Monday 26 September 2011

A triple bicycle bridge in Groningen

The explanatory captions on this video are only visible if you watch the video on a computer and not on a mobile device. Another video provides a different view of this bridge.

The Korrebrug, or Gerrit Krol-brug, is the busiest bridge for cyclists in Groningen. Over 14000 cyclists pass over this bridge every day. We took last week's study tour to see the bridge.

While the bridge is open, the cycle and pedestrian bridges
can be used to cross without waiting.
It's a good example of the Netherlands going to extraordinary lengths for cyclists. It's over a busy shipping route to the city, so sometimes, this bridge has to open to let ships through. This caused a huge tailback of bicycles each time it happened until the council came up with an excellent solution.

There's a choice. If you don't mind waiting, there is no need
to climb the other bridges.
Two smaller bridges (one for each direction of travel) we provided in 1995 to allow cyclists bypass the main bridge when it is open. They are higher, and require taking your bike along wheel guides over steps, but of course they are optional to use. If you're in a hurry, take the smaller bridges. If you don't mind waiting, are transporting a heavy cargo on your bike, or don't want to or are unable to climb steps, wait a few minutes for the main bridge to close again.

For some people, waiting is a
social occasion
The main bridge is shared between drivers and cyclists. However, cars are vastly outnumbered by bikes. Drivers of course don't have the option of taking the smaller bridges in the event of the main bridge being open.

This solution to a problem for cyclists is almost certainly unique in the whole world. During last week's study tour, I said this to a pair of youngsters who were unable to work out why people had come to take photos of their bridge, which they cross every day on the way to and from school, and which is utterly normal to them.

Now let's go over that again. There was an existing bridge, already mainly used by cyclists. This has been bypassed by not one, but two, extra bridges, both of which are only used by cyclists, and then only for the few minutes of each day when the main bridge is open.

And what does the world know about this ? Very little. There are lots of examples of exceptional engineering for cyclists all across the Netherlands. These things are planned and built without hype and fanfare. There are many cycle bridges in Groningen which would seem exceptional elsewhere, and that goes for all Dutch cities.
Gerrit Krol is a locally born author. In 1998, he wrote a story "de oudste jongen" in which he revisited places where he went as a child. The opening passage of this story describes how when returning from a long cycle ride and passing the sign for "Groningen", he felt that it could just as well have read "Gerrit Krol" because he was now home. The bridge displays this passage on a plaque.
Sadly, Gerrit Krol passed away on the 24th of November 2013
Why this bridge isn't so important as you might think Exceptional infrastructure like this is always interesting to see, but what causes people to cycle in large numbers is the very tight network of everyday, but high quality, cycle routes.


Anonymous said...

I was there in 1995 when the bicycle bridges were built. It's not just a few minutes per day that the bridge is open though -- otherwise those extra bridges would not have been built! You could easily wait 15 minutes which is a problem if you needed to catch a train or an appointment. The main bridge turns horizontally and so opens and closes very slowly.

There are far fewer cars than bikes on the bridge partly because the route isn't very attractive for cars: there is the potential wait, and there are more car-friendly alternatives north (Bedumerweg/Ring road) and south (Damsterdiep) without waits. Moreover, buses, taxis and emergency vehicles have there own special bridge 400m south so you rarely if ever see one of those there.

A lot happened in the mid-nineties: around the same time the Noorderplantsoen was blocked off for motorized traffic after a referendum. As usual shop owners protested, the discussion is always exactly the same anywhere in the world. I'm not sure how many would want cars back in that park now!

Slow Factory said...

I have been in Groningen both before after the little bridges were built - it's very generous.

On the other hand my guess is that the little bridges would not pass ADA (disability) rules in the U.S. The bridge would needs lifts on both sides -- if big enough this would also be an advantage for people with those heavy cargo bikes who also cannot be late to a meeting or for a train...

So I suggested an improvement for a great example of Dutch infrastructure for cyclists -- do I get a cookie?

David Hembrow said...

Todd, you're welcome to a cookie. However, I'm not sure what you're saying. Do you think it would be better if the extra bridges had not been built because they're not accessible ? After all, the disabled can still cross when the bridge is closed (there would be a smaller advantage to using the bridges taking into account the time to use two lifts) and everyone including people with disabilities benefits from the reduction in length of queue.

Slow Factory said...

David, you're right, and we both get cookies: The bridges would need lifts in addition to the steps and related.

Rona said...

lol.. I am a disabled cyclist and the easiest thing to do is just wait for the canal bridge to close and go over!

In fact... a lot of us just sit and wait, chat with our friends and goof off instead of taking the little bridges. Here is my video of the same bridge:

P.s. Cookies for everyone!!

Unknown said...

I used this bridge when i went to university in the 90s in groningen. I was unfortunate to always arrive when the bridge was open and therefore used the little side bridges. I didnt do it that many times due to the fact my bicycle had a very heavy frame (some (older) dutch bikes have this. dont know why). This made pushing the bike up the bridge uncomfortable and annoying. Anyway, Id just like to add that although its a generous solution its not ideal and not for everybody. Living in Lewenborg at the time i opted to take a different bridge (damsterdiep) to cross the canal which was a lot more comfortable albeit somewhat longer of journey. Congestion at the korrewegbrug is also a reason i avoided it.

David Hembrow said...

an3z: I agree it's less than ideal. The cycle facilities at both ends of the bridge have flaws which we point out on study tours. The Korreweg is a bit of a disaster zone overall. It's all rather dated, it has an awful roundabout half way along and the most dangerous junction in the Netherlands at the other end !

P.s. please email me

Unknown said...

I had a 'moment of clarity' so to speak about this bridge situation last night. I think the best solution for all modes of transport would be to move the sluice at the damsterdiep location to this location whereby you can make boats wait at that junction and give 'ground' traffic more priority to cross. You might be able to get rid of the necessity of those side bridges that way.
The damsterdiep crossing is much more pleasant anyway, so why not export that infra to the korrewegbrug situation (if possible). Probably very expensive but i think all 'ground' traffic would benefit greatly from this.