A new cycling (and walking) bridge has recently been opened in the Dutch city of Zwolle. It’s an attractive structure, around 50m long and 7.5m wide – nothing particularly remarkable by Dutch standards.
— johan witteveenCU (@johanwitteveen) December 7, 2015
— Ilse Bloemhof (@IBloemhof) December 7, 2015
You can read an article about the opening here (albeit a slightly garbled Google translate of it.)
What is remarkable (to me at least) is the purpose of this bridge. It doesn’t cross a river, or a railway line, or some other physical barrier that couldn’t be crossed without it. It only crosses a road where there was already an existing (direct) singe-stage cycle crossing, which I used a number of times when I visited Zwolle in the summer earlier this year.
I didn’t find the delay particularly remarkable; perhaps only 30 seconds or so, each time I used it. In fact in the video I took (in the post, below), it so happens that I wasn’t delayed, at all.
You can see that crossing (and the road) on Streetview. Six lanes are crossed in one go.
Now that the bridge is open, it has taken this crossing completely out of the equation. The road is now crossed on the new cycle bridge, which runs approximately parallel to the railway bridge just visible in the background. The road can be crossed without any delay, and in complete safety. In essence, the purpose of this whole major construction project is simply… to remove a minor bit of inconvenience for people cycling.
Here is my video, taken using the route the bridge will replace. As you can see, it’s actually very good by British standards – but evidently not good enough. The bridge will remove the potential for any delay.
Now that the bridge is in place, the new developments to the north of Zwolle are connected to the city centre without any traffic lights at all. Another major road is crossed on another spectacular bridge, all part of this same route, allowing painless cycling, right into the city centre, in complete safety.
The reason I had been anticipating the new ‘yellow’ bridge appearing was because I had spotted the engineering works taking place while I cycled past them in the summer. Here is the view northbound, towards the road being crossed.
The earthworks on the right are for the new embankment, a gentle slope rising to meet the location for the new bridge, just to the left of the railway bridge. The picture is taken on a new path, built because the old path (on the right) is too close to the earthworks and the embankment. (Typically for this area of the Netherlands, this cycleway is composed of very smooth concrete.)
This whole project exemplifies of the seriousness with which cycling is taken in the Netherlands. It’s a major engineering scheme, just for cycling, for a pretty minor benefit.
Cities like Zwolle and Utrecht, which already have very high levels of cycling, are pushing for more; not resting on their laurels, but building in extra convenience and safety where they can, even at tremendous expense. It’s amazing to see, and definitely something that Britain can – and should – aspire to.