A curved cycle viaduct in Venlo

The curved cycle viaduct in this post livens up an otherwise rather boring looking industrial area under development in Venlo in the Netherlands. The bridge is almost a year old now and it makes it finally possible to safely cross a road that was built to access all the gigantic big box warehouses. Because, surprise, surprise, the people working there also wanted to go to work by bicycle.

Billet en français

The Meanderbrug aka Fietsbrug Berkterhei in the industrial zone called Trade port Noord in Venlo.
The curves and the wooden railings make the bridge interesting during the day.

I don’t remember how I found out this bridge even exists. Usually the internet is full of information of most pieces of infrastructure I write posts about, but this one is an exception. I found very little information and even the bridge’s name is not entirely clear to me. Most of my scarce internet sources call it the Meanderbrug (Meander bridge). That is the name it supposedly got due to its shape, but on the bridge itself we read “Berkter Hei” (without the addition “bridge”). It was only after I made the video that I found a map hidden on the website of the development company of this industrial zone Trade Port Noord that does indeed call the bridge “Fietsbrug Berkterhei” (Cycle bridge Berkter heath). Likely that is indeed the name after all.

The area isn’t quite so lush and green yet as it is portrayed on this rendering…
The cycleways in this industrial area are 4 metres wide and lit very well at night.

A short news item mentions that the bridge was opened on Monday 3 December 2019 by representatives of the province of Limburg and the development company for this industrial zone, together with a representative of the head contractor. The bridge had been commissioned by the province. It makes it possible to cross a provincial road that was constructed (in part) for an international horticultural exposition, Floriade, which took place here in 2012. At that time the whole area was still very much agricultural. After the exposition was finished the road was further developed and the former rural landscape was relatively quickly turned into a big box warehouse zone. Venlo is strategically located at the German border. The development company promotes the excellent accessibility. There is a rail connection to both Germany and the port of Rotterdam and there are roads to both those locations and to Schiphol airport and the port of Antwerp. Large companies with a lot of internet sales now have warehouses here, but there is also (recycling) industry. Heavy transport is possible thanks to the rail terminal. While the road was finished as one of the first things here, that road couldn’t be crossed on a bicycle. Plans to build the planned cycle bridge were postponed due to difficulties in obtaining the necessary land, but in 2019 construction could finally start. A newspaper article mentions the viaduct was meant to end the dangerous situation of workers in those big boxes crossing the road illegally to get to their workplaces. The detour was so long that people just couldn’t be stopped doing that.

The design had paid a lot of attention to the green buffers between the different lots of all the companies. The cycle bridge is right in the centre of this design.
Even the renderings make clear that you just cannot make a zone with such big box warehouses pretty.

The design of this area paid a lot of attention to the landscape, including lots of green and making it all sustainable. Dikes and green areas with water as a border around the big boxes were supposed to keep the less pretty parts of the industrial buildings out of sight. That was successful in part, but these big box warehouses are simply so huge and square that there is no looking past their inherent ugliness. Perhaps if the planted trees grow further they will make a difference. Until then the lush green renderings don’t really match the reality yet.

The red dotted lines indicate cycleways on this more recent map. It is clear that the detour was really unacceptably long before the bridge (in the middle of the map) was opened. You could only cross the road next to the railway and on the far right of the picture; a genuine barrier. Most of the plots are now occupied, there are differences between the original design and what the actual zone looks like now.

Now that the viaduct was finally constructed, the council of Venlo made sure it was connected to the existing cycling infrastructure. I didn’t find exact measurements, but measuring on google maps makes me believe the bridge is about 130 metres long. The rest of the cycleways in this zone are 4 metres wide and it is not narrower on this bridge. Which means that the width of the bridge will be about 4 metres too. One of the contractors published that the bridge deck is concrete, which was poured on site. The railings are made from two types of tropical hard wood; Azobe and Billinga. All the wooden parts were cut to size in a factory and assembled on site.

The rendering from the design for this industrial zone paints a very rosy picture.
The reality is rather different. Yes, the elements are all there, but the tiny trees are hardly visible and the big boxes cover most of the horizon. The makeshift fence on the left keeps sheep in a certain location. The sheep make sure the vegetation doesn’t grow too much.

I understand the design of this viaduct is by Arc2 Architects, but the link on their website to a page about this bridge is broken. There is a page on “bruggenarchitectuur” a company that seems to be related to Arc2. Both this site and the sub-contractor’s site mention the name of the bridge as Meanderbrug. The latter site also informs that the bridge was meant to make a statement in the area while using only minimal resources. That explains why the pillars are kept as slender as possible. The wooden railings give it a sustainable appearance.

The green LED lighting of the railings turn the bridge into a spectacular work of art at night.

What both sites also mention is the extraordinary lighting of the bridge. That lighting is really meant to turn this bridge into an exceptional piece of infrastructure. The LED lights have two colours. Yellow/orange to light the cycleway and green to light the sides. It is interesting that you can only see the yellow lights from afar, but when you come closer that light seems to turn green. That is not because the lights change. Due to the design you can see a different part of the bridge’s railings when you come closer. The lighting of this bridge was reason for me to go back to this viaduct at night to include that night look in the video with this post.

The cycleway is very well lit by yellowish/orange LED lights.

Trade Port Noord is connected really well to Venlo for cycling. I showed the fast cycle route “Greenport Bikeway” on my blog before, but I cycled the entire south-route again and that ride will be published in my next extra post.

My video portrait of the cycle bridge in Venlo

A ride in both directions on the cycle bridge in Venlo

2 thoughts on “A curved cycle viaduct in Venlo

  1. Nice bridge but it only underlines that in these days still car crntric planning comes first sometimes and the bike has to fit in and adapt. It’s a beautiful patch on a dysfunctional system.

    1. @Koen, This is a logistics area where cargo transport by road is the first priority, because of the location near two motorways. That cars greatly benefit from that infrastructure is a direct consequence. Dutch spatial planning is not centered around prioritising cycling infrastructure everywhere, it is centered around the idea that every place should be accessible by every mode of transport and that the modes of transport can complement eachother (bicycle>train>bus>walk for example). In some areas some modes of transport are considered more important for the society than others. In the city the priority goes to cycling and walking (and public transport) and in logistics area the priority is for road infrastructure.

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