On the day the schools started again after the summer holidays, two aldermen of ʼs-Hertogenbosch and Vught opened a better cycling connection between their municipalities. They cut a ribbon to open a cycling viaduct over a -soon to be- turbo-roundabout and then handed out free bicycle lights to passers-by.
The new cycle bridge was opened on Monday morning 6 September 2021 by aldermen Ufuk Kâhya of ʼs-Hertogenbosch and Toine van de Ven of Vught. The bridge is located on the municipal border and crosses the Postweg which includes a railroad underpass leading to Vught (north). The old way to cross that road was via a roundabout with cycling priority that had been constructed in 2010. At that time the Postweg was a new road that functioned as a circular road north around Vught. Another branch of the new roundabout connected to the new south circular road around ʼs-Hertogenbosch.
The roundabout was not considered safe enough by everyone. Because it had to connect to the then new railway underpass the roundabout was located a bit east from the old road and sunken well below ground level. That meant that people cycling to the roundabout picked up a lot of speed when they got to the level of the crossings and not all motorists anticipated those higher speeds well enough. Reason for the local branch of the Cyclists’ Union to ask for a better solution for at least 7 years. Unfortunately, the cycling safety alone was not reason enough to act. That two municipalities were involved complicated matters. Another reason tipped the scale. For a roundabout to function properly the traffic volumes need to be spread over the roads leading to it as evenly as possible. That was not the case here. Most drivers wanted to take a particular turn from the circular road and motorway around ʼs-Hertogenbosch to the centre and vice versa. That led to jammed roads. This traffic flow was also interrupted by the many people cycling with priority. The solution the authorities came up with was a turbo-roundabout (sometimes called super-roundabout) with an extra lane (2 compared to 1 now) and an extra bypass for that one turn. You really do not want level crossings for cycling on such a roundabout, not without, but also not with priority for cycling. Fortunately, two fly-overs were planned for cycling. The first of which was now opened. It could be constructed on the location of the former road. This means it can stay on ground level and it can use a straighter line than by going through the roundabout. This bigger project was only possible thanks to an intensive cooperation between the municipalities of ʼs-Hertogenbosch and Vught and the Province of Noord-Brabant.
The plans were signed in June 2019. It was hoped the reconstruction could be executed for 4.4 million euros. But no contractor was able to do it for that budget. With some alterations (the longest bridge will no longer get a foot path which saves costs) one contractor was able to accept the project for 4.9 million euros. In the original budget the Province would pay 2 million euros, the city of ʼs-Hertogenbosch 1.5 million and Vught would pay almost 900,000 euros. I do not know how the additional 500,000 euros have been shared.
As part of the larger project the cycling bridges were constructed in Gorinchem, which is about 40 kilometres from ʼs-Hertogenbosch via the road. The company making them does have a lot of experience in bridge construction and they also make giant doors for ship locks, but it was the first time that they had to construct two bridges that will only be for (walking and) cycling. I accompanied a delegation of representatives of the authorities, who went to the factory to see how the bridges were being constructed. That is why I could use footage of that construction (which I created myself) for this blog and my video.
The first bridge, over the Postweg, is 34 metres long. It is one piece that weighs 57 metric tons. It was transported by road on the evening of 28 August 2021. The bridge would be placed that night by a single crane. To support that crane parts of the road and the roundabout had to be altered which took quite some time. It was only around 2 am on Saturday morning 29 August that the bridge was finally lifted from the heavy goods vehicle to the concrete abutments that had been constructed on site since the summer. The second bridge is still under construction. It is longer (65 metres) but will be placed in three parts, early November 2021.
After the bridge deck was secured on its final location, the connections took only one week to finish. The local branch of the Cyclists’ Union is happy that there now finally is a better and safer cycling connection between ʼs-Hertogenbosch and Vught. Spokesperson Jan-Willem Hommes told the local press that he was happy that an initial design with just one bridge was changed into this solution with two bridges. That saves a lot of people two level crossings. “It is fortunate that the aldermen have got together to find this better solution in the end.”
There is one strange zigzag curve on the Vught side of the bridge. “That is a pity”, Jan Willem Hommes told me: “the residents on this side did not want the new cycleway on the old route of the former road, since that has been their quiet residential street for a long time. To go around that street and the trees (which were fortunately saved) we now end up with this unfortunate extra curve.” Projects like these are never 100% perfect. But even with that extra curve the cycling connection between ʼs-Hertogenbosch and Vught has become much more convenient and safer than it used to be.
The turbo-roundabout can now be built and it is expected to be finished later this year, but first the second cycling viaduct will open in November. Most of the ground works for the abutments for that bridge have been done.