Conquering barriers in Dordrecht

The Netherlands is a country of water. The Dutch consider all this water both a friend and a foe. Water is great to use for recreation and to transport goods. But it can also be a dangerous threat or it can simply be in the way. Waterways can be barriers for cyclists just like roads can. If you have both they can form an impassable barrier. The city of Dordrecht found an unusual situation for this problem.

The video shows Dordrecht cycle bridges to cross a motorway and a number of waterways to get from a residential area of the city to some industrial areas.

Dordrecht: the thick red line in the center shows the cycle route portrayed here. It is a vital connection between the residential area in the east and the industrial areas to the west. Other cycle routes in red, the white lines are streets and the yellow lines roads for motorvehicles only.

Three new industrial areas were built in the last decade and seen from the town they were built on the other side of two large motorways. The biggest is part of the route from Rotterdam to Antwerp and with the port of Rotterdam close by this is a very busy motorway with about 119,500 vehicles on a weekday.

To cross this road there were some possibilities for cyclists, but with the new industrial areas there needed to be another one, so people could also cycle to their work there.

In 2003 Dordrecht city council spent 2 million euros to build a bridge over the motorway. It was opened for cycle traffic in October 2004 and got the name: Amstelwijckfietsbrug. In Dutch eyes this modern looking bridge is ‘just another cycle bridge’. The height is 6.7 meters (22 Ft). Because of the tight space the entries to the bridge had to be built with hairpin bends. When Fietsberaad* investigated gradients in cycling infrastructure in the Netherlands this bridge turned out to have a gradient of 3.06% (west access) and only slightly more, 3.16% on the east access. Investigators questioned users and they generally were very pleased with the bridge. Some only disliked the tight hairpin bends but they thought the bridge was wide enough to use and it was easy to pass other cyclists. With the access ways the bridge is 460 meters long (1509 Ft). The access ways are lit but the bridge itself is light enough because of the light of the motorway. The location of this bridge (away from the residential area of town) makes that this cycle bridge is mostly used in rush hour. Where the bridge crosses the motorway a glass wind screen was placed. Glass so visual contact is still possible and the screen was necessary because the heavy lorries created turning winds that would be dangerous for the cyclists.

For the first two industrial areas the access for cyclists was just fine. But with the completion of a third area more to the south-west cyclists had to make a detour to reach that area. In the picture below you can see the yellow line that represents the route cyclists had to take to get there. This was right through one of the industrial areas in a street that even with cycle lanes was dangerous because of all the heavy lorries. So the city tried to create an alternative for this route. Not in the same street but, in line with the Dutch practice of ‘sustainable safety’ and unravelling different traffic flows, in a different place.

Dordrecht cycle bridges
The yellow line shows the detour before the elevated cycle way through the water (the red line) was built.

Just east of the red line a dike (levee) was proposed with a cycle path on top of it. This would also provide a shorter route. But that proved impossible because this ‘land’ is actually a 3 meter thick layer of unstable peat. The weight of the dike could therefore pose problems to the stability of the motorway. On the other side of the water all the land was owned by large companies so the city opted for an unusual solution: an elevated cycle path right through the middle of the water, the red line on the picture. This made the route  a little over 300,000 euros more expensive than the conventional dike solution would have cost. Unfortunately this source does not reveal the total costs of this cycle route.

The elevated cycle way was constructed from April 2010 and opened a year later on 20th April 2011. It is 400 meters long (1312 Ft), well-lit at night and 3.5 to 4 meters wide (11.5 to 13.1Ft). The cycle path was built on steel columns.

The Dordrecht alderman for economic affairs opened the extended cycle route and at the festivities he called it “a wish come true for many businesses and cyclists. Not only is this connection faster for cyclists, it is also safer. Dangerous situations between cyclists and heavy traffic are now avoided.”.

The second video shows a ride on the entire route.

* (Gradients in cycling infrastructure in the Netherlands  page 30)

8 thoughts on “Conquering barriers in Dordrecht

    1. yes you can change it, until the post is published, just because it would break all links then. So I’ll just leave it and refer to it with a shortened url so you don’t see it. I will try to not let it happen again 😉

  1. It amazes me the difference in mentality of the Netherlands to the UK.

    To get to my local town or anywhere further than 2 miles away from my home we have two of these type of bridges, you show above, for both pedestrians and cyclists to cross over a very busy duel carriage way.

    The cycle path (shared pavement use) goes right to the beginning of the slopes that start the beginning of the bridges. Just as we reach the slope the sign reads “Cyclists Dismount” – Yup, we have to dismount and walk across as a pedestrian.

    I find it such hard work to get off and push my trike that with one of these bridges I actually ride half mile out of my way each time to cross on pedestrian activated lights. If I need to cross the 2nd bridge I have no option other than to use it.

    I have to say though, that the slopes on the bridges in my area are steeper than those in your video. But then they have been designed for pedestrians and not cyclists.

    1. “Cyclists Dismount”, I see this often in Holland, (“Fietsers afstappen”). Just ignore the sign. In situations considered “dangerous”, you are quicker through the situation than to dismount and walk past it.

      1. But in general in The Netherlands such signs are only used when roadworks make cycling dangerous (either by forcing them on narrow curbs, or more often due to loose sand).

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