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Concrete Footbridges

An overview of design, engineering and case studies

Concrete Footbridges

Footbridges offer design freedom and opportunity
for innovation for architects and engineers as they
typically have light load-bearing requirements and
are small in scale.
A footbridge can be designed with in-situ or precast concrete and
can utilise lightweight concrete and ultra high strength concrete.
Concrete has a wide range of visual finishes and as a material is uniquely
mouldable, being able to deliver curved and elegant profiles. In addition
concrete can produce structures that are robust, cost-effective, easily
maintained and that contribute to a sustainable built environment.

About this publication

This publication is intended to be used by all members of the design and
construction team in the initial stages of a footbridge project. It includes
details on the main stages of footbridge design and uses case study
examples to illustrate these points. This publication is intended to be read
in conjunction with the dedicated website which
features many more case study examples to aid specification and design.

Front cover: The Juliana Bridge is situated in a wide bend of the river at Zaan in
the Netherlands. No set of piers is equal, with their width increasing incrementally
towards the deck pivot. The pier underneath the deck pivot is the highest deepest
and widest of them all and the entire moving mechanism is hidden inside this pier.
Photo courtesy of Royal Haskoning

This page: This 700m long multi-span stress ribbon footbridge was intended to
provide an attractive and practical connection between two seaside towns. The
deck was designed with 4m long precast deck units post-tensioned together,
increasing the stiffness of the structure and intended to provide durability in the
harsh marine environment. Image and design courtesy of Flint & Neill.

Concrete Footbridges

Aesthetics and practicability are important considerations when designing concrete footbridges. However,
because of their potential slenderness, designers must be aware of issues such as wind, vibration and
the effect of collision loads. In particular, if long slender spans are used a balance between the number of
supports and protection against impact needs to be achieved.
Pedestrian footbridges over busy roads or other obstacles give a
safe passage for various types of user. Consideration must also be
given to the needs of disabled users, pushchairs or cyclists, and
parapet requirements have a large influence on safety, function and
appearance. Footbridges which also form part of bridleways have special
requirements, specified by the British Horse Society [1].
These considerations are explored in this section as well as the
engineering and case study sections that follow.
Compared with most types of bridge, footbridges offer greater flexibility for
layout and form. Since footbridges are used at a slow pace by pedestrians,
quality of detail and surface texture are important. In some cases,
footbridges are a visual improvement on motorways or other locations
where they contrast with adjacent low-key structures or surroundings.
Layout and headroom
Footbridges and approach ramps should be on the desired line so that
detours and short-cuts are discouraged. To reduce bridge length, square
spans are generally preferred: these also offer the possibility of limiting
intermediate supports near to running traffic. Visibility for drivers passing
under the bridge is then improved and the risk of column impact is reduced.

To give access to all types of user, ramps are normally needed. The
preferred maximum ramp gradient is 1 in 20, but space limitations
may require steeper ramps, 1 in 12 being the absolute limit. Horizontal
landings, 2m long, should be provided for every 3.5m increase in
elevation. Stairs may provide alternative access. Riser heights are
typically from 125mm to 150mm maximum, with a maximum of 20 steps
between landings, which should be at least 2m wide, or 12 steps if there
is no change in direction at the lower landing.
Lighting is needed only in urban areas or where lighting is already present.
Existing road lighting is often sufficient, except for covered bridges. It should
be carefully integrated into the structure using recessed units, if possible.
The location of the structure and potential disruption to traffic often
determine the method of construction. Supports should be built as far
from the carriageway as possible, and precast deck units that can be
lifted into place during a short traffic closure are frequently the preferred
method of construction.

Details on clearances are given in Highways Agency Standard

TD 27/05[2]. The minimum vertical clearance over highways is 5.7m, so
the deck only needs to be designed to withstand nominal impact loads.
BD 29/04[3] details minimum footway widths and ramp requirements.
Width and gradient
Bridge width will depend on frequency of use and user type: the
absolute minimum is 1.2m, but 2m is the desirable minimum to allow
users to pass easily in opposite directions. If a bridge is to be used by
pedestrians and cyclists, they should be segregated with a minimum
width of 3.5m and a clear dividing line, warning pedestrians not to
wander into the path of faster-moving cyclists.

Kingsgate Bridge, Durham. This Grade I listed bridge was designed by Sir Ove Arup
himself. It was constructed over the river banks, then pivoted horizontally and
connected by a combined shear pin and expansion coupler at mid-span.

Kent Messenger Bridge, River Medway, Maidstone. Winner of a 2002 RIBA Award, the bridge is a cranked stressed ribbon bridge. Architect: Studio Bednarski. Engineer: Strasky Husty
& Partners with Flint & Neill. Photo courtesy of Flint & Neill.

Concrete Footbridges

Concrete can be used to deliver the design ambitions of the project and meet the engineering constraints of
loading, vibration and durability.
The use of new materials such as ultra high-strength fibre-reinforced concrete and innovative design such as
ribbon bridges can be used to meet the demand for cost-effective, sustainable and aesthetic designs. Conventional
in-situ and precast concrete with appropriate formwork can also achieve a flexibility of shape and finish.

Design loading and vibration

The pedestrian live loading applied to footbridges is typically 5kN/m2.
For longer spans, a lower intensity may be appropriate, as described in
BS EN 1991-2[4], National Annex to Eurocode 1[5] and BS PD 6688-2[6].
Structural deflection under live load should generally be limited to
less than 1 in 250 of the span. Precamber under dead load should be
provided to compensate some or all of this. Attention should also
be given to BS EN 1991-1-7[7]. Substructures should be designed for
vehicle collision loads in accordance with BS EN 1991, but these may
be able to be avoided by positioning supports outside the danger
zone, normally 4.5m from the carriageway. Vibration must
be considered, which is covered by BS EN 1991-4.
Form and materials
Concrete bridges will use either in-situ construction or precast units.
Conventional bar or prestressing strand may be used as reinforcement.
The best examples of bridges are usually cast in situ, and specially
created shapes can be used to improve the appearance. Soffits and
ramps may be curved to give geometrically flowing solutions, and in-situ
construction normally has advantages over precast construction when
structurally continuous decks are needed, as site joints are
not required.

Arched bridges are elegant and keep concrete in compression. Several

manufacturers offer precast deck units, usually pre-tensioned beams.
These beams frequently take the form of a box, tee or double-tee
section, generally in rectangular and straight layouts.
Recent developments in the use of non-ferrous reinforcement have
resulted in a few bridges using carbon fibre tendons.
There is also the development of ultra high strength concrete (UHSC)
with compressive strengths of 170 to 230 MPa. UHSC consists of cement,
sand, silica fume, admixture, water and steel fibre.
The durability properties of UHSC are those of an impermeable material
with a resistance to permeability 50 times better than normal high
strength concrete. Its other advantages are: no need for conventional
reinforcement; resistance to aggressive environments and loading from
blasts; permits the use of much thinner sections; provides complete
freedom on the shape of the section; reduces the concrete volume
of a structural member to one third to one half of its conventional
volume; dramatically reduces the structural weight to be supported by a
structure and provides both direct and indirect cost saving.

Peace Footbridge, South Korea. Ultra high strength concrete (Ductal) is used for this footbridge. It is made up of six precast elements, each of 20m in length and 1.3m thick. This
supports a deck which is only 30mm thick. Photo courtesy of Lafarge.

Concrete Footbridges



Parapets at least 1150mm high must be provided, with no foothold or

gap more than 100mm wide. On cycle bridges, they should be 1400mm
high, and if used by horses and riders should be 1800mm. They should
conform to the P4 requirements in TD 19/06[8] which states that they
should withstand a horizontal load of 1.4kN/m at the top. Attention
should also be given to BS EN 1317[9] and BS 7818[10]. A 1500mm
solid elevation parapet is required above railways. At some locations, it
may be necessary to consider a full enclosure to prevent objects being
dropped from the bridge onto traffic below.

Durability of the structure is a primary objective. Bridges shorter than

60m should be designed without movement joints and bearings where
possible. Deck waterproofing is compulsory and surface drainage
may also be needed. The CIRIA Bridge Detailing Guide, C543[11] gives
guidance for engineers and technicians engaged in the preparation
and development of details for highway and accommodation bridges,
subways, culverts and retaining walls. It concentrates on the detailing
issues that follow conceptual and analytical design and explores basic
principles, that have proved to be reliable in everyday use, in terms of
durability and ease of construction, inspection, maintenance and repair.
Intended for use by consultants, contractors, bridge owners and their
maintaining agents, it provides advice on the function and relative
merits of various details.

Case Study: Kruiswegbruggen, Hoofddorp, Netherlands

This giant surfboard crosses the Kruisweg near Schiphol Airport and spans six lanes of traffic without a central support. The span was made
possible by using finback construction; the centre line of the deck comprises an arched concrete beam that protrudes from the surface like a
fin. The soffit of the deck is shaped like a smooth hull without dilatations and the rounded edges provide the slender appearance.
For more information visit






































Photo and drawing reproduction

courtesy of Royal Haskoning

Concrete Footbridges

Case studies
The case study examples contained in this publication are explored in more detail on the CBDG website, The website contains more projects than we have been able to feature here and will
be updated with case studies from CBDG members as well as those submitted by visitors to the website.


40 min surfacing
including approved
waterproofing system


Case study : Pedro Gmez Bosque, Valladolid, Spain

Insitu RC


The Pedro Gmez Bosque spans the river Pisuerga inslab

the city of
Valladolid and set a new record for the longest hanging stressed
ribbon footbridge. Designed by the architects Carlos Fernndez
Casado the bridge type was selected because of the two metre
difference in height between the two bridge ends. The length of
the bridge between the two ends of the stirrups is 100m, with
a main span of 85 m. The four metre wide platform is made of
prefabricated reinforced lightweight concrete.
The bridge is a very slender structure with a distinctly non-linear
design but also uses rigidity and resistance to secure the deck
and their heavy loads through traction. During construction
the bridge was monitored to ensure that the vibrations caused
by pedestrians or the wind would not affect its performance.
Once completed, load tests were carried out as well as tests with
pedestrians to make sure using the bridge was comfortable.


Pier top built

into deck

courtesy of CITOP (Spain)



Case Study : G eorge Avenue, Stoke on Trent

A multi-span reinforced concrete trapezoidal deck supported on reinforced concrete intermediate piers and mass concrete abutments. The
three main spans are 24.7m/24.7m/23.0m and there are four spans forming a spiral approach ramp with spans of 15.0 metres. This bridge also
has hooped lighting columns.



6450 minimum

Load bearing fill

Drawing reproduction courtesy of URS


Pedestrian parapet


OGB safety



Brick facing

Mass concrete

Brick facing


Concrete Footbridges

This publication, the range of examples shown and the online
resources at are intended to provide confidence to the
engineer or architect and demonstrate the ability of concrete to create
footbridges that perform on the basis of appearance, contribution to
the built environment and cost.

and further reading

Standards and dimensions on Bridleways and Byways. British Horse Society, Kenilworth, 2010


TD 27/05: Cross-sections and headrooms, Design manual for roads and bridge, Volume 6,
Section1, Part 2 . HMSO, 2005


BD 29/04: Design criteria for footbridges. Design manual for roads and bridge, Volume 2,
Section 2, Part 8. HMSO, 2004


BS EN 1991-2:2003. Actions on structures. Traffic loads on bridges. BSI, 2003


National Annex to Eurocode 1. BS EN 1991-2:2003 Actions on structures.Traffic loads on bridges. BSI, 2008


BS PD 6688-1-1:2011. Recommendations for the design of structures to BS EN 1991-1-1. BSI, 2011


BS EN 1991-1-7:2006. Eurocode 1. Actions on structures. General actions. Accidental actions. BSI, 2006


TD 19/06: The design of highway bridge parapets. HMSO, 2006


BS EN 1317-1:2010. Road restraint systems. Terminology and general criteria for test methods. BSI, 2010

Bridge at junction A74/A732 on the road from Hamilton

to Motherwell. Photo: Courtesy of Transport Scotland

Bridge over the A34 at the A4185 junction, Chilton.

Photo: Courtesy of CBDG

10. BS 7818:1995. Specification for pedestrian restraint systems in metal. BSI, 1995
11. Bridge Detailing Guide. CIRIA, 2001
BA 41/98: The design and appearance of bridges, Design manual for roads and bridges. Volume 1
Section 3 Part 11. HMSO, 1998
TD 9/93: Highway link design. Design manual for roads and bridges -Volume 6 Section 1. Part 1 TD
9/93 inc. Amendment No 1. February 2002. HMSO, 1993
The appearance of bridges and other highway structures. HMSO, 1996
TILLER, R. Concrete footbridges. Cement & Concrete Association, 1973

Bridge over the M40 at March Lane, Mollington.

Photo: Courtesy of AECOM

See: for further details of

the case study examples shown.

Bridge over River Cherwell. Photo courtesy of CBDG.

The Concrete Centre,

Riverside House,
4 Meadows Business Park,
Station Approach, Blackwater,
Camberley, Surrey GU17 9AB
Ref. TCC/02/11
ISBN 978-1-908257-06-2
First published 2012
MPA - The Concrete Centre 2012

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Products Association, the trade association for the
aggregates, asphalt, cement, concrete, lime, mortar
and silica sand industries.

Concrete Bridge Development Group

Tel: 01276 33777 F: 01276 38899

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