhoven ring it looks a bit chunky with all that gray concrete, but other than that it is remarkably similar. It was opened in 2010. The Eindhoven ring was designed from 2008 so both cities probably had the same idea without knowing it from each other. The Norwegian ring was cheaper, 120 million Kroner or 16.4 million Euros, versus the 20 million the Eindhoven ring seems to have cost. In Stavanger there is more much motorized traffic: 40,000 vehicles per day vs. 25,000 in Eindhoven. It would be nice to know if that is because of more cyclists in Eindhoven.
Stavanger also called it the “World’s largest cycle crossing“. Well that is also not true anymore, both rings have the exact same diameter.