Cycle Bridge Enschede

Slender and stylish are probably the most fitting words to describe the cycle bridge at the edge of Enschede, a university city in the east of the Netherlands. The bridge to cross Auke Vleerstraat was opened in October 2011. I visited the bridge on a sunny and freezing day last November… only to find it was very foggy in Enschede.

Enschede cycle bridge

The bridge had become necessary after the road was doubled from 2 lanes to 4 lanes (2 in each direction). The waiting times at the lights for crossing cyclists were already so long in the old situation, that some people on bikes (especially some of the hundreds of school children that pass here every day) decided to jump red lights, which led to very dangerous situations. But the high number of cyclists on the other hand also caused unwanted delays for motor traffic. An at-grade junction after the road was doubled in size was therefore considered impossible. Note that in the before situation there was already perfect cycling infrastructure that would probably be very sufficient in any other country, but not here. If there had been fewer people on bicycles, the demand driven lights would be a perfect solution. But with the numbers that cross here, the other traffic would be stopped so often that it would cause congestion. That is why in the Dutch situation this type of infrastructure needed to be updated.

In 2009, the city articulated its wishes for the design of the reconstructed crossing as follows:

  • an uninterrupted flow of motorised traffic (no interruption by crossing cyclists);
  • increased safety for cyclists by a grade-separated crossing;
  • a clear view from the road onto the junction (clear sight lines to the traffic lights);
  • a minimal 5 metre clearance for motorised traffic (a high number of lorries pass this junction);
  • a clear view into the open space (protected landscape) outside the city;
  • preservation of some existing trees (a couple of older oak trees).
The before situation already had completely separated cycle paths, but by Dutch standards this at-grade crossing was not adequate any more. The road from left to right was actually only 2 lanes wide (outside the picture) but became 2×2 lanes. (Picture: Bing Maps)
Artist impression of the meander shaped bridge that would replace the old crossing.

To meet the city’s demands, the only fitting solution was a grade-separated crossing. So people on bicycles are completely separated in time and place from motor traffic. A cycle bridge was designed by Ipv Delft, who also designed the floating cycle roundabout in Eindhoven. This bridge is just as slender and white as that roundabout. The bridge was designed in a ‘meander’ shape, which has multiple advantages:

  • the bridge becomes longer which makes the approaches less steep (<3.5%) and thus more convenient for cyclists despite the required height of the bridge (5 metres);
  • it got further away from the junction for motorised traffic so the sight lines to the traffic lights are clear;
  • several oak trees could be saved;
  • the meandering shape gives the bridge a very stylish appearance.

Ipv Delft designed a slender bridge of prefab concrete. The whitest type of concrete there is. Even though the meandering shape seems to be random, that is certainly not the case. All the curves could be made with only two different types of 20 metre long bridge parts. One type with a radius of 75 metres and one with a radius of 180 metres. That means all 14 parts could be made with only two different moulds. This decreased the costs, because moulds are rather expensive to make. The bridge parts were partially filled with EPS (expanded polystyrene) to minimise the amount of concrete and thus the weight. The total height of the parts could be kept at only 80 centimetres, enhancing the slender appearance and giving the city the desired open view into the country side. At night the bridge is lit from 260 lights in the railings.

All 14 bridge parts were placed in just one day to minimise the inconvenience of closed roads.

All 14 bridge parts were placed in just one day in August 2011.

The total costs of this bridge were 2 million euros and it was financed by the European Union, Twente Region, the Ministry for Innovation and Enschede municipality.

A video to show what the Auke Vleerstraat Cycle Bridge in Enschede looks like. Filmed on a cold (-1C) and foggy November day. Note the very high number of lorries!

A ride on the bridge from Enschede into the country side.

I was able to finance this visit to Enschede with the help of your donations.

Incidently Enschede is a sister city to Palo Alto CA (USA) that has received a Bicycle Friendly Community status of “Gold” from the League of American Bicyclists.

24 thoughts on “Cycle Bridge Enschede

  1. the fact that cyclist have do that whole round about type just to get on a bridge is a bit silly. I am sure they could have easily found a faster, more convenient way to get those peddlers on the bridge. Nothing can be perfect, that goes for dutch cycling too.

  2. My concern with this bridge is that it requires cyclists to take quite a long meander out of their way and climb for five metres. At the same time, motor vehicle traffic goes straight through!

    Surely, things should be the other way around. It seems to me that it would be much better to have the motor vehicle traffic put over a bridge while cycle traffic goes straight through.

    1. If a bridge would have to be built for all that heavy truck traffic, none of those requirements would have been met. It would have been large, no way the open view on the landscape would have been preserved, it would have cost much more than 2 million and would have taken much more time than one day of road closure to built. Remember the waiting times at the traffic lights were already long for a road half the size. That means for a road double the size the times could be between 1 and 2 minutes. You can cross the entire bridge in one and a half minute and then you are already way past the junction. There is really no time loss at all. The inclines are very easy, and I cycled this bridge with a heavy rental bike, one handed with a camera in my hand. Many people cycled over it much quicker. I am convinced the city of Enschede really choose the best solution for this particular junction.

  3. I love seeing how it was constructed with prefab parts like so much Legos. It would be much tougher to put something together like this in one day if it was for motor vehicles.

    The amount of space available for this project got me thinking. What if open space deprived Los Angeles would have used the old street car land available to build bicycle infrastructure with lots of foilage all around and then built subway tunnels underneath. Instead, light-rail is being built on all of these old rail right-of-ways and if there is room left-over, and money is available, a bike path is sometimes inserted with fencing to separate the bicyclist from the transit and a tall soundwall often on the other side of the bike path. What you end up with is a bike path that is not usually continuous and feels less subjectively safe due to the fence and soundwall on both sides.

    Obviously, the amount of money available would be a limiting factor on this idea, but I don’t believe that this would be in anyones wheelhouse of thinking on doing these transit projects in the city of Los Angeles.

    To illustrate where bicycling ranks in Los Angeles for transportation, here’s a link to a picture and brief description from the Los Angeles County Metro transit website of a opening of a HOT toll lanes on a section of a freeway that leads into downtown LA:


    No doubt, most drivers think this was a idiotic idea to take several lanes out of service for most drivers on what is already one of the most congested freeways in the nation that is operating at over-capacity at peak hours and then give this space to what seems like just a few people.Yet, this idea has been shown to reduce congestion on freeways in other cities, but it takes time before people adapt to the changes. That’s why the Federal government is funding this as a one-year experiment.

    The same principle applies to taking away a through lane for motor vehicles on a busy street that has intersections which are operating at over-capacity and then using that space to put in two bike lanes. But in Los Angeles, the motorists and businesses in the area get to weigh in on whether they approve of this to their council member, who then decides to either approve or turn the project down.

    In the area of Los Angeles that I live, there is a major arterial street named Lankershim Blvd that runs diagonally to other streets and is on the bike plan for bike lane installations. The local neighborhood council voted 10-0 to not put bike lanes on that street and instead install them on Vineland Ave, and the council member for this area agreed with this.

    The problem with this is that there is a subway that runs underneath Lankershim Blvd that has two stations which people use to get through the Cahuenga hillside pass that leads to and from downtown. One of these is the Universal station that is only accessable by using either Lankershim Blvd or Campo De Cahuenga. Having a bike lanes on Vineland Ave would mean that a cyclist would have to ride south on Vineland Ave, then turn left into mixed traffic on busy Ventura Blvd, then turn left again and ride up a incline over a freeway into mixed traffic on busy Campo De Cahuenga to reach this subway station. Meanwhile, the motor vehicles would get priority to the more direct route along Lankershim Blvd.

    I spoke before this neighborhood council about how the public should not be able to decide on whether there is safety improvements on a street for bicycling. They are not allowed to do this in regard to pedestrians, nor motorists. I said it was like we are sitting in a coliseum in ancient Rome voting thumbs up and thumbs down on who gets maimed or killed.

    There was dead silence in the room, some discussion, and then the unanimous vote against having bike lanes on Lankershim Blvd. Thats what frequently happens in the U.S., where most people in cites do not depend on bicycling to get somewhere.

    The president of this neighborhood council said after the votes were taken that you must understand (directed towards the cyclists in the room) that we are not against bike lanes, we are just concerned on where that are put. This somewhat reminds me of how the south regarded a minority in the 1950’s with separate water fountains for them, restaurants, hotels, and limited seating availability at the back of buses for them to use.

    1. I should add that the Los Angeles city council member (one of only 15 for the city) that agreed to not put bike lanes on Lankershim Blvd has turned down all bike lane projects in his district that would involve taking away space away from motorists. He even told the DOT to not proceed with their plan to install signals on a would be a traffic calmed residential street that would enable cyclists to safely cross two busy streets. Why did he do that? Residents of a wealthy community that this street runs through were concerned that traffic signals would encourage drivers to use this as a cut-through.

      Los Angeles has installed 267 miles of bike lanes and over 100 of those miles were constructed in the last two years. Less than 10 miles necessitated the removal of parking or through lanes for motorized traffic. To install what is remaining of the 719 miles of bike lanes on the bike plan will require the removal of some space from motorists. Its going to be tough going to even get part of these installed.

      An example of how tough it will be to take away space from motorists in Los Angeles and give to bicyclists, Portland has about a 75% higher rate of bicycling than any other large city in the U.S. Yet, of the 1,300 miles of arterial streets in Portland, only 14% of them have bike lanes. Los Angeles has 6.4 times more residents than Portland and has and 1,400 miles of arterial streets with 19% of them having bike lanes.

      Going forward in constructing bike lanes in Los Angeles will be like having a boa constrictor wraped around your chest. After expanding your chest to take a breath (increasing the amount of bike lanes) and then exhaling, the snake (the motoring public) tightens its grip around your diaphram to make it impossible to take another breath.

    2. The Los Angeles planning and transportation departments are in the early stages of working on a idea of creating a connected framework of 120 miles of barrier protected bikeways that will mainly be along arterial streets. They intend to present this to the city council for a vote in 2014.

      These protected bike lanes would almost certainly require more space to install compared to a unprotected bike lane. One of the streets under consideration is Lankershim Blvd. Hmmm, I wonder how much chance that has of being installed. The good news is that the council man who turned down installing unprotected bike lanes on Lankershim Blvd has a term limit that expires in 16 more months. I’m hoping his replacement will be much more receptive to improving safety for bicycling on streets in this council district.

      This council member wants me to meet with him on Lankershim Blvd soon so that he can show me how dangerous it is to ride past a freeway off-ramp on Lankershim Blvd; which makes it more dangerous than Vineland Ave. He is also trying to get a LADOT traffic engineer to come also. Boy, is this council member in for a surprise when he tries to argue the safety differences between these two streets when I’ve ridden a bicycle on both of them hundreds of times and the bikeway traffic engineer (any of which knows who I am) will likely explain that Vineland Ave has both a freeway off-ramp and a on-ramp. I don’t believe that there is anything that will convince this council member to change his mind, other than overwhelming community support for installing bike lanes in this part of his district.

    1. I think because of all the water here and because they wanted to save the trees. Of course a tunnel is also more expensive and could not have been built in just one day of closing the road.

      1. Yes, that’s for sure. Just curious because CROW Design manual for bicycle traffic generally recommends tunnels because of shorter ramps. On the other hand here the longer ramps are somewhat compensated by a nice view from the overpass. I bet in summer it would be even better.

      2. Shorter ramps may also be steeper. There is a discussion in my hometown of Assen about the existing cycle tunnel next to the railway station. The station is to be rebuilt but the existing tunnel will remain as it is because it would be too expensive to build a new one. Its ramp on the east side is 5% which is considered too steep but as it has to surface next to a side street there is no room to make it longer. Two political factions in the council have suggested a bicycle lift on the principle of a ski lift (more or less) made by a Norwegian company; see website http://www.trampe.no. But as the two factions were unaware of each other’s suggestions there is a bit of a political hassle now …

  4. In the second video, at about 0:08, the guy enters the bridge from the left. Is that really part of the path, or is he taking a shortcut?

    1. I cut off the beginning, where you can see he missed the official entrance that I took. He then decided to take this route. That is certainly not official, but has been taken by many more people as you can see. So not really a short cut, but a second chance.

        1. Well exactly, his ‘wrong doing’ here was that he missed the official entrance to the bridge, but he was sort of pardonned in the way that he got the chance to use that little unoffical entrance.

  5. These are the only flyovers worth building. Well, flyovers are fine anywhere as long as people who live or work nearby don’t have to stare at them all the time. The Illinois Department of Transportation wants to build 3 flyovers with a total of 6 lanes on them between a residential and entertainment neighborhood and an enormous urban university.

    http://peoriastreet.info (see the Flickr slideshow)

    1. I’m sure the bike flyovers are not much more of an eyesore than 4 lanes of heavy motor traffic.

      On the subject of tunnels, I’m not sure this is a solution worth considering. Aside from the fact they force cycling ‘underground’, tunnels tend to attract debris, flooding, and danger.

      Until recently I lived in London. Near where I lived there was a tunnel based underpass system at a major roundabout. It was designed primarily for pedestrians and had steep ramps and barriers that forced cyclists to dismount (and probably made life difficult for mothers pushing buggies). It also attracted gangs of youths who broke beer bottles everywhere.

      I only used it because the surface road was like Death Race 2000. And it was not somewhere I would have felt comfortable being at night.

      1. London? That explains the lack of safety. Modern Dutch underpasses are designed to be much safer and feeling safer. You can find many being built. Everybody uses them, even children going alone.

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