The bicycle roundabout in Arnhem at Airborne Square was opened 61 years ago and it still qualifies as exceptional cycling infrastructure. The Netherlands has several so-called ‘bear pits’; cycle roundabouts at a lower level than the intersection for motor traffic.
Arnhem was heavily damaged in Word War II. Especially the Battle of Arnhem in September 1944 was dramatic for the city. British forces, under command of major John Frost, tried to conquer and hold the strategically important bridge over the river Rhine for days, but the troops to assist them, coming from Nijmegen, couldn’t reach them in time. The Rhine bridge in Arnhem proved a ‘bridge too far’ in the Operation Market garden. Our Market Garden by bike tour is focused on this region.
In the reconstruction of Arnhem after the war a lot of space was allocated to ‘modern traffic’. It was decided that motorized traffic should be kept separate from two-wheeled traffic and pedestrians. This was achieved by keeping the existing level for cycling and pedestrians and by creating an elevated new level for motor traffic. Some of the streets leading to this intersection and also the ramps to the bridge were already on a higher level anyway and that is why this was a practical solution. This led to a sunken bicycle roundabout with motor traffic driving around it on a higher level. Four tunnels under the raised level for motor traffic give people cycling access to the bicycle roundabout.
The entire construction had cost 1.6 million Guilders which is comparable with 5.5 million Euro now. Works had started in the spring of 1954 and were completed almost two years later. One of the damaged columns from the Palace of Justice (court-house) that had stood on Markt (Market Square) was placed in the center of the bicycle roundabout, as a war memorial. The square was later called Airborneplein (Airborne Square) in commemoration of the Battle of Arnhem.
After more than sixty years the roundabout is clearly old. But is it still functioning well. Most of the through motor traffic has been diverted out of the city, on motorways around it, but for cycling this is still a major route. The roundabout itself is huge, but it doesn’t feel like you have to ride a detour when you use it. The war memorial makes it an even more interesting place. All in all the bicycle roundabout of Airborneplein has become a monumental piece of post war infrastructure.
Source video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FR5l48_h5Eo / Frank van Caspel
Written on: Feb, 08 2016
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