All about cycling in the Netherlands
An enormous cycle bridge was built in Naaldwijk, and what was the reason? Flowers! Or to be more precise; flower transports. You have probably never heard of Naaldwijk, but it is home to the largest flower auction company in the world. A lot of the auctioned flowers pass through Naaldwijk to be taken all across the Netherlands, Europe and (via Schiphol airport) to the rest of the world. But the entire road network in the region was outdated. There are some motorways but they ended, causing congestion on the local roads that had to handle all these flower transports.
The network is now being modernised in the so-called 3-in-1 project, that tries to kill three birds with one stone. One road-network update to increase accessibility, liveability and road safety. The new roads are reconstructed according to the Sustainable Safety policies and they are of a type that can’t allow cycling. That was already the case in the “before” situation – all the main through roads had separate cycleways – but now the main intersections are being constructed in such a way that cycling is completely separate at those intersections as well. That means people cycling will not only be separated in time (as they are on a signalised intersection) but also in place (as they are on grade-separated crossings). This will improve road safety for especially the most vulnerable road users. Two enormous new turbo-roundabouts are being constructed at the moment, quite close together. Even though the cycle routes do not really follow the new roads, they are mostly solitary, the cycle routes will cross the motor traffic routes precisely at those two Turbo-Roundabouts. One will get a bicycle underpass and one a huge bicycle bridge. This to increase the variations when you cycle, a variation the landscape of this area lacks. The bicycle bridge has been finished very recently, the underpass is still under construction.
We find Naaldwijk in the province of South-Holland between Delft/The Hague and Hook of Holland. In Dutch that last name means ‘Corner of Holland’ and somehow the motorway network in this corner of Holland was never finished. The A20 stops south of Naaldwijk and the A4 was interrupted. Without motorways and without a railroad, the regional roads in this area had to digest an amount of traffic that is generally only possible on motorways. FloraHolland is the world’s largest flower auction company. In its auctions 90% of all Dutch flower trade takes place (they had a turnover of 4.5 Billion euro in 2013). Even though their export site is in Aalsmeer (closer to Schiphol) and many auctions are now done without the goods physically being at the auction itself, I saw more Heavy Goods Vehicles on the roads in this area, than I have anywhere else in the country. We don’t want these HGVs mixed with people cycling. That doesn’t happen in the rest of the Netherlands, so certainly not here, with so many of them!
The gigantic turbo-roundabouts needed grade separated crossings and for the one on Vlietpolderplein, that can be considered the entrance to Naaldwijk, it was decided that a new landmark would be constructed: a gigantic cycle viaduct. The concrete bridge was constructed on site and it is 300 metres long. It is held up by one 40 metres tall central pylon. It was opened on Monday 9 March 2015, but it wasn’t completely finished when I filmed it. A top layer of asphalt will be added later. The province wants to test a completely new type of asphalt, that won’t even get slippery in temperatures of minus 5 degrees Celsius. This will reduce the cost of maintenance and the cost of keeping the bridge free of snow and ice. The viaduct cost 7 million euro and it was paid by the Province of South-Holland, the (now dissolved) city-region of ‘Haaglanden’ and the municipality of ‘Westland’, that Naaldwijk belongs to.
The ‘Name Giving Commission’ of Westland held a competition to name the viaduct and they received 843 entries! But that is no guarantee to end up with an original name, on the contrary. The prize winning name (the prize was 800 euros to be spent on a new bicycle) was “Snelbinder” the exact same name the cycle bridge in Nijmegen got 10 years ago! “So you guys have built so many of these stellar bicycle bridges that you’re having to re-use names?” joked Jim Moore. It is indeed a bit weird and it may show how little known these large cycle bridges are in The Netherlands, but, on the other hand, the name giving commission may have thought that there are also a lot of other bridges that have exact same names. On top of that, Nijmegen is on the opposite side of the country, all of 140 kilometres away, so who will ever know…
My video showing the viaduct and people using it.
This new masterpiece of engineering got a lot of interest from the local public right after it was opened. But a woman who lives opposite the viaduct is not at all impressed. “When I look at it I only see concrete and that is not very nice of course.” Her comment regarding the spectacular led lighting that changes colour in the night only confirms her discontent: “I am not at ease with those lights either, but”, she adds “I will have to get used to it!” A man who was interviewed right after he had been cycling up the ramps was much more positive: “That incline is very pleasant! Really easy to do. A great new cycle connection for the Westland!”
My second video shows a ride across the new viaduct. I replaced the fierce wind sound with music.
This new cycle viaduct offers a great and unusual view over the roof tops of all the green houses in the area. The landscape is now all sand, which is also unusual. Once the grass has grown in spring, the area will be green again and it will also stay green next winter. The ramps seem long to some viewers, but the complete crossing took only two minutes. A route that has no signals always feels quicker and more attractive than having to wait for red lights. The view is also worth the climb. That the other crossing will be in a tunnel is very good as well. That gives the total route a really nice variation. I understand why most of the locals are enthusiastic and I expect this viaduct to be used well.