More than six years have passed since it was unveiled at a public exhibition, but pedestrians have finally taken their first ride on a unique swinging footbridge over the River Hull in the UK.

The new crossing was designed by architects McDowell+Benedetti in association with structural engineers Alan Baxter & Associates. It provides essential new infrastructure connecting the east bank to the city centre, as part of the overall efforts to make the city as pedestrian-friendly as possible.

The bridge, which was built off-site before being lifted into position, features an innovative pivoting design which offers the public the unique experience of remaining on the bridge while it opens and closes each day for river traffic – a feature which is believed to be a world first. The structure allows up to 1,000 people to remain on the bridge at any one time, even while it is moving.

A 16-metre diameter circular structure at the western end of the bridge houses a bistro with stunning views. From this drum – which rotates as the bridge opens – a 35-metre cantilevered steel spine arches up and over the river, permitting enough room for smaller boats to pass under without the need to operate the bridge. The drum rotates using an electrical drive mechanism to open the route to river traffic when required.

River hull swing bridge

River Hull Swing Bridge – Aerial View

In contrast to the river’s industrial character, the bridge is sleek and clad with a black non-slip finish. It features two generous pedestrian routes, one gently sloping route and a shorter stepped walkway. The central structural spine is modeled into a series of platforms, creating a variety of places for people to use and enjoy the river views.

The bridge’s zoomorphic form and impressive scale, along with a glowing dorsal fin skylight, make it a highly distinctive landmark unique to Hull and its maritime heritage.

It takes two minutes for the electrical operation to work its magic, a short ride that the city hopes will bring about a larger transformation.

Some may have wondered whether the £6.6 million crossing would ever be completed. For a start, a £100 million residential, office and leisure development that the bridge was originally planned for the site fell victim to the economic downturn, leaving just a multi-storey car park and a new Premier Inn hotel perched on top.

River hull swing bridge

River Hull Swing Bridge

“The footbridge is an important element in the revitalisation of the Hull’s historic waterfront. The bridge is an exciting addition to Hull’s many visitor attractions and its unique ‘ride on’ feature will we believe increase the numbers of people visiting the city still further,” said Hull Citybuild chief executive John Holmes.

McDowell+Benedetti’s first completed bridge – a 130-metre footbridge in Castleford over the River Aire, forms the centrepiece of Channel 4’s The Castleford Project, the world’s first televised regeneration project.

In addition to the Hull Footbridge, Alan Baxter & Associates are working with McDowell+Benedett on the Castleford Footbridge over the River Aire and are also currently working on plans for a 50-metre footbridge over the River Lea in East London.