The new longest cycling bridge of Europe was opened one and a half weeks ago. A representative of the province of Groningen and the mayor of the municipality of Oldambt cut the ribbon together on 1 February 2021. The mainly wooden bridge is 800 metres long, 3.5 metres wide and can be used for cycling and walking. It connects the town of Winschoten to Blauwestad, a developing residential area. The bridge stretches over a canal, a motorway, a nature reserve and a man-made lake. The bridge cost circa 6.5 million euros.
The impressive bridge dethroned the previously longest cycling bridge of Europe, Sölvesborgsbron which is a 756 metres long bridge in Sweden, officially opened in 2013. The longest single-purpose bike & pedestrian bridge in North-America is believed to be the 1,288 metres long Big Dam Bridge in North Little Rock USA, while the longest cycling bridge in the world may be the 7.6 km long Xiamen Bicycle Skyway in China.
The now better connected Blauwestad and Winschoten are both in the municipality of Oldambt. Blauwestad is a project that was initiated to generate a new economic boost to East-Groningen, a shrinking region in the north of the Netherlands. It involved the radical transformation of originally agricultural land into a new residential and commercial development at the edge of a large artificial lake. The project started in 2005 with the construction of the lake, but for a number of reasons the development has been very slow. Mid 2020, Blauwestad had only around 720 inhabitants living in 415 dwellings. At the start of the project, almost 20 years ago, 1,480 homes were planned. The bridge may give a new boost to the further development of Blauwestad. Current residents told the media that they are happy their children can now cycle to school in Winschoten on a safer and shorter route. Commuting by bike has also become easier. This may well be a selling point for future homes. The bridge makes it easy to cross a number of barriers between Winschoten and Blauwestad. Not only the artificial lake Oldambtmeer but also the A7 motorway and a canal, Winschoterdiep. In between those barriers the new bridge offers a great view over the nature reserve around Blauwestad.
The bridge was constructed in 11 months, from March 2020. It is a mainly wooden bridge, on partly concrete foundations with some supporting rods and other elements of steel. The tropical hardwood Azobé came from Gabon. This type of wood is believed to be more environmentally friendly than concrete and can last at least 80 years (compared to 100 years for concrete). The bridge was mostly constructed on site apart from the pre-fabricated part over the A7 motorway. A video shows how that was shipped to its final location from the factory in Kampen, which is incidentally the same factory where the wooden bridges of Oirschot and Harderwijk were constructed. That 43 metre long part was placed in 1 hour and 45 minutes early October 2020, for which the motorway had to be closed one night. Another prefabricated part is the moveable part over the canal. There is a livestream to show how that was placed on 21 October 2020. Thanks to the total length of the bridge the inclines can be very gentle. The steepest gradient is only 2.5%. The bridge is lit at night with solar powered LED lighting, especially designed to only light the bridge deck. That is to disturb the wild life as little as possible.
Originally, the bridge was planned to be named Blauwe Loper or “blue carpet bridge”, but the mayor of the municipality of Oldambt died unexpectedly at the age of only 54, in 2018. To honour him the bridge now got his name: Pieter Smitbrug.
It is remarkable how accurate the published renderings were compared to the actual bridge. The bridge is 34 kilometres from the city of Groningen. The province of Groningen hopes the bridge will become an icon drawing tourists to the region, but it also perfect for commuting between Blauwestad and Winschoten.
This week’s video, a portrait of Europe’s new longest cycling bridge in temperatures around freezing point and an icy east wind.
A ride at night. A remarkable number of people came to see the bridge at night in the first week after its opening.
Ride in daytime (in two directions).
Ride in 360 degrees (in two directions).
Although Sölvesborg in Sweden claimed to have the longest cycling bridge, the Nescio bridge in Amsterdam is actually longer, at 779 metres. This new bridge in Groningen is longer than both the bridges in Amsterdam and Sölvesborg.