All about cycling in the Netherlands
A brand-new cycle bridge over the Amsterdam Rhine Canal, between the villages of Nigtevecht and Abcoude can be used since early August. Since I was in Australia at the time, I wasn’t able to visit it sooner, but the afternoon of the day I returned (at 6:30 in the morning) I used the bridge on my own bicycle and filmed it for this post.
Ever since the Amsterdam Rhine Canal was built in the 1880s, the village of Nigtevecht in the north of the province of Utrecht became very cut off from its surroundings, since it was already at the river Vecht as well. Initially that was solved by a ferry that was adapted with every widening of the canal. However, after it was widened again in 1968 the ferry was abolished. That was the time it was thought that with a car it no longer mattered that you had to make a long detour to get to the other side of the water. Times have clearly changed in the Netherlands and we now try to overcome barriers that make cycling hard in places. The first plans to build a cycle bridge around this location already stem from 2008. It took 10 years to really materialise. The official opening will be later, but the bridge can be used since Friday the 3rd of August last.
The bridge offers a much shorter cycle route from Nigtevecht to Abcoude. The distance was shortened by 4 kilometres and is now just 6.2km, instead of 10.2km! Great news for many students who go to school there and for people who work there. But Abcoude also has a train station, with frequent connections to Amsterdam, Utrecht and Rotterdam. With the bicycle/train-combination people can now reach a much larger area thanks to this new bridge. Unfortunately, the Abcoude train station does not offer OV-Fietsen (shared bicycles). That is why I had to bring my own bicycle from ʼs-Hertogenbosch. A day ticket for a bicycle is twice as expensive as renting an OV-Fiets, but I had little choice this time.
The new bridge is also a good connection for recreational cycling. There is a lot of nature in this area and the fortifications of the Hollandic Water Line and the Defence Line of Amsterdam are visited a lot on bicycles. This bridge makes the fortress at Nigtevecht much easier to reach.
Part of the project is a “nature connection”. This wildlife corridor should make it easier for animals to cross the canal. The animals are not expected to use the bridge, but the shore of the canal under the bridge will be changed in such a way that animals can get in and out of the water better to swim across. Animals like roe-deer, deer, grass snakes and otters are expected to use this new crossing possibility. The wildlife corridor still needs some work. It is expected to be finished later this year.
There is more to do on the bridge. When I visited the bridge last Thursday the stair cases for pedestrians had not been placed yet. Pedestrians will be able to use these stairs to bypass the long access ramps. I expect the stairs to be ready before the official opening early September.
The concrete east access ramp is quite spectacular with two hairpin bends. This was deemed the best way to integrate the access ramp in the landscape. This ramp is 294 metres long. The west access ramp is different. The concrete part is straight and there is only one curve near the ground on a dike. That access ramp is 346 metres long. These long access ramps are necessary to reach the height of the bridge deck that is 10 metres over the water. Similar to the other cycle bridges over the same canal that I showed you earlier in Utrecht (2017), Nieuwegein (2015) and Amsterdam (2006). To be able to reach that height in a comfortable way you need a longer distance. The builders valued the opinion of the Dutch Cyclists’ Union when they designed the bridge; aiming for a score of 8 out of 10 for the incline. In the end the builders were pleased with an even higher mark! Having used the bridge I can testify that the incline is indeed very user-friendly, I would also give it a higher mark than an 8 out of 10.
Being this high up over the flat Dutch landscape offers unexpected views. The church towers of the nearby villages are beautifully in line with the end of the bridge and even the skyline of Amsterdam can be admired on the horizon.
The length of the bridge is 104 metres, just over the 100-metre width of the canal. Over the water the deck is 5 metres wide because that is the part which pedestrians also use. The access ramps, where walking is unnecessary, are only 4 metres wide, for cycling in both directions.
Since the bridge doubles as a wildlife corridor, it is not lit at night. Instead, the bridge deck got glow-in-the-dark discs in the surface. I have no idea whether that works or not.
The decision to build the bridge was taken in 2014. A lot of different types of government were involved. Although the bridge is located in the province of Utrecht, it is very close to the province of North-Holland and also the city of Amsterdam. All three those authorities were involved. The province of North-Holland had made promises to decrease the number of barriers for cycling in the area when the A2 motorway was last widened. With this bridge they keep part of that promise. The municipalities of Ronde Venen and Stichtse Vecht and Rijkswaterstaat (the national road building and waterway authority) were also involved. The budget for the bridge was 11 million euros. The province of North-Holland paid the largest part (although I couldn’t find how much exactly), the province of Utrecht paid half a million, the same amount as the city of Amsterdam.
The construction of the bridge reached a mile stone when the main span was placed last March. The entire bridge deck was placed in one night because the busy canal could not be closed too long. People were invited to come and watch the spectacle in the night of 10 to 11 March last. There were 60 people invited and another 150 interested people from the nearby villages showed up. Placing the bridge was planned between 10pm and 2am the following morning. But everything went so well that the whole operation only took 45 minutes! The spectacle was over before 11pm. A time-lapse of these 45 minutes can be seen on the internet.
The official opening will be on Friday 7 September 2018. Residents of the nearby villages and anyone interested can register for the party. It is at this event that the name of the new bridge will be revealed.
More information on the website of this project.
My video about the bridge
Video using the bridge in both directions.