Tag Archives: Delft

Keeping the Dutch cyclists rolling

Cycling is immensely popular in the Netherlands. The Dutch cycling infrastructure is world-famous, and rightly so. But the popularity of cycling puts the existing infrastructure under pressure to keep up. My latest article for the Bike Citizens Magazine discusses the challenges posed by the tremendous popularity of cycling. Read more about it here: http://www.bikecitizens.net/investing-in-the-dutch-cycling-infrastructure/

The brand new train station in Delft came with an underground parking garage for 5000 bicycles. Just a few of months after the opening, the garage is already overflowing. The lack of parking places leads to frustrations and unsafe situations.

The brand new train station in Delft came with an underground parking garage for 5000 bicycles. Just a few of months after the opening, the garage is already overflowing. The lack of parking places leads to frustrations and unsafe situations.

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Europe’s academic calendar

Of the past 10 years, I’ve spend 8 studying or working in a university in a small European country. In these years, I’ve learned the tides of the academic calendar quite well. Like the months of the Zodiac, each month of the academic year has its own mascot. The calendar I present here is tailored for the academic year in the Delft University of Technology, but with minor adjustments it is applicable to academic years of most small European countries.

  • September – month of the green freshman
    The September freshman is not only green as an allegory to being a rookie. He or she is also green in the literal sense of the word, due to lack of sleep and intense alcohol consumption during the initiation rituals of the student fraternities. He or she is also greenish because of the fear induced by the volumes and depths of the lecture material.
  • This signpost is especially valid during the month of the flying Asian

    This signpost is especially valid during the month of the flying Asian

    October – month of the flying Asian
    The autumn storms have arrived. The light-weight Asian students are blown off their bicycles en masse by unsuspected gusts, aggravated by the high-rise university buildings.

  • November – month of the first dropout
    By November the results of the first exams are in. And for some students, the ones smart enough to realize they bit off more than they can chew, its time to draw dramatic conclusions.
  • December – month of the drunk professor
    The university structure is highly vertical. There’s the Group, the Section, the Department, the Faculty and the University. And they all have their Christmas drinks and end-of-the-year parties. Plenty of free drinks for the staff, some of whom can be too happy about it.
  • January – month of the freezing African
    In North-Western Europe, everybody’s cold in January. But its especially hard on students from Africa, many of whom have never experienced such conditions before. In January, they realize that “mild marine climate” they read about back home is only relatively mild, and that in practice it means the winter months are filled with sleet storms, the most foul weather known to man.
  • February – month of the winter depression
    In university life, this month coincides with the calendar of the general population. The money has been spent on skiing and après-skiiing, the cold and dark days seem to go on forever and the New-Year’s resolutions have already failed. For students, the depression is aggravated by the results of the mid-term exams.
  • March – month of the Christmas dinner
    Even thought most students already had a Christmas dinner with their parents (on Christmas), many of them have a second Christmas dinner – with their housemates. But December is too early, January is the vacation season followed by exams and in February everybody’s broke. So students don’t get around to organizing the Christmas dinner until March. Some even until June.
  • April – month of the swarmin’ German
    April marks the start of the tourist season. And in Delft it starts with Germans. Old and crumbling ones. Lord knows where they’re kept for the rest of the year, but in April busloads of elderly Germans descend on Delft like locust, swallowing all the bicycle paths.
  • May – month of the lazy student
    Summer is around the corner. The weather is finally good for BBQ-ing, the exams still seem far away, and with the hormones raging, stimulated by beer and short skirts, who wants to think about studying?
  • June – month of the drunk student
    Traditionally, most faculties and many of the student clubs and organizations throw a party at the end of the lecture year – in June. These festivals revolve mostly around beer and produce a huge number of drunk students, who’s organisms are already weakened by long hours spent studying for the upcoming exams.
  • July – month of the sweating foreigner
    In July most of the students and staff are on vacation. The only ones around are sweaty foreigners – M.Sc. students on a two-year visa, which is expiring in August and who are desperate to finish their thesis by the end of the term. The only sounds heard in these quiet summer days are their typing and the dripping of their sweat, as they spend endless hours chained to their computers.
  • August – month of the last resort
    The last re-sits of the academic year are due. For some students it is Doomsday – the last chance to complete the number of credits necessary to be allowed to continue or to be admitted to the final project. August is do or die, the library is crowded again and the first freshmen are already sighted. The cycle is about to begin again.

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Zen and the art of bicycle searching

I have lost my bicycle. Not really lost – I know where it is, but very approximately. It is (supposedly) parked at the train station in Delft, but I can’t remember where exactly. And I’m having trouble finding it between the other 10 to 20 thousand bicycles parked there.

Like many people in this small European country I have a nice, new bicycle for comfortable commuting, which is parked at a secured bicycle shed, and an old crappy one, parked at the train station (of course, I also have a racing bicycle for triathlon training). And its the “station” bike I can’t find. I’ve parked it there a  few months back, and then I haven’t used it in a while. It was summer,  the weather was good and I used my commuting bicycle a lot. Then I was away on vacation, then it was good weather again and then I couldn’t remember where the “station” bike was.

Dude, where’s my bike?

Since all the other bicycles at the train station look exactly like the one I’ve lost (black or blue, rusty, with randomly gathered spare parts incorporated), it is rather difficult to spot your bicycle on a normal day. Let alone after a couple of months, when you can’t remember even the approximate location. By now, the search has turned rather pointless as the bicycle might have been stolen or removed by the council as junk. I keep looking though. Not because I was emotionally attached to it or can’t afford buying a new one, but because the search has become a quest. Like the search for the Holy Grail, but more practical.

Should you happen to be at the Delft train station and you see me wandering among the heaps of parked bicycles, don’t help me. The quest is much more important than the result. Its pure zen.

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