Meerwijksebrug, 's-Hertogenbosch

A wooden bicycle drawbridge in ’s-Hertogenbosch

Last Sunday was a beautiful sunny Autumn day in the Netherlands. A perfect day for a leisurely ride. I rode out without any plans, simply enjoying the weather, when I reached something I hadn’t seen before: a beautiful new wooden bicycle drawbridge.

Meerwijksebrug, 's-Hertogenbosch
A look at the new wooden bicycle drawbridge in ‘s-Hertogenbosch by the name of “Meerwijksebrug”.

On seeing that brand new bridge, I realised I had read about it, but I hadn’t yet visited it. I didn’t have my camera with me, but the perfect weather and the colours because of it, simply demanded that it had to be captured that very moment. That’s where my iPhone came to the rescue.

Back home I quickly found out more about the bridge. It was officially opened on June 2nd, 2012. The new bridge, and the cycle paths that connect it to the existing cycling infrastructure, were built as part of the historic ‘fortification cycling route’. A cycling route along the (remains of) ramparts, bastions and other parts of the defensive works of ’s-Hertogenbosch. A city that had always relied on inundating the entire surroundings to keep an enemy out.

's-Hertogenbosch Siege1629
The incredible defensive works and dykes built by the Dutch for the Siege of ‘s-Hertogenbosch of 1629 projected on a modern map. A 40 kilometre dyke system with mills to pump dry the man made defensive marsh around the city so it could be conquered.

’s-Hertogenbosch had never been conquered until 1629 when Frederick Henry of Orange did succeed in doing that in a typically Dutch way: he diverted the rivers Dommel and Aa, and created a polder by constructing lines of “circumvallation”: a forty-kilometre fortified dyke system. After which the water was pumped out with mills. The siege lasted almost 5 months and then the city had to surrender. The Dutch treated this part of Brabant, cut off from the rest of the Duchy of Brabant (that is now in Belgium), as an occupied zone until 1795. The ‘fortification cycling route’ lets you cycle along the remains of the full 40 kilometre route of the Dutch dykes. The bicycle bridge was needed to get to the other side of the Dieze, a small river that cuts through the route of the old dykes.

Meerwijksebrug on map
The new bicycle bridge “Meerwijksebrug” on the bicycle route planner by the Dutch Cyclists’ Union. Google maps doesn’t show the bridge yet, nor the cycle paths that lead to it.

It is a purely recreational bicycle route and that is obvious from the bridge. For a normal route it would be too narrow and steep. The connecting cycle paths are gravel paths, a further indication that this is not a normal cycle route.

The bridge is named after a small castle right next to it “Meerwijkse brug” and there is also a military area quite near. Only military vessels may pass here so the bridge doesn’t have to open very often. When it has to be opened that can only be done manually. A little information plate on the bridge itself reveals some of the stats.

Details Meerwijksebrug
A plate on the bridge reveals the most important stats of the bridge.

Below my first video filmed entirely with my iPhone.

Wooden Bicycle Drawbridge in ‘s-Hertogenbosch.

16 thoughts on “A wooden bicycle drawbridge in ’s-Hertogenbosch

  1. Marc, can you give us any general information about how drawbridges are operated in the Netherlands? They are very common and I assume it would be prohibitively expensive to employ attendants.
    I am working to have a drawbridge installed across a creek that empties into San Francisco Bay. Thank you!

  2. “Google maps doesn’t show the bridge yet” – that should teach you. It had been on Openstreetmap for over 4 months when you wrote this.

    1. I don’t need to be taught, I know Google is hopeless when it comes to cycling in the Netherlands. I was only informing others. And Google maps still doesn’t show this bridge!

  3. I have been notified by Will Bramhill about your fabulous bridge and because I am championing the installing of a bridge over where stood a railway bridge, it could be the answer to my prayers. I seem to run into an enormous amount of brick walls, this could be a breakthrough.
    See “Brightlingsea” info on Wiki

  4. I find the slopes of this bridge’s approaches interesting. On one side leading to the channel (opening) span there is a little downhill runup but on the other side it appears to be completely flat. But from either side even the older cyclists are up to the challenge of the “climb”.

    To me this settles the argument as to whether bridges and ramps, at least the shorter ones, should be built steeper or more gentle. It would seem from the video that short, steep ramps don’t pose a problem to cyclists of any age and therefore are the way to go. This will result in shorter, cheaper structures to build and maintain, and thus more structures / cycling infrastructure being built for the same amount of funding.

    For longer bridges/ramps the answer is not so obvious. Should there be a series of these short, steep climbs or a much longer but gentler climb? I think the answer is the former as (a) lifelong cyclists can probably handle a series of short, steep climbs and doing so regularly is actually good for their health and fitness, i.e. a virtuous circle, and (b) if they can’t or don’t want the strain of such climbs then pedelecs, which I understand are becoming quite popular even in the Netherlands, can make these steep climbs acceptable. Then it will be up to each person’s situation as to what sort of bike they use to get to where they want to go.

    If anyone has any comments to make on this I would be interested to read them.

    1. The Dutch recommendations (CROW 230) say a ramp for cyclists shouldn’t have more than 5%. When the vertical climb is very short, a higher grade can be used. When the total vertical slope is more than 4 meters, a maximum of 4% is recommended. Also the horizontal parts are suggested, they should be at least 25m horizontal. As a cyclist with a good condition I don’t like the horizontal parts on a longer slope that much, it gets you out your rhythm. But for less powerful people the horizontal platforms are ok.

      Of course there is a wide variety of slopes in bridges in the Netherlands. Higher bridges (like the famous Nesciobridge in Amsterdam, or the Snelbinder in Nijmegen) have very long slopes, what make it very convenient to ride these bridges.

  5. These old Dutch military defence fortifications and inundations worked exactly as designed when 1st Canadian Army liberated The Netherlands in the 1944-45 campaign.

    In particular, the regiment in which I served, The Royal Regiment of Canada, found that the German military engineers were very skilled in carrying out inundations as well as adapting the ancient fortifications to modern use.

    1. Yes, it was most unfortunate that these 300+ year old defenses worked so against our allies in WWII. Half a meter (2Ft) of water hiding deeper ditches and very soft soil made advancing very difficult for jeeps and even tanks. No wonder it took so long to liberate the Netherlands. Which was finally done only days before the ending of the entire war.

  6. Hiya – who actually operates this bridge, please? Is it boat crews, cyclists, or a third party, such as a lock-keeper or harbourmaster. We have a project here in the UK that may suit this type of bridge.

    1. I believe the city of ‘s-Hertogenbosch has a harbourmaster and some staff who operate bridges on demand. But this particular bridge is so close to a military zone that no vessels other than military vessels may enter this water. So it will not have to be opened much.

      1. Neither of those vessels went under the bridge. The bridge can be found at an “Y-junction” of water (See map in the blog post). These vessels stayed on the left water way. That part is open.

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