Removing a barrier to cycling in North-Holland

When the town of Heerhugowaard expanded beyond a main road, its new residents were faced with a barrier for cycling. It proved possible, however, to build a beautifully curved cycle bridge in a very tight space. Thanks to this bridge people can now cross the busy road conflict free when they need to go to the railway station and the rest of the town.

The bridge for walking and cycling in Heerhugowaard offers a view over the surrounding flat landscape.

Heerhugowaard is a town just north-east of Alkmaar in the province of North-Holland. From about 2014 the new neighbourhood of Broekhorn was developed just north-west of the railway station. Unfortunately, across the busy provincial road N242, which meant that this road would form a considerable barrier. Especially people who would want to cycle to the railway station to take a train to a destination elsewhere, to work or for other reasons, would be affected. That is why the municipality wanted a cycle bridge, to make that trip possible without conflict. There was very little space, so it wasn’t instantly clear if and how it could be fitted in. That is why a feasibility study was done first. Fortunately, that study showed, that even with the existing buildings, a big canal with a huge embankment, a smaller canal and the big N242 road, a bridge could be created in a way that it would all fit.

The bridge is very curved so it could fit in the little space there was on this location.
An aerial picture (Google Earth) shows just how little space there was. The new neighbourhood is in the top left just outside the picture.

The municipality asked ipv Delft to design the bridge and they came up with a curved bridge. That way the access ramps became long enough to make the incline comfortable. (In the Netherlands inclines for bridges may not be above 5%.) The total length of the bridge is now 150 metres. The deck is 3.5 metres wide. On the south side of the bridge the legs of the access ramps are in the water of a smaller canal that is also crossed with this bridge. On the north side the access ramps become part of the embankment of the bigger canal there. An existing cycle way, running east-west, was incorporated in the access of the bridge, but people can still cycle east-west, without using the bridge, in a convenient way. The bridge deck is made of concrete that was cast on site. Not all of the bridge could be cast in-situ. The 24 metre long bridge deck right above the road was pre-fabricated. That way that part could be placed quicker and the road did not have to be closed for many weeks. The designers chose concrete because with that material it would mean the bridge would require very little maintenance in the future. It also meant the meandering shape could be constructed more easily. Thanks to the slender design the views over the nature reserve on the north side were not obstructed. To also not block the view from the road to the commercial buildings on the south side the railing of the bridge was also designed in a transparent way. Fine steel tubes placed in a diagonal crossing pattern. Thanks to the stainless steel – rigid enough – no horizontal bars were necessary. This exact same type of railing was later also used for a cycle bridge on the German border that I have shown you earlier. You can see through the railing this way and that is also good for a view from the bridge of the surrounding landscape. In this flat land it is always nice to cycle a bit higher up for a while, because that offers unexpected and wide views.

Not only does the bridge cross the main provincial road N242, it crosses a small canal at the same time.
There are stairs that offer a shorter walking route for pedestrians (and their pets). They do not have to walk the full length of the ramps that were made deliberately longer to reduce the steepness of the inclines.

The bridge was finished in 2014 and has since locally gotten the nickname “the paper-clip” for obvious reasons when you see its shape. That is not the official name though. A competition was held to name the bridge (which seems to be a Dutch tradition) and from well over 800 entries the municipality chose the name “De Krul” (meaning “The Curl”) which is clearly also a reference to its shape. The alderman said he was pleased with this “cheerful, unorthodox name for an unorthodox bridge”, when the name was unveiled in November 2014. One of the ten people suggesting this name was lucky enough to have her name pulled out of a bowl. Bianca Stam, a local from Heerhugowaard, won a dinner for two.

The bridge is beautifully lit at night from LED lights which are integrated in the hand rail. Picture from the Facebook page of the municipality of Heerhugowaard.

The construction cost for this bridge amounted to 1.7 million euros according to the designer. The local press mentions 2.5 million euros for the entire project. That total will include more cost, like the feasibility study and the cost for connecting the bridge to the existing infrastructure, arranging detours and closing the main road temporarily during the building process. The bridge was paid by the Province of North-Holland for 90 percent. The bridge is after all removing a barrier that is caused by ‘their’ road. The investment fund, building houses in the new neighbourhood of Broekhorn, paid the remaining one quarter of a million euros. According to the representative of the province, also present at the unveiling of the name, the province was happy to have removed another barrier to cycling in the province of North-Holland.

This week’s video: a portrait of the cycle bridge in Heerhugowaard.

A ride on the bridge in 360 degrees.



5 thoughts on “Removing a barrier to cycling in North-Holland

  1. Anothrr great blogpost and videos, Mark. Thank you once again. I’m really loving the interactivity of the 360 degree ones, it’s like I’m a passenger on the bike with you, sometimes at the front and sometimes at the back, which is unique (even compared to a child’s viewing options when standing on the carrier.)

    While the traffic noise in the standard video was annoying, it does show that the NL has a lot of motor traffic, just not within/through its urban centres, and it’s only at locations such as this bridge where a visitor not travelling by car might actually experience and realise this.

  2. Strange that biking, that requires muscles, need to climb and curve their way around, but not motor vehicles can go straight and level.

  3. This new cycle bridge also improves access to the Heerhugowaard train station and the high schools in Heerhugowaard for the people of Broek op Langedijk, the next town to the west, that is planning to unite with Heerhugowaard in about three years if all goes well.
    Lots of teenagers from Langedijk bike to school in Heerhugowaard, and improving their safety was an important concern for building this bridge.

    It is part of a large (partly realised, most still planned) set of safety improvements around the Zuidtangent. The Zuidtangent/Broekerweg and N242/Westerweg crossing has been improved, but the Zuidtangent itself between N242 and Westtangent is still to be improved, including grade-separation of the railway crossing.
    Giving cyclists a safe route between the Langedijk side of the N242 and the Heerhugowaard train station and schools, separate from the Zuidtangent, was necessary before the big work on the Zuidtangent railway crossing can be started.

    There’s a second new cycling bridge across the N242 at the southern end of Heerhugowaard (less than 1/2 km south of this one), the Ashok Bhalotra brug, named for the architect of the nearby new neighborhood Stad van de Zon. It was put in to improve cycling safety and access across the N242 to the new neighborhood Broekhorn that Mark mentions, as well as to Alkmaar and Langedijk, when the old signalled crossroads of N242 and Westerweg (which included a signalled cycle crossing with a beg button) was turned into an oval roundabout over the N242 for cars to improve traffic flow, when the plan still was to relocate the MCA hospital from Alkmaar to that corner of Heerhugowaard (not anymore).

    And there’s a new bike tunnel under the N242 from Strand van Luna, connecting to the bike paths to Alkmaar along Huigendijk and N508 (less than 1/2 km south of the Ashok Bhalotra bridge), as well as an underpass for cyclists under N242 south of the crossing with N508, connecting Middenweg and Huigendijk east to Huigendijk west and the cycle paths to Alkmaar.
    All realised within the last 15 years or so, to increase the safety and options for bicycle traffic between Heerhugowaard and Alkmaar, and make sure the N242 does not function as a barrier and an inducement to take the car instead.

    1. Wow. Real integrated transport and land use planning, in action, pro-active, human-centred. The last sentence is a distillation of the philosophy of how and why the Netherlands does this so well.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.