“But I work here” and “I just need to pop in for five minutes ” are comments that Paul Anker and Sjef Mous have heard regularly since they started working as TU/e terrain stewards. They make cyclists aware of the need to park their bicycles in the designated racks. Not on a pedestrian path, nor on the grass or in front of an emergency door. ‘Optimizing access’ is part of their job description. In practice this means parking enforcement and acting as host for everyone who is on the campus.
Before they appeared, on August 1st, the shambles in terms of improperly parked cycles was much worse, certainly near the Spar in Luna. But they have to keep repeating themselves; the sign bearing the words ‘place bicycles in the racks’ is totally ignored by people unable to quickly find a free space. At Matrix, since the building has accommodated TU/e innovation Space, there are now many bicycles stashed in the wrong places.
Another sign that goes unheeded (on campus the Road Traffic Act is in force) is the round blue traffic sign showing in white an adult holding a child by the hand. “It really seems like people don't know what it means,” says Sjef. The sign stands on the Limbo path and means you cannot cycle there. “We have to point it out to people time and again. But the woman who works in Kennispoort is clear about it now, having been warned four times. That people finally do actually listen to us creates a good feeling.”
At present the men are armed with only stickers and their voices. “An additional order of five thousand stickers has been placed because in a week we stickered bicycles with the last five hundred,” says Paul. Red stickers request that the bicycle be moved to a bike shed and warn that an extra lock may be put on it. Yellow stickers are for orphaned bicycles. They carry the date on which the bicycle will be removed if by then it still appears to be abandoned.
“Occasionally we come across bicycles belonging to students who have graduated,” says Hay Becks, team leader of TU/e Security. “We have 9,500 places in the racks, but we have to continually clear out abandoned bikes in cooperation with Real Estate Management (DH). So every six months we collect the orphaned bicycles. They are taken to a non-profit organization where they are repaired and sold and the proceeds given to charity.”
Hay Becks heard that at the University of Groningen terrain stewards were being well received and that gave him an idea. Under the Participation Act, Paul and Sjef are now contracted out by Ergon. “We started with a six-month contract and our partnership is still developing. The tasks involved may well expand. Parking enforcement and providing directions at events are options,” says Becks.
Paul and Sjef have their own ideas about how more activities can be added to their role. Perhaps a form of transport would be a possibility, as they are now equipped with all sorts of tools to enable them to do their work properly and have to cover considerable distances every day. “We think TU/e should be a clean and safe place,” says Paul, “and we're really pleased to be playing a part in that.”