In Bosland you can cycle through the trees. Cycling through a forest environment is a special experience for the senses. This cycle path safely takes you into higher realms. Quite literally – because you cycle around a double circle up to a height of 10 metres between the trees. You can see, feel and smell nature’s splendour.
The cycling experience is a cycle path through the crowns of the trees that consists of a sleek double circle with iconic allures. It is located in Bosland, the biggest forest area in Flanders, at junction 272 of the Limburg cycle node network.
The path is 700 meters long and gradually rises 3-4% to a height of 10 meters – and then descends again after 9 meters. The diameter of the bridge is 100 meters. The cycle path was built in PU coating and steel, supported on narrow corten steel columns (diameter 20 cm) and provided with a railing with a stainless steel net structure. A steel construction was chosen because it is a material with a long service life, the stability calculations are then simpler, it is easy to maintain and it provides a slender construction.
The 450 unique columns are placed alternately at 1, 2 and 3 meters from each other and symbolize the straight trunks of the pine trees, which were used in the coal mines. This ensures that the construction blends nicely into the environment. The support posts were fixed in a point-wise foundation of steel screw posts, which minimize the impact of the construction on the natural environment.
The cycle path width of 3 meters is not a superfluous luxury. This way the cyclist has enough space. To keep the cycling experience pure, road markings and information or focus points on the elevated cycle path were omitted.
The construction was connected to the existing cycle route network via a new concrete cycle path. The connection was completed via a roundabout with a corten steel ring on the inside with the necessary information about the project. The accompanying cycle pavillion is made up of two corten steel frames around which trees are stacked like a log. These trees are the trees that were felled to make room for the cycle bridge.
The Pijnven woods largely consist of coniferous trees, planted at the beginning of the last century to produce wood for the mining industry. As the mines were closed, the trees were never felled. We are now trying to improve this situation with a tailor-made woodland management plan. We are giving smaller indigenous trees at the lower levels of the forest more space and light so they can grow. In this way, we are working step by step to create healthy and balanced forest resources with small, medium-sized and tall trees.
The construction of the bicycle bridge had to be done with full respect for the forest, for the subsurface and for the objectives that Bosland has in terms of forest management. That required an ingenious way of working: from the initial plans to the commissioning of the cycle bridge. You can cut down trees and put a structure in its place. But you must also ensure that there are still enough trees after construction to be able to speak of “Cycling through the Trees”. In addition, you must also be sure that interventions do not affect the trees and nature in the medium or long term, so that the forest dies. The designer therefore developed a process in which forest management is central: from the planning of the construction to the commissioning of the cycle bridge.
Through a well-thought out construction system with a central construction point, we were able to minimize the felling of trees for this construction in function of the extreme needs for the construction of the cycle bridge. The construction was prepared as much as possible in the workshop and then assembled on site, like a big puzzle. In the centre of the circle we placed a large building crane of 37 meters high, which stood far above the trees and made it possible to build the entire structure on site. By using a construction crane, we avoided soil compaction and unnecessary logging in the remaining part of the forest.
When choosing the construction, the CEC principle of Visit Limburg was taken into account: a Car-free route, full of Experience and Comfortable. The experience is in the interaction with the magnificent nature and in the feeling that you grow with the trees and “float” the higher you get off the ground. As you rise, you experience the forest environment in various ways. And that is the goal of Visit Limburg: creating unique cycling projects that strengthens the landscape experience.
Project category: Public Project
Role of the entrant in the project: client (www.visitlimburg.be)
Designers involved in the design of landscape: BuroLandschap (main designer), De Gregorio & Partners, Atelier Ensemble
Project location: Kiefhoekstraat 16, Hechtel-Eksel, Belgium
Design year: 2017
Year Built: 2018-2019