Utrecht can be proud of yet another fine new piece of infrastructure for walking and cycling. The “Moreelsebrug” was opened on 16 December last. The slender 295-metre-long bridge is a welcome new possibility to cross the railroad. Something you couldn’t do for about 1.6 kilometres right in the city centre of Utrecht.
The bridge had the working title “Rabobrug” after the bank that has its headquarters right next to the west landing. Rabobank was the driving force behind this bridge. In 2001, the bank donated 20 million Guilders (9 million euro) to the city of Utrecht to investigate and construct a bridge. The main objective for the bank was to give its employees a way to get to the historic Utrecht city centre east of the railway tracks in their lunch breaks. The total costs for the bridge were about 15 million euro. The rest of the amount was shared by the Ministry of Transport and the municipality of Utrecht.
The construction of the bridge was delayed by several years, mainly because there was fierce opposition to projected stairs from the platforms of Utrecht Central Station to the bridge. That would give passengers an alternative way to get to and from the station platforms, bypassing the new Station Hall and the Utrecht mall and thus bypassing all the new shops there. The mall owner feared a loss of income and went to court. The court has ruled that the 1970s agreements with the city of Utrecht stating all passenger routes must go past their shops aren’t future proof. When passenger volumes increase, alternative routes may be created for the safety of people. The bridge has now been built without those stairs, but they can be added any time. The bridge was completely designed to include such stairs. As it is now, the bridge offers a much better connection to the people living and working west of the railway to the centre east of the railways. There had never been a possibility to cross the railways for a distance of 1.6 kilometres (1 mile). The bridge connects to the redesigned Mariaplaats, the entrance to the historic Utrecht city centre. The area in which the bridge was built is used intensively. It is almost a miracle that the bridge could be squeezed in at all. There is a downside to that: there was absolutely no room to build cyclable ramps. Instead, the bridge has stairs with a groove for bicycles and elevators for people who cannot or do not want to push their bicycles up the stairs. The agency overseeing the Utrecht Station area reconstruction, CU2030, has calculated how long a cyclable ramp would have had to be for this bridge. The deck is at a height of 8.25 metres, but the street on the west side is a bit higher up, which leaves a difference of 6.5 metres. Dutch regulations allow an incline of 4%, meaning you need 100 metres for every 4 metres of height difference. There must also be level parts in any sloping ramp. Resulting in a west ramp that would have had to be 162.5 metres. The beginning of the bridge is only 135 metres from the main road that it connects to. So there was not enough room on the west side. On the east side, there is even less space.
Although some people complain about the stairs, others see advantages as well. “I don’t really mind. This will mean a whole lot less nuisance of scooters on the bridge.” People who have already tried the bridge are also mild. Ms Stapelkamp (69) said to a news reporter “You have to push a little, that’s true”, but her verdict: “It’s fine”.
There is a separate part for walking and cycling on the bridge deck, clearly indicated by signs. The width of the cycleway on the south side of the bridge is 3.6 metres, the footway is exactly that width on the north side. The rest of the 10-metre-wide bridge is a central strip that has a line of 17 trees. These trees (Persian Iron Wood trees) were specifically grown to thrive here. Already in the tree nursery in Limburg they were grown in shallow boxes, so the roots have developed in a way that is perfectly suited for a life on the bridge.
The material of the bridge is steel. The bridge parts as well as the V-shaped legs were constructed in a steel factory in Friesland. BSB Staalbouw is the same company that made the parts for the steel bridge in Zoetermeer that I showed you before.
A huge crane was needed to place the legs and the deck parts, because of the long distance from where a crane could be set up. One of the largest cranes available, a 144-metre-tall crane nicknamed “the beast”, was used. Train traffic had to be partially stopped for several weekends to place the parts in a safe way. The final bridge decks were placed in October 2016.
The architect of the bridge is a Dutch firm called Cepezed. In true architect speak, they designed the bridge as “an elongated esplanade with a high level of user appeal and ambiance (…) embedded into the fabric of the city in a natural way”. To their delight the bridge already got attention abroad. A Canadian reporter of the Globe and Mail saw potential for such a bridge in Vancouver.
I have used the bridge several times now and I really like it. The views from it are truly stunning. Using the stairs with the bicycle was very easy for me, even one-handed, while filming the ride/walk/ride. I was happy to notice that – apart from the opening day – people really look where they are going. There is a clearly defined space for walking and cycling. I would have preferred the cycling bit to have been red, but you can’t have everything. It was good to notice, that compared to the detour, this new bridge makes the crossing possible in less than half the time. What the bridge really lacks is some benches or anything to sit on. For a bridge that is meant to be “place” as well as infrastructure, that would have been a good idea.
The stairs to the platforms must be built in my opinion and I am confident they will be built. Reading between the lines of what for instance the mayor of Utrecht said, I have the feeling a deal was made. First the station and the new mall have to be finished for a year or two and then, when everybody has grown accustomed to the new walking routes, the stairs can be built. The risk of losing too many customers is a lot smaller that way. Until then, the bridge is already a great new way to cross the Utrecht railway.
My video on the construction of the Moreelsebrug.
My video of the Moreelsebrug after it was opened.
A ride over the Moreelsebrug in Utrecht takes 3:10 minutes.
The shortest alternative to the Moreelsebrug is 6:27 minutes.
24 thoughts on “A new bridge for walking and cycling in Utrecht”
Not only should Moorelsebrug have stairs. It would also fit perfect with bicycle parking above the platforms perhaps evening several storeys. They will enable a switch of mode in 30 seconds instead of several minutes, time that is extreme expensive to gain with higher train speed or straighter rails!
What was the total construction time of the bridge?
I’ve noticed that more cycling bridges are being built in recent years, both in The Netherlands and in Flemish Belgium. These bridges are futuristic in design and greatly add to the quality of life. They are fun to cycle on. In some cases you get a good view of the surrounding beautiful landscapes and you can see far distances due to the very flat land.
Today I learned there will finally be a cycling bridge built over the IJ. This is the waterway that separates the northern peninsula of North Holland. This will be really nice as t will allow cyclists to travel 24/7 without the wait and the hassle of getting on and off the ferry.
Which part of the river IJ?
There is a cycle path on the Schellingwouderbrug that carries the road Zuiderzeeweg. Although this is far from the Amsterdam city center.
I think it will it will be in the Amsterdam city center.
Aan het begin en eind van het fietspad staan paaltjes.Waarom ? (Autoos ? 🙂
Zodat de fietsers niet de trap missen.
Wat zouden de overwegingen zijn om geen banken cq stoelen te plaatsen ?
Bankjes zouden het een picknickplaats maken. Dat belemmert het verkeer, bijvoorbeeld als men even naar de rand van de brug loopt om het station te bekijken.
Het is een transitieruimte, geen verblijfsruimte. Je wil ook niet dat het een vaste hangplek voor jongeren wordt die dan weer van alles naar beneden op de treinen gaan gooien.
En toch heb ik het vermoeden dat echt doorzetten en doordenken eventueel met “crowd idea forming” de brug met hellingen uitgerust had kunnen worden…paperclips spiralen etc etc.
Nu is het weer een hindernisbaan voor fietsen ,waarom waarom ?
Wel leuk is dat bv de stalling onder Vredenburg fietsgoten met assistentie heeft en borstels die afremmen en meteen de velgen schoonmaken!Geweldig!
Merkwaardig te zien dat op de architectenfoto/ tekening erg veel voetgangers op het beoogde fietsgedeelte lopen!
Wordt het een shared space gebied ?
De vrouw met twee kindjes op de fiets schrok wel even van de trappen,zij had het geluk dat ik haar op de ietwat verstopte lift wees ,daar was ze wel blij mee 🙂
Het wordt hoog tijd dat er echt vanuit de fiets gedacht gaat worden..
De tijd zal leren of deze mooie brug een succes wordt.
What a sick system, in which someone with a lot of money can force train travellers for generations into walking through his shopping mall… of course that is not the only example where the majority is made to cater for the few.
On a more positive note: very good article, Mark! A good beginning of this year. You’ve set the bar very high for yourself, as well as raised the standard for others, i think.
I will have to visit this bridge during this year’s cycling trip to Holland
Thanks for this post, so soon after the bridge was officially opened, which answers the question of “why stairs and not ramps?”, plus the usual full amount of background informatio and your own insights into the pragmatic deals that may have been done to get it built.
I think this bridge is the clincher for me to make the long journey to visit the NL in 2017 to once again experience the magic in person.
This is one of many great bridges to check out. One of my favorite bridges is in Nijmegen, because it goes through an old city gate. https://www.flickr.com/photos/jamesbondsv/14271861846/in/photolist-nK9VNq-nLUkY2-nKa1N5-nKa2iy
This bridge for bicycles and pedestrians was attached (cantilevered) off of the existing railway bridge.
it doesn’t go through an old city gate. The building it goes through was especially built for the railroadbridge in the 19th century.
Ah, thanks, good to know.
It looks like some of those children are new refugees (well, newly arrived). Would I be right?
Utrecht is a very multicultural place and approx. 25% have of its population are from a non-Dutch background and 15% from a non-Western background. Also 65.000 students live in Utrecht. The kids you see in the video are from primary school ‘De Puntenburg’ and the school may reflect the demographic features of Utrecht.
Those kids more likely are children from “knowledge migrants” (foreigners with specific knowledge or skills for which demand outstrips supply). Refugees rarely live in the center of the city because living there is fairly expensive, so it is unlikely that their kids go to school there (that school is less than 100 meters from the city side of the bridge)