Blogger Geert van Zandbrink is one of the many students who ignore all traffic regulations when cycling through the Tarthorst in the morning on their way to campus. ‘I don’t feel responsible in the mass. But it certainly is risky.’
© Sven Menschel
Every morning, in the last minutes before 8:20, a column of students rolls through Wageningen on their way to campus. The train from the city centre stands out the most; mainly because it cuts right through a residential area with a shopping district. Like a mudslide, the Swapfiets’ and forty-year-old metal steeds rush through the Tarthorst.
That’s how mudslides move: they take the shortest path. Even the ten metres that can be saved by crossing the truck stand next to the Jumbo are used. Besides, the Jumbo is an additional reason to take this route: due to the oft recurring image, a soft cheese croissant clenched in frozen fingers has become the symbol of hangovers.
Right of way
Everything and everyone on our path must give way. Pedestrian crossings are non-existent in those minutes before the first period of the day; students have the right of way both when entering and when leaving a roundabout. Cars are not even part of traffic, and stop signs read ‘keep going, buddy, you need to make that lecture’.
It is a bizarre phenomenon, to be honest, but its existence makes it live on: when the cyclist in front of you takes the right of way, you might as well do the same. And obviously, I do it too. That’s how it goes, and it doesn’t really make me feel responsible in the mass. But is certainly is risky.
That’s why the police and municipality have tried to fight the students’ choice for this route on several occasions. From posts on Facebook following accidents to lying in wait in the dark for students to cross on red. Fighting symptoms, if you ask me, but not a solution.
The email from WUR to all students, both Dutch and internationals, really surprised me. It informed about the laying of a bicycle track passing along the Jumbo. This has made the shortest path unavailable for some time. And so, people take the next shortest path: circling the Jumbo on the left instead of the right. Luckily, the Jumbo is ‘still attainable’. We wouldn’t be able to survive without our hangover cheese croissants.
Laying a bicycle track along the Jumbo is like putting down a sign that reads ‘hey, students; cycle here!’ A mudslide magnet, to keep with the metaphor. It will certainly increase safety there; I’m willing to believe that. But what about the accidents along the remainder of the route? With the crowd at the traffic lights on the Bornesteeg? And with the – often justified – complaints of the residents? I will wonder, and the future will tell.