A huge cycling bridge connecting two tiny towns

Cycling infrastructure is ubiquitous in the Netherlands. There isn’t a place in the country that you cannot safely reach by bicycle. That doesn’t mean the quality of the nationwide cycling network is excellent everywhere, there certainly are municipalities which could do better. On the other hand it also means that you can sometimes be very surprised when you find incredibly good and expensive pieces of cycling infrastructure in tiny villages. The huge cycling bridge over the river Donge, connecting the tiny towns of Raamsdonksveer and Geertruidenberg (both in the same municipality by the latter name) is an example of such an iconic piece of infrastructure that you wouldn’t expect in a municipality of just 22,000 people.

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The bridge deck is 4.5 metres wide. It is a shared use path, for both walking and cycling.
The white bridge was kept as slender as possible. The main span of 86 metres enhances that look.

You have probably never heard of Geertruidenberg, but it used to be a fortified city. It was granted certain trading rights in 1213 by the counts of Holland, that it was part of at the time. The borders have changed since then, which means that Geertruidenberg is no longer in Holland, but in the province of Noord-Brabant. Raamsdonksveer became part of the municipality in 1997. More people live in that part of the municipality, but it kept the name of the historic city of Geertruidenberg. In 2007, the bright white bridge, with a single pylon, over 42 metres tall, was created as an iconic connection between the two towns that had historically never had any connection.

A cross-section from the bid-book with which the bridge entered the Steel Award 2008 competition.
There is more than enough space for walking and cycling on the deck. Especially when all users stay to the sides as much as possible.

The slender cable-stayed bridge, with a main span of 86 metres, is part steel, part concrete. Those very different materials are seamlessly and invisibly connected by the clever design. When the development of a new housing area between the two towns got them physically closer, the bridge was designed to tie the town cores together even more. It was named after Willem Letschert who was mayor at the time the towns merged. He had died at the very young age of 45. His widow and two children officially opened the bridge late 2007.

Cross-section of the bridge deck. Clearly visible the usable width of 4500mm and the height of the railing at 1150mm over the top of the deck.
There is less space at the location of the pylon. Although hard to miss, it is good that the lines guide people around the pylon.

The municipality was so proud of the bridge that it was entered in the competition of the “Steel Award” in 2008. I could not find if the bridge was nominated, but it did not win the award. In the bid-book the bridge was described as follows:

An iconic bridge for walking and cycling connects the rustic landscape of the fortress in Geertruidenberg and the housing estate Rivierzicht-zuid in Raamsdonksveer.

The piece of infrastructure emphasizes the line of sight between the main squares in Geertruidenberg and Raamsdonksveer. With the realization of the riverside residential area Dongeburgh, the village centres on both sides of the river Donge have been directed to each other. In the development vision, the municipality has strived to create an exceptional bridge, a landmark that would physically bring the two cores together. Symbolism that took shape with the cables of the cable-stayed bridge stretched tight between the two river shores. In addition, there was a tension between this ambition and the maximum construction budget: one and a half million euros.

Slender shapes were central to the design of the bridge. The slenderness has been emphasized by increasing the main span to 86 meters. In addition, the construction height of the bridge deck has been reduced by a construction with closed cell shafts. As a result, the construction height has been reduced by 30%. The rounded side of the bridge deck makes the bridge look extra slim. The diameter of the pylon in each cross-section has been adjusted to the capacity requirement, so that the most optimal shape has been chosen here too. On the Geertruidenberg side, the cable-stayed bridge is provided with three static concrete abutment bridges and two concrete cable-stayed bridge spans. The short rear spans are constructed with precast concrete girders with a compression layer to balance the weight of the main span. The outer prefab girders are attached edge girders with the same round shape as the steel bridge. The pylon is passed through a recess in the deck and kept completely clear of the deck. The pylon has a hinged support at the bottom. The support is raised on a concrete base to remain above the waterline in case of high water. The pylon’s foundation is completely submerged so that the slim pylon shape lifts itself out of the water, as it were. In order to strive for as much uniformity as possible with the pylon, the other supporting pillars are designed as slender round single columns. The large span and slender construction make the construction dynamically sensitive. For financial reasons, we did not opt for external damping, but for as many improvements as possible within the construction itself. The steel cables were designed in such a way that no movement interactions with the bridge deck occur. An elastic damping coupling has been applied to the bridge railing to limit any cable movements. During the implementation, a large sheet pile wall was used on the Geertruidenberg side in the river, within which all piers could be realized in the dry. The concrete was poured in situ, except for the prefab bridge deck girders. At the location of the cable anchors, steel pipes are incorporated in the concrete column table to transfer the forces into the slender concrete body. Because stranded cables are difficult to adjust, an exchangeable link plate was chosen. The steel span was prefabricated in three parts and placed on two temporary supports in the river and welded on site. A monolithic connection has been realized at the transition between steel and concrete. The pylon, more than 42 meters tall, was brought to the site in its full length. Placing it in one piece was instantly giving the bridge its shape in a glorious way.

There is visible wear and tear on this 14-year-old bridge. But overall the state of the bridge is very good. I am not sure whether is it maintained so well or that the design is simply very low maintenance.
The cables look very sharp against the blue sky.
School children seemed the principal user group of this bridge. They seem to fly over the water. The connection of the cables to the bridge are in clear sight.

In my videos you can get an idea of what this bridge looks like and feels like to use. It is great that the municipality chose this bridge as a lasting memory of the merger of the two towns. Because it is a very practical monument used by many on a daily basis.

This week’s video with a report on the bridge.
The second video shows a ride across the bridge in both directions.

6 thoughts on “A huge cycling bridge connecting two tiny towns

  1. Thats nothing ,small bridge,s .

    Here in the middel whe have a bridge with a view you never believe to get to cross a river to other village.

    So ever in neighbourhood van betuwe , tiel let me now .

    p.s no shame if you must walk up in place bicycle up .

  2. I note that the road bridge only a few metres away has wide separated cycle paths on both sides of the motor carriageway. It’s impressive to see a bridge like this built to serve bike riders and pedestrians in a location that isn’t desperately under-served with infra.

  3. From the south coast of the U.K. it feels like there’s nowhere in the country I can get to safely by bike. I had to take a break from riding because I’m not enjoying it any more.

    1. And with that, at least some parts of the UK are doing something about that.
      One would think that with you, the area where you are, I suppose, they would be doing everything possible to promote cycling. But no, they concentrate on the car.
      Oh well, maybe one day.

      1. I don’t think anywhere in the UK is building truly Dutch quality bike infrastructure. Some is close, but nothing that really makes you feel respected when you’re riding.

        And lockdown ruined it for me as well. Once I felt true cycling relaxation, the desire to mix with cars and “fight” was extinguished. So when the cars came back I started riding at night. And when I realised I didn’t want to live nocturnally, I just gave up. And also because people act like the virus is over and aren’t wearing masks. So if I was to wear a mask I’d face abuse for that in addition to cycling.

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