All about cycling in the Netherlands
A very nice curved cycle bridge was built near Maastricht – Aachen airport. This is a bridge in the fast cycle route from Maastricht to Sittard-Geleen in the extreme south of the Netherlands. That route is under development to decrease the amount of motor traffic on the A2 Motorway.
On one of the last beautiful summer days last September I cycled from Maastricht to this bridge on the parts of the route that are already finished. The route will be built in stages. The part from Maastricht to Meerssen is part two, which is only partially finished now. Stage one, from Meerssen to Beek, past Maastricht – Aachen airport, had been finished in 2018. Some existing cycleways, such as directly past Maastricht Aachen Airport, were upgraded with a better surface and got street lights. The municipality of Meerssen was not too keen on the route, but the regional body that supervises the project pushed for a route east of the A2 motorway and that is where the route was now constructed. An existing road was upgraded as a cycle route with only a hint of car space in between wide cycle lanes. Not exactly a cycle street but it is very clear that car drivers have to be very aware of cycling. I had forgotten how steep the roads in the extreme south of the Netherlands can be and couldn’t make it up the hill of the “Vliegveldweg” (Airport road) north. (You can see a video of the downhill ride here) A single speed OV-Fiets is just not made for the Dutch hills.
After you reach the top of the hill it is but a small ride to the brand new cycle bridge, which was shining in the sun like an award for getting there. This stylish bridge right next to the Airport’s industrial zone opened in the Summer of 2018. The designers at ipv delft reported that they were inspired by the shape of air plane wings.
The 54 metre long steel main span was prefabricated in three parts. These parts were brought to the site and joined right next to the final location of the bridge. So that it could be hoisted to its place in one night. In that night of Saturday 16th to Sunday 17th June 2018 the builders got a slot of 7 hours between 23:00 and 06:00 in which all flights were stopped. The cranes would otherwise endanger the air traffic since this bridge is so close to the landing strip. After the last flight arrived the two cranes were set up to hoist the 90 tonne steel deck in place. A spokesperson of the builders told a local newspaper that this wasn’t an ordinary job. “The bridge deck is curved in every direction so it was a bit of a challenge to keep it in balance while it was lifted. But it all went very well. Around 01:15 the deck was placed at the right location.” Impressively that was nearly 5 hours ahead of schedule.
The main span of the bridge is 54 metres long, 4 metres wide and has curves that are not only aesthetically pleasing but follow the slopes of the landscape. The curves also increase the length of the bridge with its ramps to 115 metres. This results in gentler inclines to get onto the bridge itself. Although after the steep hill of Vliegveldweg any incline would be easy.
This cycle bridge near the A2 motorway access makes it possible to bypass a large intersection. Interestingly enough the original signalised level crossing has not been removed and can still be used. When you want to leave the main cycle route that can still be the easier route.
The bridge access has a wall that will be further overgrown by ivy. The main bridge parts were kept as slender as possible. The two columns are extremely thin but they stand in a concrete part that is much larger which functions as the protecting feature to prevent collapse in the case of a vehicle crashing into the column. The bright white hand rail has integrated LED lighting and seems to be leaning in. This is a common feature on Dutch cycle bridges, which is an optical illusion to enhance the feeling of safety.
This cycle bridge improves the quality of the fast cycle route and should entice even more people to switch from the car to the bicycle. How the route will run in phase 3, from this location in Beek further north to Sittard-Geleen is not entirely clear yet. That part is still in study, for instance to make a good connection to the campus of “Brightlands Chemelot”. The third phase has not clear date that it should be finished. The authorities informed earlier that it “follows later”. Until then Sittard can already be reached on existing cycling infrastructure, but the route will be much more clear and inviting once that part of the fast cycle route is finished too.
My video report of the cycle bridge.
Ride (360 degrees video)
The same ride (as an anordinary video)