There is a campaign going on to get Wageningen UR employees to come to work by more sustainable means of transport. By bike or by scooter, for example - whether electric or not. But a survey shows that very many staff already cycle to work.
Veijer is among the first to try out the scooter in the context of Wageningen UR's mobility plan (see box). Normally he cycles from his home in Heteren, over the Rhine from Wageningen, to the campus. So he does not strictly speaking belong to the target group for the e-scooter pilot. The scooter is intended as a way of getting managers out of their cars. But Veijer is looking ahead. 'What if you get older and start finding cycling hard work, or you develop health problems. Then you need to look for an alternative. Nine years ago I was knocked off my bike by a car. Broken ankle, right on the joint. The doctor says I could develop arthritis there. That would be the end of cycling. You do have to bear these things in mind.'
Over half the staff cycle
With a commuting distance of 14 kilometres, Henk Veijer is well below the WUR average. Typically, staff members live 21 kilometres from their workplaces in Wageningen (see infographic) and it takes them half an hour to get to work. But of course it makes quite a difference whether you cycle, drive or take the train. The figures come from a recent baseline survey of staff. They are quite revealing. Only one in three colleagues drives to work on a daily basis. The majority, 57 percent, cycle to work. That is a very high score, admits mobility manager Ruben van der Hamsvoort of the mobility project 'The Accessible Valley', which Wageningen UR is part of. 'Nationally, 30 to 35 percent is a reasonable score.'
There are obvious explanations for the relatively high rate of bicycle use. Two out of three employees live within 15 kilometres of their work, which is cycling distance. Forty live within seven and a half kilometres of their work. Some in Wageningen, of course, but Bennekom, Renkum and Ede are also popular places to live. And apparently we like cycling. Even among the employees who live more than 15 kilometres away, one out of five cycles to work on a daily basis. So one wonders who the people are who have to be lured out of their cars. Can environmental gains still be made? 'Certainly', responds mobility project coordinator Eric van der Kruk. 'Let me take myself as an example. I live seventeen kilometres from Wageningen. I recently bought a new bike for the first time in 25 years and I am going to use it too. You can come and check on me.' He says there are plenty of colleagues in similar situations who could be won over. 'We've got quite an aging staff population here after all. Around the age of 50 people start thinking: I'd really better do something about getting fit. The challenge is to get these people on their bikes. Health and sustainability should not be seen as separate issues.'
The question is whether having even more bikes on campus is such a good idea. Many staff already feel it is rather busy and unsafe, the baseline survey reveals. The main source of aggravation in this respect is the Bornsesteeg. This is not likely to change in the short term. The street will only be improved after the new student residence to the east is complete, says Ad van der Have (Facilities and Services). And that will be 'towards 2014', says Van der Have. It is expected that the pressure on the Bornsesteeg will be reduced when the new cycle path from the Leeuwenborch to the Forum is ready for use. The existing short cut is being upgraded into a two-way cycle path. The new entrance to the campus from the Mansholtlaan (at Nutricia) will also include a cycle crossing. And to the north of the campus, the Bornsesteeg is to be car-free. But the Bornsesteeg will remain a busy thoroughfare, says Van der Have. 'It is difficult to control cyclists.'
Electric scooters pose their own safety problems, in Veijer´s experience. ´It is lovely and quiet, this kind of scooter. No nose, no exhaust fumes. You sail along smoothly. But that quietness has its disadvantages. Other people cannot hear you coming. Last week I was driving on a cycle path when a man, woman and child walked out of a drive onto the path. They hadn´t seen me and they jumped out of their skins. That is quite dangerous.'
The chance to borrow an e-scooter or e-bike for a week is one of the experiments with which Wageningen UR is trying to tempt its staff to abandon their cars. Another one is carpooling (see www.carpooling.nl). A third option is free train transport for a while, so that staff can try out their public transport options. People who switch from driving to work to coming by bike qualify for a small temporary cycling allowance (9 cents per kilometre). Information about this project can be found on the intranet.