All about cycling in the Netherlands
It is not often that the opening of a pedestrian and bicycle bridge draws a crowd, especially not on a freezing Winter afternoon. But for the festive opening of the Rijnhavenbrug (“Rhine harbour bridge”) in Rotterdam thousands of people gathered in the snow exactly one year ago on 8th February 2012.
The city had organised a big party with sirens, loud music and confetti canons and because of the snow the bridge was opened by throwing road salt.
The new 160 meter long bridge connects Wilhelminapier with the peninsula Katendrecht. Both former docklands but of a different kind. Wilhelminapier was the starting point of a one way journey into a new life for thousands of emigrants on the “Holland-Amerika” line and lines to other destinations. Some of my own relatives sailed to Australia from here in the 1950s. The last Holland-America Line ship departed in 1971. Until the 1980s Katendrecht had been an area with cheap workers’ housing, sleazy bars, rough sailors and prostitution. This changed when most of the port activities moved more towards the North Sea and the warehouses were deserted. From the 1990s on Wilhelminapier was transformed into an upscale residential area with –for the Netherlands– very tall buildings. The highest residential towers of the country can be found here. The transformation will go on for at least another decade and the transformation of Katendrecht has really only just begun.
Rotterdammers have a tradition of nicknames, preferably a bit rude. For example: a below grade but open air shopping street is widely referred to as the Koopgoot or “shop gutter”. Because of the shape when opened this new bridge was soon nicknamed Taartschep (“cake server”). But it isn’t open often so it got a more vulgar nick name as well. As a quick connection to the former red light district scurrilous people now refer to it as the hoerenloper (“whore hopper”).
The new bridge was built to make the area better accessible for all the new residents. It is primarily for pedestrians and cyclists but can also be used by emergency services. Pedestrians and cyclists have to share the same space, which is a bit unusual in the Netherlands and that only works if there are not to many people on bicycles. Most publications state the bridge has cost “several millions of euros”. But I finally found a council letter of 2010 that has a more precise reservation of 8.95 million euros. Building took over a year, from late 2010 to February 2012.
Yes, that is a helmet! Video showing people using Rijnhavenbrug in Rotterdam on a stormy day in June 2012.