Suspension bridges: Europabrücke in Switzerland and more

When you cross a suspension bridge, you probably don’t realize that it only rests on a few pillars. For the rest, thick cables are used on which the bridge ‘hangs’, as it were. Suspension bridges can be found all over the world: these are suspension bridges for traffic, but also suspension bridges especially for hikers and even bridges for bungee jumping. Many bridges are made of solid materials, but rope bridges are also common in poorer countries. There are also several suspension bridges in Europe, such as the Great Belt suspension bridge in Denmark. In Switzerland – near the town of Randa – the world’s longest suspension bridge for hikers was opened in 2017: the Charles Kuonen Brücke. This bridge is also called the Europabrücke.

Contents

  • Origin of suspension bridge
  • What exactly is a suspension bridge?
  • Different types of suspension bridges
  • Appearance
  • First suspension bridge
  • Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapse
  • Top 10 longest suspension bridges for traffic (2020)
  • Remarkable
  • Bridges in Scandinavia
  • Suspension bridges for hikers in the Alps
  • Germany
  • Suspension bridge Titan-RT in the Harz
  • Opening hours and access
  • Geierlay suspension bridge in the Hunsrück
  • Austria
  • Highline 179 near Reutte
  • Opening hours and access
  • Other suspension bridges
  • Switzerland
  • Charles Kuonen suspension bridge/ Europabrücke
  • Opening hours and access
  • Suspension bridge Peak Walk by Tissot near Gstaad
  • Opening hours and access
  • Bhutan Bridge near Susten
  • Other Swiss suspension bridges
  • Suspension bridge for sporting purposes
  • Finally

 

Origin of suspension bridge

In poorer countries, for example, it was very time-consuming to get from one side of the bank to the other. One had to walk for days or, in the worst case, cross a dangerous river. Suspension bridges were built on it. These bridges consisted – and in these countries consist – often of rope bridges; a certain form of suspension bridge. But a suspension bridge is not only very useful for pedestrians. This is also the case for traffic. Instead of driving entire stretches or taking a ferry, you can drive faster to the other side of a bank via a suspension bridge. This is, among other things, the case with the Hardanger Bridge over the Eidfjord in Norway.

What exactly is a suspension bridge?

A suspension bridge is a bridge where a large span can be achieved. Such a bridge consists of one or two (high) pillars. These pillars rest on the ground. A thick cable is stretched between these pillars, with smaller cables attached to it that ensure that the road surface remains ‘hanging’. Just think of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco or the Storebælt Bridge in Denmark.

Different types of suspension bridges

A suspension bridge can be used for different types of purposes, namely:

  • a suspension bridge for road traffic
  • suspension bridge for pedestrians
  • suspension bridge for bungee jumping

Pedestrian suspension bridge pillars / Source: ©ottergraafjes

Appearance

A suspension bridge for traffic usually looks different from a suspension bridge for hikers. In the latter suspension bridges, the pillars are small, while the pillars for a suspension bridge for traffic are many times higher. Suspension bridges for traffic consist of steel and concrete, while a suspension bridge for pedestrians can consist of rope (rope bridge) or steel. There may be a difference in the ‘road surface’. This can consist of wooden planks, but grids can also be used.

First suspension bridge

The then longest suspension bridge in the world was built in 1824. That was the Menai Suspension Bridge in Great Britain. From the early 1900s onwards, more suspension bridges were built worldwide. Countries tried to outdo each other with the longest suspension bridge in the world. America was number 1 for a long time, but was eventually surpassed. They even surpassed their own records. Their first suspension bridge was the Brooklyn Bridge near New York (1883), this was followed by the Williamsburg Bridge (1903), Bear Mountain Bridge (1924), George Washington Bridge in New York (1931) and in 1937 this became the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapse

The Tacoma Narrows Bridge in America proved that a suspension bridge can also be affected by wind. The bridge was put into use in 1940, but it soon collapsed. There was a strong wind at the time and images that have emerged show that the bridge first swayed back and forth for a few minutes and then collapsed. The collapse was caused by resonance. A new suspension bridge was built in 1950 and another suspension bridge was added in 2007. So it is a double suspension bridge.

Top 10 longest suspension bridges for traffic (2020)

There are many suspension bridges around the world, but a few of these are in the top 10:

  1. Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge – suspension bridge in Japan (1998)
  2. Xihoumen Bridge – suspension bridge in China (2009)
  3. Storebælt bridge – suspension bridge over the Great Belt in Denmark (1998)
  4. Osman Gazi Bridge – suspension bridge in Turkey (2016)
  5. Yi Sun-sin Bridge – suspension bridge in South Korea (2012)
  6. Runyang Bridge – suspension bridge in China (2005)
  7. Fourth Nanjing Yangtze Bridge – suspension bridge in China (2012)
  8. Humber Bridge – suspension bridge in Great Britain (1981)
  9. Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge – suspension bridge in Turkey (2016)
  10. Jiangyin Bridge – suspension bridge in China (1999)

 

Remarkable

The above top 10 shows that Asia is strongly represented with long suspension bridges. The number 1 has been at the top since 1998, but there is a chance it could be knocked out of the top spot. A suspension bridge is being built in Turkey – Çanakkale 1915 Bridge – and it is said that it could become the longest suspension bridge in the world. The forecast (in 2020) is that this bridge, with a span of 2,023 meters, will be ready in 2023.

Bridges in Scandinavia

What is also striking is that there is one suspension bridge in Scandinavia and that it also ranks third. In addition to this bridge, there are more suspension bridges in Scandinavia. Two examples of this are:

  • Hardanger Bridge – suspension bridge over the Eidfjord in Norway (2013)
  • Øresund Bridge – partly a suspension bridge connection between Denmark and Sweden (2000)

Øresund Bridge Sweden / Source: ©ottergraafjesHardanger Bridge Eidfjord Norway / Source: ©ottergraafjesStorebælt bridge / Source: ©sodraf

Suspension bridges for hikers in the Alps

In addition to suspension bridges for traffic, there are also various suspension bridges for hikers. These are located in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, among others. These countries compete with each other to see who has the longest suspension bridge in the world. Since July 2017 this has been Switzerland. Just before that, Germany was the country with the longest suspension bridge in the world.

Germany

There are not many suspension bridges in Germany. The suspension bridges that exist are mostly for traffic. However, there are two suspension bridges for hikers. These are the Titan-RT and the Geierlay.

Suspension bridge Titan-RT in the Harz

The longest suspension bridge in Germany opened on May 7, 2017. This bridge is located in the Harz, in the Rappbodetal. The bridge is named Titan-RT . The bridge was briefly the longest suspension bridge for hikers in the world.
Bridge data:

  • 458.5 meters long
  • hangs 100 meters above the ground
  • is 1.20 meters wide
  • the tread consists of steel grids

 

Opening hours and access

The bridge is open daily from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., wind conditions permitting. The bridge is open up to wind force 6. Unfortunately you have to pay to get onto the bridge.
Other activities
In addition to walking over the bridge and the surrounding area, there are other activities. This must be paid separately. These activities consist of:

  • renting a boat with which you can sail on the reservoir
  • bungee jumping from the bridge (Gigaswing)
  • walking forwards down the dam wall in a secured manner (Wallrunning)
  • secured like a bird flying down via a cable (Megazipline)

Geierlay suspension bridge near Mörsdorf / Source: ©ottergraafjes

Geierlay suspension bridge in the Hunsrück

The Geierlay suspension bridge is located in the Hunsrück near the town of Mörsdorf. Construction started on May 30, 2015 and the bridge was put into use 130 days later. The festive opening was on October 3 and 4, 2015. The bridge is part of the Geierlayschleife walking route. Access to the suspension bridge is free.
Bridge data:

  • 360 meters long
  • hangs 100 meters above the ground
  • 85 centimeters wide
  • the tread consists of wooden planks

 

Austria

There are more suspension bridges in Austria than in Germany. Austria also briefly had the longest suspension bridge in the world. That was the Highline 179 suspension bridge near Reutte .

Highline 179 near Reutte

The bridge opened in November 2014. The suspension bridge is the connecting route between Ehrenberg Ruin and Fort Claudia and hangs above the road to the Fernpass.
Suspension bridge details

  • 406 meters long
  • hangs 114.60 meters above the ground
  • 1.20 meters wide
  • the tread consists of steel grids

 

Opening hours and access

The bridge is open daily from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. There is an entrance fee for this bridge and a maximum of 500 people are allowed on the bridge at a time.
Dragon Bridge at Babydorp Trebesing / Source: ©ottergraafjes

Other suspension bridges

The other suspension bridges include:

  • Golden Gate Bridge of the Alps at Saalbach-Hinterglemm
  • Dragon Bridge at Babydorf Trebesing
  • Stubnerkogel suspension bridge near Bad Gastein
  • Dachstein suspension bridge at Dachstein Glacier
  • Holzgauer suspension bridge in the Lechtal
  • Maurer Rinne suspension bridge near Längenfeld

 

Switzerland

Switzerland has had the first since July 2017. They have the longest suspension bridge in the world for hikers. With this they have taken over from Germany. The world’s longest suspension bridge (as of the end of July 2017) is the Charles Kuonen suspension bridge , better known as the Europabrücke .

Charles Kuonen suspension bridge/ Europabrücke

This suspension bridge is located near the village of Randa and is part of the 3-day Europaweg walking route. This route goes from Zermatt to Grächen or Gasenried. The suspension bridge replaces another suspension bridge (old Europabrücke) that was destroyed by a rock avalanche in 2010. The current bridge is a lot higher to reduce the risk of stone chipping. You can only reach the bridge on foot. From Randa it is a fairly tough, but beautiful walk of 2.5 to 3 hours. Since the arrival of the suspension bridge, they have noticed a growth in tourists in the village of Randa.

Opening hours and access

The bridge is open daily and there is no entrance fee.
Bridge data:

  • 494 meters long
  • hangs 88 meters above the ground
  • 65 centimeters wide
  • the tread consists of steel grids

Europabrücke / Source: ©ottergraafjesEuropabrücke / Source: ©ottergraafjesEuropabrücke / Source: ©ottergraafjes

Suspension bridge Peak Walk by Tissot near Gstaad

Glacier 3000 area near Gstaad (Les Diablerets) and is at an altitude of around 3000 meters. You can walk from one mountain top to another via this suspension bridge. You have beautiful views of high mountain peaks, including the Matterhorn.

Opening hours and access

Access to the bridge is free, but you first have to take the cable car to the Glacier 3000 area – of course for a fee.
Bridge details:

  • 170 meters long
  • 80 centimeters wide
  • maximum 300 people at a time

start Bhutanbrücke / Source: ©ottergraafjes

Bhutan Bridge near Susten

The Bhutan Bridge is 134 meters long and hangs over Illgraben, an erosion-affected ravine in the Pfynwald. As the name already suggests, there is a connection with Bhutan. Switzerland has had ties with Bhutan since 1950, and there is a monument with a Buddha statue near the bridge. Bhutan has provided support in building the bridge. There are all kinds of religious flags hanging on the bridge. The bridge connects the German-speaking part of Valais with the French-speaking part.
monument Bhutanbrücke / Source: ©ottergraafjesBhutanbrücke from afar / Source: ©ottergraafjes

Other Swiss suspension bridges

Switzerland has even more suspension bridges. Some of these are:

  • Titlis Cliff Walk near Engelberg
  • Trift bridge near Haslital
  • Goms Bridge at Fürdingen – Mühlebach
  • Suspension bridge at Belalp-Riederalp near the Aletsch Glacier
  • Suspension bridge Aspi-Titter near Bellwald (Fiescher Glacier)
  • Suspension bridge over the Gummi Gorge at Thunersee
  • Traversiner Steg at Via Mala
  • Punt da Suransuns near Thusis
  • Suspension bridges at Savièse (Bisse Torrent-Neuf)

 

Suspension bridge for sporting purposes

As previously indicated, it is possible to bungee jump from the Titan-RT suspension bridge in Germany. This has also been possible since 1995 at a suspension bridge in Switzerland. Namely at the Spinbrücke suspension bridge near the hamlet of Niouc in the Val dAnniviers. In addition to bungee jumping, you can also slide down a cable (zippline) or swing on a gigantic swing.
Other information

  • bridge height 190 meters
  • bridge length 200 meters
  • entrance to bridge CHF 5
  • pay extra for other activities
  • you have to make a reservation
  • bridge is only open with a minimum of 10 reservations
  • in the summer period (mid-July / mid-August) open daily except Mondays (with sufficient reservations)
  • outside the summer period from April to October from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. only open on weekends (with sufficient reservations)

Suspension bridge for bungee jumping near Niouc / Source: ©ottergraafjesSuspension bridge towards Bisse Torrent-Neuf / Source: ©sodrafSuspension bridge ‘Goms Bridge’ near Fürleidingen – Mühlebach / Source: ©ottergraafjes

Finally

For some it is a challenge, for others it is torture. Walking over a suspension bridge is not for everyone. People who suffer from fear of heights should not try it. A suspension bridge always moves, especially when the wind blows and when more people walk on it. And unfortunately it sometimes happens that a cable breaks. That happened to a group of hikers in New Zealand in 2015.