Bruges takes delivery of high-tech bicycle bridge


Built in one piece from plastic reinforced with fibreglass, the bridge is the longest of its kind in the world

Beside the bison

Bruges placed a new bridge yesterday, giving cyclists and pedestrians a safer way to cross the canal alongside the Canada Bridge, also known as the Bison Bridge because of the huge bronze statues that guard it. According to waterways manager De Vlaamse Waterweg, the new pedestrian bridge is the longest of its kind in the world.

The Canada Bridge connects the Saint-Andries neighbourhood to the rest of Bruges and was named in honour of Canadian troops who helped liberate the city from German occupation in the Second World War. After 70 years of service, the bridge now needs to be renovated and its foundations strengthened.

Meanwhile the adjacent wooden bridges, for pedestrians and cyclists, had deteriorated so much that they needed to be replaced completely. It was decided to replace them with a high-tech composite material in which plastic is reinforced with fibreglass.

This makes the structure light, strong and resistant to corrosion. The bridges should last as much as 100 years and require hardly any maintenance.

Dropping in

The first pedestrian and cycle bridge was fitted yesterday. Stretching 42 metres, the 22-ton structure was built in one piece in the Netherlands and will be dropped into place with cranes.

The second bridge will be fitted with sensors, generating data about how the composite structure performs over its lifetime. This will advance knowledge about the design and behaviour of these bridges, so that more work can be done with composite materials in the future.

Restoration work on the Canada Bridge, meanwhile, will continue through the spring, after which the bison will be taken out of storage and restored to their places. All being well, it should re-open at the end of April.

Photo: The Canada Bridge, with one of the former wooden footbridges on the right