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I need some space

08/10/2019

On the second Friday afternoon since University started, it finally happened to me: I got a warning sticker on my bike’s saddle, saying that I did not park in a proper place. Even though the bike was in the outdoor rack between Auditorium and Atlas.

There are more bikes than there are people in the Netherlands, say the numbers. Having lived here for seven months now (six in The Hague last year and one now in Eindhoven), I can confirm this. What I also can confirm, and what triggers my inner engineer mind, is that there are definitely not enough bike sheds/racks.  

My first bike experience (February 2018) here was simple: 45 euro for the bike, another 45 for the improvements and two weeks until it got stolen from the building’s garage where I lived. I didn’t even use it that much, so I had no idea there was such a thing as parking problems for bikes. I came back to the Netherlands recently because I was under the impression that every system in this country works smoothly. Little did I know that this doesn’t apply to the bicycles as well.

Analyze

What I found interesting is that if you don’t have a TU/e campus card, you can only park your bike in the outdoor racks near the buildings. On one hand, I do understand the security measure of not entering TU/e’s spaces if you have no business there. On the other hand, why am I being deprived of certain facilities because some logistic measures weren’t done in proper time (e.g., sending students their campus card before or on 2nd of September, when school started)?

This everyday struggle got me thinking: do students really not park in the proper places? Are there not enough spaces? Fact is, there are not: 11,966 enrolled students [October 2018, VSNU], 3, 314 employees [report from 2017] and 9,151 bike parking spaces [cyclists parking map].

Is space really a problem or is the problem the fact that there is no real-interest in find better storage solution, giving a certain space (e.g. double-stack bike storage racks)? How can we find a balance between the places of most interest and the bike sheds/outdoor racks?

’If ten people tell you you're drunk, you go to bed’, says a popular Romanian saying. There are way more than ten people at TU/e saying/stating there aren’t enough convenient places to park their bikes. Take the amount of time needed to monitor the misplaced bikes every day and invest it in creating a strategy, which allows all bikes to be stalled in appropriate places.

At the end of the day, there is more to do than placing warning stickers on bikes’ saddles. And speaking of doing more, in my inbox just arrived a Mobility Survey from TU/e. ’Help improve the campus!’, it says. I am not sure I was truly feeling like I am meaningfully doing that. Sixteen questions were somehow basic/general and only the last one was asking for solutions (’Do you have any suggestions regarding mobility at the TU/e?’) - and that one wasn’t even mandatory. I hope that after the survey, some action will follow (e.g. focus groups), because at TU/e is where innovation starts.

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