Waaijerbrug Zoetermeer

Spectacular Zoetermeer Cycle Bridge

Never before was a picture re-tweeted, discussed and re-published so often as the one I took last Friday of the new cycle bridge in Zoetermeer near The Hague. I usually tweet one or two pictures that I take while filming material for a future blog post. Most of the time it may take weeks or even months before I finally post that material on my blog, but it was obvious, you want to know everything about this new bridge now!

Waaijerbrug Zoetermeer
My picture of the new bridge for cycling and walking in Zoetermeer was re-tweeted dozens of times.

Zoetermeer, originally a small village, was transformed into a satellite town of The Hague from the 1960s on, to have an answer to the housing shortage in this populous region in South Holland Province. The population grew from 6,400 in 1950 to over 123,300 in 2013. Although the relatively new housing areas have excellent cycling facilities, Zoetermeer didn’t make it to the finals of the 2014 “Best Cycling City of the Netherlands” competition.

The location of the new bridge (arrow) and the – to be developed – Driemanspolder (highlighted in green). Picture courtesy of OpenStreetsMap

A month ago, on 12 December 2013, former mayor Jan Waaijer opened the bridge that got his name. It is a spectacular new connection from the Zoetermeer Westerpark to the nature reserve and recreation area of New Driemanspolder (Three Men’s Polder).

But perhaps the bridge was constructed a bit too early. New Driemanspolder is still an agricultural area with just empty fields. The development into a nature reserve with wood lands and a flood water retention basin, an area that can be inundated in times of dangerously high water, will only start in 2016 and take until at least 2020. After budget cuts this development was postponed by several years. That is why the bridge now ends with a fence and a provisional connection to the existing cycle path it crosses on the polder side. But even while the bridge is not really leading somewhere for the time being, many people already use it for recreational purposes.

What Driemanspolder will be like after the development into a nature reserve with a flood water retention area. The new bridge (arrow) will be the main gateway into the area for non-motorised traffic from Zoetermeer.

The architect of the bridge is Syb van Breda and he won a competition in 2009 in which the municipality of Zoetermeer challenged people to design an outstanding connection to (what have to become) areas with outstanding (constructed) nature. Inspired by a 17th century painting by Dutch master Hobbema, who painted an alley lined with very slender and tall trees, the architect designed a space that is in a way protected from the vast emptiness of the area by light fixtures that define a space for cycling and walking in exactly the same way as the trees of the painting do. The working title was Hobbema 2.0 in reference to that painting. Incidentally the Hobbema painting is now owned by the National Gallery in London. With this bridge the architect tried to create an exciting entrance to the new area. To enhance the attractiveness even further the bridge meanders and also varies in height.

The painting of the “Alley at Middelharnis” by Hobbema, which was the inspiration for the new bridge. The painting is owned by the National Gallery in London.

The bridge has a length of about 220 metres, spanning two cycle tracks, three ditches, two rail road tracks and a dual carriageway road (2×1 lane). It is made of weathering steel and weighs about 375 metric tons. The rust that is clearly visible does not damage this type of steel, but rather forms a protective sheet. Therefore the bridge doesn’t need any maintenance nor paint. The prominent light fixtures have large dishes which are lit from below. These dishes on top of the 9 metre tall slender and tapered columns have solar panels that generate 2.5 times the energy needed to light the bridge. The surplus energy is returned to the power grid.

Waaijerbrug Zoetermeer
Aerial rendering of the new cycling and walking bridge in Zoetermeer. Picture courtesy of Syb van Breda & Co.

The elements of the bridge were constructed in a factory and transported to the building site. There they were assembled to form larger components that were welded together at their final location. Manholes made it possible to weld in the inside of the bridge deck. The width of the bridge varies a lot, as does the height. At the narrowest location the usable bridge deck is just over 5 metres wide.

Infrastructure of this quality and size does not come cheap. According to the architect the bridge has cost 4 million Euro. But the funds used for the bridge add up to a higher sum. The province of South Holland paid 3.5 million Euro because this bridge fitted in their policies to improve the regional (recreational) cycle routes. The European Fund for Regional Development subsidised 2 million Euro because the bridge is they key entrance to an improvement of this region and lastly the municipality of Zoetermeer paid 1.5 million Euro. Which makes the total for this project 7 million Euro. Is that money well spent? Well, if anything, Zoetermeer has a great piece of infrastructure that can become a well-known landmark. And people cycling face one less barrier. But a bridge like this alone is not enough to make a cycle city. Which was again proven by the decision of the jury of the best cycling city of the Netherlands competition. Big pieces of infrastructure such as this one may be the icing on the cake, but in the end it’s the cake itself that matters most!

My video of the new cycle bridge “Burgemeester Jan Waaijerbrug” in Zoetermeer.

Update November 2014:

The beautiful picture below was taken by photographer Alexandre Rotenberg who publishes beautiful pictures on his website: www.arotenberg.photoshelter.com and who gave me permission to show you this night picture of the bridge with the beautiful lights.

Night picture by Alexandre Rotenberg. Published with his kind permission.


More info

Website of the architect (in English)
Website of the engineers (in English)
Pictures taken during construction
Site of the engineers (in Dutch) with links to the detailed construction drawings in PDF
Video with renderings by the municipality of Zoetermeer
Information Sheet by the municipality of Zoetermeer (in Dutch)

Update 1 April 2015
This bridge became one of ten ‘relatively unknown bridges of exceptional design’ featured on a series of stamps issued by PostNL.
This bridge can now also be seen on a stamp issued on 30 March 2015.

16 thoughts on “Spectacular Zoetermeer Cycle Bridge

    1. Indeed, if you by “all the time” you mean “once”.

      (Pro Tip: if that one change of sides really is too much, just keep walking on the wrong side. No one will care as long as you stick to the side and don’t walk in the middle of the cycle path.)

      1. And I think that once is to ensure there is always adequate sight distance for cyclists to see people walking ahead and avoid collisions, and is necessary due to the horizontal curvature of the bridge.

  1. What wonderful and beautiful piece of infrastructure. On the subject of the lights this too is environmentally sound as it directs all the light down ward to were it is needed and does not cause light pollution.

  2. This is really nice. Funny but my first glance at it was as an invasion of flying saucers.

  3. I suspect the ERFD funds transport projects like these in the (relatively wealthy) Netherlands because the bureaucrats like to see the money go to build something really worthwhile that’s integrated with good spatial and urban planning.

    As for icing and cake, in my part of the world we’re lucky if we get to lick the spoon!

    Thank you for this blog post. I look forward to seeing the photos of the bridge lit up at night 😉

    1. “As for icing and cake, in my part of the world we’re lucky if we get to lick the spoon!” X-D

      Rusted iron is very common in Australian architecture. Maybe we should build one of these 🙂

      You mention the dish diameter is 3m, which is huge. It looks closer to the height of a person, that could make the _area_ about 3sqm. Is it correct?

      1. Yes, thanks for pointing that out and you confirm my suspicion: these light dishes don’t seem to be 3 metres in diameter. I read it in several publications, but all may have the same source. I couldn’t find this particular measurement on the blueprints to double check (unlike the width that really is 504cm). When you also consider that the height of the posts is 9 metres, these discs can never be a third of that height wide. Since the relevance of this measurement is minimal, I scrapped the mention of the 3 meters from the text completely. I should have done that in the first place after my initial suspicion: multiple mentions of something that must be wrong don’t make it right.

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