A stylish cycle viaduct in Emmen

Two intersections in the east circular road around Emmen (a town in the north-east of the Netherlands) were upgraded in 2014. To improve the flow of motor traffic the formerly level crossings were completely reconstructed. One of the intersections became a multi-level oval roundabout, the other was partly closed to motor traffic and became a beautiful cycle viaduct.

Billet en français

The cable stayed cycle viaduct in Emmen, looking south. On the east side (foreground) you can also cycle under the bridge.

In this year (with all the travel restrictions due to Corona) it is nice to be able to show you something that is not in the part of the Netherlands where I usually am. Emmen is a town in the north-east corner of the country (in the province of Drenthe). A part of the country that I never really visit often. Last September the Corona measures were relaxed in such a way that a small congress my partner needed to attend could take place in reality. Since the location of the congress was over two hours from where we live we decided that I would come along and that we would book a hotel in the area. That meant I could go filming in Emmen.

In Google Earth you can find a picture of the before situation. Two T-junctions for motor traffic. For cycling there were four directions at both intersections, also at that time.
The after situation (also Google Earth). Left the oval shaped roundabout (with separate overpasses for cycling on either side). Right the downgraded intersection which was almost replaced by the cycle bridge.

Emmen is a town of around 56,500 people, the municipality has about 107,000 inhabitants. Not a big town but they do have a football (soccer) team playing in the premier league. The town mostly developed after World War II from a number of smaller villages. This means it has all the characteristics of a new town. About a decade ago the council decided that the east circular road around Emmen, the N391, needed to be improved. Therefore, two level T-junctions were upgraded. The north road at one of the T-junctions was extended to the south and the football stadium. But instead of making it a four-arm intersection the former T-junction was turned into a multi-level oval roundabout. The other T-Junction became a half connection to the upgraded N391. From now on it is only usable from one direction for motor traffic. At that location a cycle viaduct was built. The municipality decided that it was to become a well-designed feature piece of infrastructure. The public consultations for this double project took place in 2012.

The rendering (looking north) was remarkably accurate. It looks exactly like this in reality now.
This crossing makes it possible for all road users, no matter how fast or slow they are, to cross the N391 safely. The inclines are very gentle and pose no problems. Also not for someone in a mobility scooter.

The cycle viaduct was designed by ipv-Delft, which is a well-known design company of which I showed you quite a lot of examples on my blog from all over the Netherlands. They created the Hovenring in Eindhoven, a bridge in Venlo and an overpass in Heerhugowaard, to name but a few. For this location they designed a stylish white steel cable stayed bridge. The bridge has two forked pylons to give the design an open look and feel. The bridge deck was pre-fabricated in two parts and these two parts are held up by one steel cable attached to all four sides of the top of the pylons. Thanks to a design with pylons the bridge deck could be kept light and at a minimal height. This leads to access ramps with a very gentle incline, simply because the height difference is reduced. The bridge is 54 metres long and 3 metres wide. That was the standard width of the time, I think nowadays a width of at least 3.5 metres would be more common. The railings lean outwards, which is preferable at this width. It would feel too narrow if they were to lean in. The lighting is conventional; the light fixtures are not integrated in the railings as is more common today. At this bridge ordinary lampposts were put up at either end. These posts do have LED light fixtures.

The forked pylons give the bridge a very light and open appearance. The side of the deck is extra strong. This is an integrated safety device against collisions. No separate portal ahead of the bridge was necessary to stop vehicle that would be too tall to pass under the bridge. The bridge itself is strong enough to withstand them. That makes the surrounding less cluttered.
The deck is only slightly raised in the middle. Bridge decks can be very thin with cable stayed bridges. That made the incline less steep too. Simply because there is less height to bridge.

The bridge parts were constructed by a steel company in Zuidbroek, which is just about 60 km north of Emmen. The parts were transported by road. The bridge was placed in one weekend from 10 to 12 October 2014. On Friday evening and night the pylons were set up. Then on Saturday the first half of the deck was attached to the pylons. The second part followed on Sunday. Sunday night all final connections were made and on Monday morning motor traffic could pass under the new bridge. The bridge then needed to be finished on site, including creating the connections to the existing cycling infrastructure, but that didn’t really take long. The bridge was opened to cycling in the first week of November 2014.

The bridge (red arrow) is embedded well in the cycling network of Emmen. It opens up routes to a meaningful destination for a lot of people. I am sure the bridge is very busy when there is a home match of FC Emmen in the stadium just south of the bridge. Map from the routeplanner of the Cyclists’ Union.

I filmed this beautiful bridge on an early Saturday morning in September 2020. It wasn’t very busy, but the bridge was used well, also by people visiting one of the sports facilities east of the N391.

My video portrait of a cycle bridge in Emmen.


2 thoughts on “A stylish cycle viaduct in Emmen

  1. By the looks of your map, it’s not that the cycle bridge is in the right place, but the motorway appears to be in the wrong place, smack through the middle of the town

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