All about cycling in the Netherlands
The ‘Maasover’ bridge for cycling and walking takes people over the river Maas (Meuse). A straightforward and simple name for a beautiful bridge that looks very stylish, partly also because of its simplicity. The bridge connects the towns of Cuijk and Mook in the provinces of North-Brabant and Limburg respectively. It was festively opened on Saturday 26 September 2020. I filmed the bridge three days later for this blog post.
The bridge was the last missing link in the MaasWaalpad. That is the much nicer name for the route which officially apparently has to be called the F73 fast cycle route from Nijmegen in the province of Gelderland to Cuijk in the province of North-Brabant via Molenbeek and Mook in the province of Limburg. Long distance cycle route are notoriously hard to plan because that often involves multiple municipalities having to work closely together. In this case the almost 12km long route runs through three different provinces. It is a big achievement that this route came to be. I wrote about this successful collaboration between the 3 provinces, 4 municipalities and one (now dissolved) regional governmental body when the route was partly opened in 2018.
Now that the entire route was finished it was time for another party. On Saturday 26 September 2020, spaced out along the entire route, 7 different stands could be found where people could get free drinks, snacks and small gifts to celebrate. Each of the stands was run by one of the governmental bodies involved in this route.
The bridge runs parallel to the existing railway bridge but it isn’t attached to it like in Nijmegen. Some earlier news reports wrote both bridges would be attached, but that is not true. It took about a decade to get from the initial idea to the bridge’s opening. Building it took 15 months. The ground works were festively started by the mayors of Cuijk and Mook helped by school children from Cuijk in June 2019. The preliminary works involved ground works and relocating cables, (including a number of underground main power lines and telecommunication cables) and the construction of the re-enforced concrete pillars. The 30 to 40 metre long pre-fabricated concrete approach bridges (over the flood areas of the river) were placed onto these pillars in March 2020. In the meantime the steel main span of the bridge was constructed in a factory near Rotterdam, HSM Steel Structures in Schiedam. From 13 May 2020 the bridge was shipped on a pontoon halfway across the country to its final location; a route of almost 200 kilometres. Unexpectedly, the bridge could not pass under an existing bridge (Graafsebrug) in Nijmegen. First the pontoon was filled with water to make it sit deeper in the water but the clearance was still not enough and the attempts were broken off. The following day the level in the waterway had been lowered by exactly 16 centimetres and then the new bridge could finally pass under the Graafsebrug.
On Saturday 16 May 2020 the new bridge was placed by two large cranes. This was during the Corona crisis and that is why there was no gathering on site. The event was broadcast live on local television and you could follow it via the internet. It was a great sight to see the 145 metre long and 6 metre wide bridge being lifted in place by two cranes. The bridge weighs about 460 tonnes which made it an impressive task! Between that day and the opening day at the end of September there was a lot of finishing up to do.
The name of the bridge had been chosen in another competition (MaasWaalpad was also chosen like that). “De Maasover” simply means “Over the Maas” which in Dutch has the extra connotation of “crossing the Maas”. The total crossing including the approach bridges is 358 meters long. At the Cuijk end in the province of North-Brabant the municipality built 2 kilometres of brand new bi-directional cycleways. They connect to residential streets that were converted into cycle streets. All this new cycling infrastructure makes cycling to the railway station in Cuijk very easy. I will show the entire ride from Cuijk to Nijmegen in my extra post this coming Monday.
The bridge has cost 12 million euros. It is expected to be used by about 1,600 people per day. In my video you can see a lot of people using the bridge on foot and by bicycle. They were all just as curious about the brand new bridge as I was. Enjoy!
My video portrait of “De Maasover”, a bridge for cycling and walking.